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The greatest comeback story in golf history is complete, and Tiger Woods has a green jacket to prove it.
Woods shot a two-under 70 in Sunday’s final round of the 2019 Masters Tournament, defeating Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Xander Schauffele by one stroke to win his fifth championship at Augusta National. It’s Woods’ first major championship since the 2008 U.S. Open and his first green jacket since 2005.
Ben Smith @BSmith
Tiger Woods from boy to man. Hugging his late father after his victory at #TheMasters in 1997 to hugging his son after his historic win at Augusta today. What a story. https://t.co/sEgUPfoFi3
Woods’ 15 majors overall puts him within three of Jack Nicklaus on the all-time list. He is the second-oldest Masters winner in history, behind only Nicklaus’ 1986 masterpiece.
Not only did Tiger win the Masters, he did so in a way he never has before in a major tournament: playing from behind. Woods entered the day two strokes behind Francesco Molinari, who finished tied for fifth place after falling apart on the back nine.
Molinari spent the entire front out ahead and carried a lead of as many as three strokes over Tiger. Woods parred his first two holes before a birdie at No. 3 got him within a stroke. He immediately gave that stroke back on No. 4 and bogeyed again a hole later with a frustrating three-putt on the par-four fifth.
Molinari stayed steady to that point, parring his first six holes to hold a three-stroke lead. Things began to turn on No. 7, as Molinari bogeyed while Woods holed a birdie to get back to even for the day. They each birdied the eighth and made the turn with Tiger one stroke behind.
Masters Tournament @TheMasters
.@TigerWoods and @F_Molinari trade birdies on the par 5 No. 8 at #themasters https://t.co/HbuR8wvdKf
After finding the cart path on No. 10 and dropping to two down, it appeared Tiger was never going to find his game. His drives were errant, the putts that fell all day Saturday were just missing, and Molinari had avoided disaster and kept himself out in front of the field.
The entire round took a shift at the par-three 12th.
Woods watched Molinari and Tony Finau send their shots into the water, while he played the hole carefully for par. Molinari entered the hole with a two-stroke lead over the field and left tied with Woods after a double bogey.
Woods and Molinari kept pace with one another with matching birdies at the par-five 13th, but by then, the field had caught up. Patrick Cantlay, who shot an incredible 64 to move into contention Saturday, eagled No. 12 and got to 12 under overall. Xander Schauffele birdied three of his first five holes on the back nine to get in lockstep with the leaders.
Dustin Johnson moved to the 12-under number with a birdie on No. 17.
While Molinari’s chances at a green jacket ended after he again found water at No. 15, Tiger kicked it into a gear few thought he had left. He drained a tap-in birdie at 15 to take sole possession of the lead then hit a beautiful approach on the par-three 16th to essentially seal the deal. All it took was a pair of pars on Nos. 17 and a safe bogey at 18 to capture the green jacket.
Masters Tournament @TheMasters
A near ace on No. 16, Tiger Woods extends his lead with two holes to play at #themasters https://t.co/9IJRrbfYhc
It’s hard to find words to properly contextualize what the moment meant.
When Woods last won a major, he was 32. Married. His children were toddlers. The idea of an off-the-course scandal was laughable; there may have been no more “clean cut” athlete in professional sports history. It was an inevitability that he would someday blow past Nicklaus and have the most majors in golf history.
The obstacles he’s gone through over the last 11 years, some self-created and others not, would have been enough to break any human being. His personal life fell apart on a Thanksgiving night months after his 2008 U.S. Open win, and his life became TMZ fodder. There was the complete breakdown of his body, with three back surgeries leaving him unsure whether he would ever play the sport that made him once seem invincible. The DUI arrest, a personal nadir of a fallen hero.
Less than two years after that arrest, Tiger Woods is once again on top of the golf world.
It was like he never left.