Tiger Woods wins 2019 Masters at Augusta to claim 15th major

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Masters final-round leaderboard
-13: T Woods (US); -12: D Johnson (US), X Schauffele (US), B Koepka (US); -11: J Day (Aus), W Simpson (US), F Molinari (Ita), T Finau (US); -10: J Rahm (Spa), P Cantlay (US), R Fowler (US).
Selected others: -8: I Poulter; -6: P Mickelson (US); -5: M Fitzpatrick (Eng) R McIlroy (NI), J Spieth (US); -2: T Fleetwood (Eng). Full leaderboard

Tiger Woods produced a scintillating finish to win a fifth Masters title and end an 11-year wait to claim a 15th major.

There were raucous celebrations around the 18th green as Woods finished with a two-under-par 70 to win on 13 under, one clear of fellow Americans Dustin Johnson, Xander Schauffele and Brooks Koepka.

Woods, written off by so many so often as he battled back problems in recent years, punched the air in delight, a wide smile across his face, before celebrating with his children at the back of the green.

“I’m a little hoarse from yelling,” said the 43-year-old. “I was just trying to plod my way around all day then all of a sudden I had the lead.

“Coming up 18 I was just trying to make a five. When I tapped in I don’t know what I did, I know I screamed.

“To have my kids there, it’s come full circle. My dad was here in 1997 and now I’m the dad with two kids there.

“It will be up there with one of the hardest I’ve had to win because of what has transpired in the last couple of years.”

  • This was Woods’ first Masters victory since 2005 and he is now just one behind Jack Nicklaus’ record of six wins at Augusta National
  • The triumph came 10 years, nine months and 29 days after his last major title at the 2008 US Open
  • For the first time Woods came from behind in the final round to win a major
  • Woods is three behind his Nicklaus’ overall major tally of 18

Victory caps a remarkable resurgence for Woods, who missed the 2016 and 2017 Masters with back problems before finally undergoing back fusion surgery in April of that year.

A superb 2018 followed where he challenged at The Open before finishing joint sixth and pushed eventual champion Koepka close at the US PGA Championship.

He then capped off the season by winning the Tour Championship for his 80th PGA Tour title and this victory puts him on 81, one behind the record of 82 held by Sam Snead.

Overnight leader Francesco Molinari’s hopes sunk with two double bogeys on the back nine and he had to settle for a share of fifth on 11 under after a two-over 74.

Ian Poulter’s chances ended after he hit his tee shot into the water on the 12th and he closed with a 73 for a share of 12th on eight under, three shots ahead of fellow Englishman Matt Fitzpatrick and Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, who carded rounds of 70 and 71 respectively.

No stopping Woods’ march to glory

Perhaps the crucial hole in the story of this year’s Masters was the 12th on the final round, the treacherous par three where any errant tee shot risks being sucked back into Rae’s Creek.

Molinari, who played with Woods in the final round as he won The Open last July, dumped his tee shot into the water at the front of the green and walked off with a double-bogey five.

Tony Finau, also in the final group, followed Molinari in the water to drop back to eight under.

The more experienced Woods, who was playing his 22nd Masters, played to the heart of the green and two-putted for par to join Molinari at the top of the leaderboard on 11 under.

That par was cheered like a birdie by the thousands of patrons who have followed his every stroke this week, alerting more and more to join the party and roar Woods home.

Others were challenging from behind with Schauffele and world number two Johnson posting four-under-par 68s to set the clubhouse target at 12 under.

Molinari faded further after hitting his third shot into the pond guarding the 15th green and from that moment there was no stopping Woods’ relentless march to the title.

A par on the 17th left the world number 12 with a lead of two shots going up the last – only Koepka, who has won three of the past seven majors, could realistically put any pressure on but the American missed an eight-foot birdie putt to stay at 12 under.

Woods appeared to fluff his second shot to the 18th, leaving it well short of the green, and could only chip on to 14 feet, but with a two-shot cushion he could afford to drop a shot and he sealed the win with his second putt.

