Tiger Woods won his 5th Masters title and his 15th major championship with a one-shot victory over Dustin Johnson, Xander Schauffele and Brooks Koepka but that statement alone hardly describes the drama of Masters’ Sunday.
Woods had promised to be one of the stories of the week even before play got underway on Thursday but few would have imagined just how that story might unfold.
Woods came from two shots off the 54-hole lead of Francesco Molinari and fought off so many of the current greats of the game to win his 5th green jacket and head off on his quest to chase down Jack Nicklaus' record tally of 18 major championships.
The perhaps often overused cliché of the Masters not beginning until the final nine holes on Sunday could not have been more the case today.
The last nine and perhaps more especially the closing seven holes provide plenty of opportunity and yet plenty of danger and today it witnessed both along with a lot of heartache and exhilaration.
14 years after his last Masters victory, Tiger's roar returns to Augusta. pic.twitter.com/AwFWljGPDL— Masters Tournament (@TheMasters) April 15, 2019
Molinari, as he had at the start of the day, stood on the 12th tee with a two-shot lead but after finding the water short of the green he was joined in the lead by Woods and Xander Schauffele who was almost under the radar as he crept towards the lead.
Others were also moving into the frame, namely Patrick Cantlay and Koepka, but with the experience of his 22 appearances at Augusta National (many of them in contention) to count on, Woods not only played brilliantly technically but mentally also, attacking when the opportunity arose but avoiding trouble with some very strategic thinking and impeccable execution.
Woods’ driver, which had been good for much of the week, had been cause for concern early in his final round but crucially he hit outstanding drives at the 14th, 15th and 17th and when he so nearly holed his tee shot at the par-3 16th and converted for birdie he had moved to 14 under par and led by two.
Only Koepka, who himself was forced to recover from a double bogey at the 12th, was appearing as if he could destroy the fairytale playing out but when he missed very makeable chances at the 17th and 18th the door was there for Woods to slam shut.
He took a two-shot lead to the 18th and although still vulnerable to a potential final hole birdie by Koepka and a major mistake by himself, neither really eventuated although Woods did bogey the last to win by one.
The aura and respect Woods commanded when winning his first 14 major championships has been lessened because of the injury and personal issues the 43-year old has faced since 2008 but today he sent out a very clear message that he is well and truly back.
And if Woods can remain fit and healthy, the goal of reaching and perhaps surpassing Nicklaus' major record is a realistic one.
“This whole tournament has meant so much to me over the years,” said Woods. “First as an amateur in '95 and then winning in '97 and coming full circle 22 years and do it again.
“There were so many different scenarios that could have transpired on that back nine and so many guys who had a chance to win, the leader-board was absolutely packed and everyone was playing well. You could not have had more drama then what we all had out there and now I know why I am balding (laughing)"
“Just to come back here and play as well as I did and do all the little things well here at a tournament that has meant so much to me and my family is something I will never forget.”
Jason Day finished up as the leading Australian and at one stage he appeared as if he might well have been working his way into winning contention.
Day’s final round of 67 was his second of the week, only a bogey at the 4th today after being long with his tee shot at the par-3 cost him a chance of equalling his previous best of runner-up on debut in 2011.
A birdie at the last by Day had him as the clubhouse leader but those still on the golf course had plenty of birdie opportunities to come and so it would prove.
It is, however, Day’s third top-five finish in nine appearances at the Masters and given the struggles he endured during his opening round it was a finish he might not have thought possible three days ago and provided he too can remain healthy then his time must surely come.
Adam Scott completed a weekend of 1 over par for the 36 holes, a messy double bogey at the 4th and a watery grave at the 11th spoiling his chances of a much higher finish than his 18th place.
Marc Leishman was 49th and Cameron Smith 51st.
The day, however, and most probably the sporting year, belongs to Tiger Woods who reminded all those who witnessed his decade of dominance until 2008 what it meant to the golfing world then and what this means for the game now and in the years ahead.
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