The record books will show that Tiger Woods winning the U.S Masters golf tournament is no unusual thing….Tiger Woods winning THIS U.S. Masters tournament, however, was something very, very special – coming 11 years since his last Major win, and 14 years since his last green jacket at Augusta.
The sight of the Tiger prowling the Augusta fairways and greens on the Sunday of the Masters, in his famous red shirt and black cap, is nothing new….but such has been his downward spiral since the end of the Noughties, that few, if any, really believed he could come back to such an extent that he would ever be close to the same again, let alone be able to win a Major. On top of a multitude of personal problems, Tiger has been beset by injuries, specifically to his back, and has undergone several surgeries in what seemed to be a vain attempt to continue the superlative career he had enjoyed before the problems started. But Woods never stopped fighting, or believing, with Sunday crowning what has to be considered one of the greatest ever sporting comebacks.
ROUNDS 1 – 3
81 golfers teed off for the 2019 U.S Masters, with North America (USA 39, Canada 2, Mexico 1) accounting for over half of the field all looking to take the famous green jacket from defending champion Patrick Reed (USA). On Day 1, a pretty calm day, scoring was good, as Americans Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka recorded 6 under par scores of 66, with fellow Americans Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickleson a further shot behind. Tiger opened with a steady enough effort of 70 (-2). Day 2 was a little harsher however, and the leading score by the end of the day, which included a break for a thunderstorm, was just one shot better than day one, with five players sharing the lead on -7. Koepka being joined by Jason Day and Adam Scott (Aus), Italy’s Francesco Molinari and South African Louis Oosthuizen. Tiger’s progress was showing signs of life, and he positioned himself nice in the chasing pack at -6. World Number 1 Justin Rose however was amongst one of just 26 players though who failed to make the cut – the 65 players returning for the weekend being the largest number since the ’10 shot’ rule was introduced in 1957.
Round 3 is traditionally known in golf tournaments as ‘moving day’ – where players put themselves in with a real chance of winning the event – and Augusta played nicely for all players, with the field combing for a score of -80 on the day, and three players, a Masters record, shooting rounds of 64 or better. One of those was American Tony Finau, who shot a 9 under par round of 63 which propelled him up the leaderboard to -11. But this was only good for share of second place, Tiger also finishing on that mark with a 67 – but both two shots behind Italian Francesco Molinari (pictured above), who continued his fine form with a 66 for a -13 leading score. Molinari’s round including a 4 hole birdie streak on holes 12 to 15, meaning he would go into Sunday in the final group alongside Woods.
For the first 11 holes of the final round, it seemed that Molinari would see the job through as he maintained his two shot lead over the field, though was still on -13. Woods had not improved or dropped back either, with Finau dropping a shot to be -10 through 11. Brooks Koepka had joined Woods on -11, and a host of players were at -10 and still in with a chance, although time and holes were running out.
But the 12th, a short Par 3 but having the notorious Rae’s Creek guarding the green, proved pivotal, as, amazingly, first Koepka and Ian Poulter, still in with a shout, found the water for a double bogey…and then in the final group (extended to 3 players due to late start) Finau and Molinari did the same – all going for the flag rather than the safe middle of the green play, which Woods did meaning he was now co-leader…American Xander Schauffle also finding himself on -11. Koepka responded brilliantly, eagling the next hole to claw back the lost shots, but it really settled down to a Woods/Molinari shootout…..and Woods responded as only Tiger can (used to do)…both hitting birdies on 13th before Molinari again found water on 15 whilst Woods finds a birdie to move into sole leadership of the Masters.
The Par 3 16th held its breath as Woods teed up…but the cheers were heard for miles around as Tiger showed all his class and composure to nail an iron to just a few feet short of the hole, and then rolled it home imperiously for another birdie and move 2 shots clear of the field. As he strolled down the 18th that 2 shot lead was still intact – and though he three putted the last for bogey, Tiger Woods had again won the U.S Masters – the first time he had won when NOT been leading the tournament after 54 holes.
Once the final putt had been rolled home, a usually reserved and stoic Woods could not control his emotion…embracing his last round partners and his caddie, before unleashing a Tiger roar…fist pumping and acknowledging the crowd’s wild cheers with enthusiasm rarely seen before from the legendary American golfer. He went off the 18th green to be met by his family – with pictures of him embracing his children moving everyone to tears. This was a different Woods…a dad more than a golfer now….and one who knew what this moment signified and was determined to take in every joyous moment.
His golfing opponents were equally delighted for him – lining up outside of the scoring hut to high five and congratulate the returning champion. Pundits and sportscasters from around the world lead the tributes and acknowledged just what an achievement this was.
In the traditional ceremony of awarding the green jacket and interview held in the quiet Butlers Cabin, Woods said of his win :
“Im a little hoarse from yelling. I was just trying to plot my way round. Then all of a sudden I had the lead. When I tapped the putt in, I don’t know what I did. I know I screamed. And to have my kids there … it’s come full circle. In 1997 my dad was here. Now I’m the dad.
It’s overwhelming, because of what has transpired. Last year I was just very lucky to be playing again. I missed a couple of years of playing this great tournament. And to now be the champion … what, is it 22 years? It’s a long time! It’s unreal. My mom was here, she was here in 97 as well. I’m kind of at a loss for words. This is up there. It’s one of the hardest I’ve ever had to win. I was close last year in the majors. I learned from those, and was able to seal the deal today.”
None who witnessed the victory could deny the emotion and history of the win…which means Woods is now just 2 Majors behind Jack Nicklaus – who admitted he was ‘shaking’ after Tiger’s win and the potential of chasing his record number down.
After this win, who can say for certain he just wont make it?
FINAL U.S. MASTERS LEADERBOARD
- -13 Tiger Woods (USA)
- -12 Dustin Johnson (USA)
- -12 Xander Schauffele (USA)
- -12 Brooks Koepka (USA)
- -11 Jason Day (Australia)
- -11 Webb Simpson (USA)
- -11 Francesco Molinari (Italy)
- -11 Tony Finau (USA)
- -10 Rickie Fowler (USA)
- -10 Jon Rahm (Spain)
- -10 Patrick Cantlay (USA)