“I was as patient as I have been in years. I kept control of my emotions, shots, placement,” said Woods.

“To see that leaderboard it was a who’s who. And it all flipped at 12 when Francesco made a mistake. All these scenarios started flying around.

“It was an amazing buzz to figure what was going on while staying present and focused on what I needed to do.”

For Molinari, it was a case of what might have been. “I think I made a few new fans with those two double bogeys,” he said. “It’s great to see Tiger doing well. The way he was playing last year, I think we all knew it was coming sooner or later.”

Woods’ barren years

When Woods won the 2008 US Open, few people imagined it would take another 11 years for the next major to come along.

But a car crash in November 2009 eventually led to admissions of infidelity and the breakdown of his marriage and Woods taking an “indefinite break” from golf.

He returned not long after but following five wins in 2013, Woods started just 24 events in the next four years as his chronic back pain took control.

In 2017 Woods was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence when he was found asleep at the wheel of his car, later pleading guilty to reckless driving.

He had five prescription drugs in his system as he recovered from the spinal fusion surgery that has ultimately given him a second golfing career.

‘I am so inspired’ – global reaction

US President Donald Trump: “Congratulations to Tiger Woods, a truly Great Champion! Love people who are great under pressure. What a fantastic life comeback for a really great guy!”

Former US President Barack Obama: “Congratulations, Tiger! To come back and win the Masters after all the highs and lows is a testament to excellence, grit, and determination.

Twenty-three-time Grand Slam winning tennis player Serena Williams: “I am literally in tears watching Tiger Woods this is greatness like no other. Knowing all you have been through physically to come back and do what you just did today? Wow. Congrats a million times! I am so inspired thank you buddy.”

Three-time NBA champion Steph Curry: “Greatest comeback story in sports! Congrats Tiger Woods. Let me hold one of those 5 jackets one time!”

‘What an extraordinary story’ – golfing reaction

Three-time major winner Padraig Harrington: “There is not a golfer in the world that isn’t happy that Tiger Woods won. In the modern era, he’s been a golf and sport superstar. This comeback story will break out from golf into all sports and all the news. It will be everywhere. There will be people who have never looked at golf and will be seeing this and wondering what it’s all about.”

Former Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger: “I never thought I’d see it. I thought he was done. He whispered to a champion at the Champions Dinner once that he was done. Since the fused back he has been a living, breathing, walking miracle. To perform at this level, it’s something you behold.”

BBC golf correspondent Iain Carter: “What an extraordinary story and what scenes at Augusta. The hug with his mother, his son is leaping into his arms, the chants of Tiger everywhere. It is all about this man who dominated golf. I have never seen him celebrate like that.”

Five-time major winner Phil Mickelson: “What a great moment for the game of golf. I’m so impressed by Tiger Woods’ incredible performance, and I’m so happy for him to capture another Green Jacket. Truly a special day that will go down in history. Congratulations, Tiger!”

Eighteen-time major winner Jack Nicklaus: “A big ‘well done’ from me to Tiger Woods! I am so happy for him and for the game of golf. This is just fantastic.”

Woods’ career in numbers

3,954 – days since victory over Rocco Mediate in a US Open play-off at Torrey Pines.

1,199 – Woods’ ranking in the world in November 2017. Victory at Augusta National means he will be sixth in Monday’s updated standings.

683 – weeks he has spent at world number one during his career, a record.

281 – consecutive weeks spent as the world’s best golfer, which is also a record.

48 – His score for nine holes at the age of three on the Navy golf course in Los Alamitos.

15 – career major wins, second only to Jack Nicklaus’ 18.

14 – years between Woods’ fourth and fifth victories in the Masters.

5 – Woods is one of five players to have won all four major titles.

– number of back operations since March 2014.

1 – Woods is the only player to hold all four major titles at the same time, winning the US Open, Open Championship and US PGA in 2000 and the 2001 Masters