Green giant: Tiger Woods is Masters champion again

Green giant: Tiger Woods is Masters champion again

Fifth jacket is his 15th major tournament title but first since 2008

April 15th, 2019 by Associated Press in Sports - Golf

Tiger Woods celebrates after sinking a putt for bogey, a final round of 2-under-par 70 and a one-stroke victory over Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Xander Schauffele in the Masters on Sunday at Augusta National Golf Club.

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Tiger Woods holds the winner's trophy while wearing his green jacket Sunday at the Masters.

Tiger Woods holds the winner's trophy while wearing...

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

Tiger Woods hits a shot on the 12th hole at Augusta National Golf Club during the final round of the Masters on Sunday.

Tiger Woods hits a shot on the 12th...

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

Dustin Johnson acknowledges the gallery after making a birdie putt on the eighth hole at Augusta National Golf Club on Sunday during the final round of the Masters.

Dustin Johnson acknowledges the gallery after making a...

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Francesco Molinari watches his ball go in the water on the 12th hole during the final round of the Masters.

Francesco Molinari watches his ball go in the...

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

Louis Oosthuizen hits from a bunker on the 10th hole during the final round of the Masters.

Louis Oosthuizen hits from a bunker on the...

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Justin Thomas celebrates his hole-in-one on No. 16 at Augusta National Golf Club during Sunday's final round of the Masters.

Justin Thomas celebrates his hole-in-one on No. 16...

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Tiger Woods' 15th major championship unleashed a wave of emotions at Augusta National Golf Club on Sunday.

Tiger Woods' 15th major championship unleashed a wave...

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Tiger Woods celebrates with his caddie, Joe LaCava, after winning the Masters on Sunday.

Tiger Woods celebrates with his caddie, Joe LaCava,...

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Tiger Woods blazing to victory in his Sunday red at the Masters, a scene once so familiar, was never more stunning.

It was only two years ago at Augusta National Golf Club that Woods needed a nerve block just to hobble upstairs to the Champions' Dinner, unsure he would ever play another round of golf. He had a fourth back surgery with hopes of simply playing with his two children, not chasing Jack Nicklaus in the record book.

Now it's all pieced together again — his life, his back, even his golf game.

After going from fallen hero to crippled star, Woods is a Masters champion once more.

He won his fifth green jacket and his 15th major championship, but he had never celebrated with this much raw emotion. The most ferocious fist pump happened when he walked off the 18th green, scooped up his 10-year-old son Charlie, then embraced his mother and his 11-year-old daughter Sam.

"For them to see what it's like to have their dad win a major championship, I hope that's something they will never forget," said Woods, who contended at the final two majors of 2018 and won the Tour Championship last September for his first victory in five years.

Who can ever forget this day?

"It's hard to really feel bad about how I played because I just witnessed history," said Xander Schauffele, who tied for second with Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka, a stroke behind Woods. "It was really cool coming down the stretch, all the historic holes, Tiger making the roars. I feel like I got the full Masters experience."

Woods' comeback goes beyond the two-shot deficit he erased in front of a delirious audience that watched memories turn into reality. It had been 14 years since he last won the Masters — no one had ever gone that long between green jackets. He had gone nearly 11 years since his last major victory, the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course, won in an 18-hole playoff on a shattered left leg.

This was bigger. Woods never missed a shot that mattered over the final seven holes, taking the lead with a 5-iron shot to the fat of the green on the par-5 15th for a two-putt birdie and delivering the knockout with an 8-iron shot that rode down the ridge by the cup and settled two feet away for a birdie on the par-3 16th.

He tapped in for a closing bogey and a 2-under-par 70, finishing at 13-under 275 overall, and the celebration was on.

"WOOOOOO!" Woods screamed as he headed for the scoring room with chants of "Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!" in his ears. He never hugged more people, with the congratulatory crowd including those who stood by him through a scandalous divorce that played out publicly and an embarrassing DUI arrest after he took a bad mix of painkillers related to the four back surgeries, the most recent to fuse his lower spine.

"I had serious doubts after what transpired a couple of years ago," Woods said "I could barely walk. I couldn't sit. Couldn't lay down. I really couldn't so much of anything. To have the opportunity to come back like this, it's probably one of the biggest wins I've ever had for sure because of it."

President Donald Trump, who has played with Woods at his Florida course, offered two tweets of congratulations. Fenway Park, home of Major League Baseball's Boston Red Sox posted the news on its scoreboard.

A comeback for the ages? It certainly rates among the best because Woods has meant so much to so many in a sport he ruled for so long. Whether he can dominate it again is still to be determined. Woods needed some help to win this Masters. Six players had a share of the lead at some point on the back nine, and there was a five-way tie at the top when the final group was still on the 15th fairway.

"You couldn't have had more drama than we all had out there. And now I know why I'm balding," Woods said "This stuff is hard."

It didn't used to look that way for him when he was younger, healthier and the most popular sporting figure in the world. Woods lost his impeccable image to a sex scandal, one of the swiftest and most shocking downfalls in sport. He lost his health to back problems. He went two years without even playing a major.

Now the comeback is truly complete, and the race is on.

"A big 'well done' from me to Tiger," Nicklaus tweeted. "I am so happy for him and for the game of golf. This is just fantastic!!!"

Woods now is three short of the gold standard — 18 major championships — set by Nicklaus.

"I think 18 is a whole lot closer than people think," Koepka said.

Joe LaCava, the caddie who stayed with Woods even when he didn't play for the better part of two years, said they have talked about the record.

"We're on 14, and I said, 'Let's get to 15.' You can't be on 14 and thinking about 18," LaCava said. "But now we can start talking about 16. So we're getting closer."

It was the first time Woods won a major when trailing going into the final round. Francesco Molinari, the 54-hole leader, was still up two shots heading into the heart of Amen Corner.

That's when everything changed. Molinari's tee shot on the par-3 12th never had a chance, hitting the bank and tumbling into Rae's Creek for a double bogey. Until then, Molinari had never trailed in a round that began early in threesomes to finish ahead of storms.

Then it seemed as though practically everyone had a chance — until Woods delivered the key shots at the big moment, just like the old days.

Schauffele failed to birdie the par-5 15th and scrambled for pars the rest of the way for a 68. Dustin Johnson made three straight birdies late in the round, but he got going too late and had to settle for a 68 and a return to No. 1 in the World Golf Ranking.

Koepka, one of four players from the final two groups who hit into the water on No. 12, rallied with an eagle on the 13th, narrowly missed another eagle on the 15th and was the last player with a chance. His birdie putt on the 18th from just outside 10 feet missed, and he had to settle for a 70.

"You want to play against the best to ever play," Koepka said. "You want to go toe to toe with them. I can leave saying I gave it my all. He's just good, man."

Molinari (74), the reigning British Open champion who held off Woods in the final round at Carnoustie Golf Links last summer, wound up sharing fifth with Jason Day (67), Tony Finau (72) and Webb Simpson (70) at 11 under.

Former Baylor School and University of Georgia golfer Keith Mitchell wrapped up his Masters debut with his best round of the tournament, a 69 that allowed him to finish a shot under par and share 43rd.

Woods became, at age 43, the oldest Masters champion since Nicklaus won his sixth green jacket at 46 in 1986. That has stood as the tournament's defining moment for years. This was one is sure to at least rival it.

Despite his age, Woods looked like a new man, making new memories.

"Now I'm able to play golf again, and do it at an elite level again," Woods said, "which is something I'm just very blessed to be able to have that opportunity again."


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