15 major champions. Five green jackets. Many thought it would never happen. But it has!
After 11 grueling years on the major schneid, Tiger Woods again is a major champion. One of the greatest comeback efforts in the history of professional sports, Tiger shot a final round 2-under 70 en route to a 13-under par to claim his fifth career Masters by one shot over the highly-accomplished trio of Dustin Johnson, Xander Schauffele, and Brooks Koepka.
The 43-year-old legend has become famous, not just for the incredible number of majors he’s racked up (second most in PGA Tour history), but the way he’s won many of those in absolutely unprecedented, dominating fashion.
This one? Tiger had to fight and crawl to the very end. He undeniably EARNED his first green jacket in 14 years.
To begin the day, Tiger, who had never won a major championship while trailing after 54 holes, was two strokes back of reigning Open Championship winner, and European Ryder Cup team hero, Francesco Molinari – arguably the best golfer on the planet over the past 12 months.
In an attempt to avoid forecasted storms, The Masters moved tee times way up, and went out in threesomes, putting Tiger in the final group alongside Molinari and Tony Finau, who was tied with Tiger at 11-under after three rounds.
Molinari looked somewhat uneasy over his first six holes, but parred each of the six, and when he carded a four on the par-4 5th hole – a hole which Woods and Finau both bogeyed, the 36-year-old Italian took a three-shot lead, a lead which looked potentially commanding when considering that he’d only bogeyed one hole for the ENTIRE WEEK up to that point (and that was on Thursday).
Then something unexpected happened. An improbable Molinari bogey on the par-4 7th pulled Tiger within one. Molinari stayed in the lead at the turn, but a shocking water-ball on his 12th hole tee-shot catalyzed a torrid back-nine sequence that saw a tremendous amount of elite players surge into contention.
Patrick Cantlay held the solo-lead with three holes to go. At different times down the stretch, Woods, Dustin Johnson, Schauffele, and Koepka all held shares of the lead, while the likes of Jason Day, Webb Simpson, two-time Masters Champion Bubba Watson, Jon Rahm, and Rickie Fowler were all two strokes or fewer off the lead themselves.
However, down that stretch, Tiger was able to summon his best form, snagging the solo-lead after a clutch birdie on the par-5 15th. He chased that birdie with an unbelievable tee shot on the par-3 16th, that landed just a few feet from the hole, resulting in an easy birdie putt which gave him a two-shot lead with two to play. From there, it was officially Tiger’s tournament to lose.
Tiger showed few nerves over the closing holes, and kept that two-stroke advantage while he stood on the 18th tee box. At that point, the only player left who could still legitimately challenge Tiger was Koepka, the winner of three major championships over the past two seasons. Needing a birdie on 18 to cut Tiger’s lead to one, Koepka hit a marvelous drive and an equally stellar approach to give himself a good shot at that birdie. However, Koepka’s putt slid slightly right, making Tiger’s quest significantly easier.
Knowing he just needed a bogey-5 for the victory, a series of safe shots led to a par attempt on the green that barely missed. His two-footer for bogey hit the middle of the cup, and suddenly, Tiger was a major champion once again.
One of the most excited crowds in recent sports history, that final, winning putt, engineered a raucous and jubilant celebration.
Immediately after shaking hands with those on the green, Tiger joyously embraced his son Charlie, who was not even alive when Tiger last won a major, his mother, and then his daughter Sam, who was not old enough to remember that 2008 U.S. Open triumph.
It has been teased numerous times over the past two years, but it can finally be said: yeah, Tiger’s back.
FINAL TOP 10: THE MASTERS
Pos-Player-To Par (Final Rd)
1. Tiger Woods -13 (-2)
2. Dustin Johnson -12 (-4)
2. Xander Schauffele -12 (-4)
2. Brooks Koepka -12 (-2)
5. Jason Day -11 (-5)
5. Webb Simpson -11 (-2)
5. Tony Finau -11 (E)
5. Jon Rahm -10 (-4)
9. Patrick Cantlay -10 (-4)
9. Rickie Fowler -10 (-3)
12. Bubba Watson, Justin Thomas, Matt Kuchar, Ian Poulter -8
18. Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott -6
21. Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth -5
29. Bryson DeChambeau, Louis Oosthuizen -4
32. Victor Hovland (a), Hideki Matsuyama, Charles Howell III -3
36. Henrik Stenson, Tommy Fleetwood, Patrick Reed -2
43. Keegan Bradley, Haotong Li -1
51. Martin Kaymer, Trevor Immelman +2
58. Zach Johnson +5
62. Bernhard Langer +8
HOW TIGER WOODS WON THE MASTERS
Tiger was phenomenally consistent throughout the week. He opened with a 2-under 70, which – while just four strokes off the lead in 11th place – made a victory go against recent history, with the last 13 Masters Champions each being inside the top 8 after 18 holes.
A 68 on Friday followed by a 67 on Saturday had Tiger in a share of second place heading into the final round. Under the standard rules, Tiger would have been paired any other year with Koepka in the penultimate group, but with the decision to go to threesomes in an effort to avoid the afternoon rain, Tiger got in the final Sunday group, where he was grouped on the final day in each of his previous 14 major championship titles.
In a vacuum, Tiger’s final round was not one of his all-time greats, as he bogeyed four holes, but he managed to avoid the mistakes of his competitors, and putted much better than he had earlier in the tournament – consistently making clutch shots down the stretch.
The turning point was likely the 12th hole, which Tiger parred, coupled with Molinari and Finau both landing tee shots in the water. Molinari carded a double-bogey, while Finau bogeyed.
Molinari again posted a double-bogey when his third shot on the par-5 15th clipped a pine tree and landed in the water. He never recovered.
Tiger’s 22 birdies over four rounds ranked second in the field, trailing only Schauffele’s 25.
TIGER’S WINNING STATS
Driving: 294.6 yards (43rd)
Fairways: 62.5%, 35/56 (47th)
Greens: 80.6% (58/72) (1st)
Putting: 2.107 (1st)
Scoring: 22 Birdies, 41 Pars, 9 Bogeys
Par 3: (-4) 5 Birdies, 10 Pars, 1 Bogey
Par 4: (-1) 8 Birdies, 25 Pars, 7 Bogeys
Par 5: (-8) 9 Birdies, 6 Pars, 1 Bogey
Front 9: (-6) 11 Birdies, 20 Pars, 5 Bogeys
Back 9: (-7) 11 Birdies, 21 Pars, 4 Bogeys
Amen Corner: (-4) 4 Birdies, 8 Pars
WHAT IT MEANS FOR TIGER
It cannot be overstated how impressive of a career comeback this has been for Tiger. Just two years ago at The Masters champions dinner, he thought he might be done forever. He had suffered through injury after injury, and missed nearly two years of play after spinal fusion.
He has undergone significant swing changes, necessary to prevent future injuries. He has undergone extraordinarily public personal issues. He has been the subject of countless ridicule. Major after major passed after his U.S. Open victory in 2008 without another added to his resume. Heck, he did not even win a Tour event between August of 2013 and last September’s Tour Championship.
Few athletes in the history of sports have reached the highs and lows that Tiger has, while eventually returning to the peak. It’s something that just does not happen.
Tiger’s 15 major championships puts him just three behind Jack Nicklaus’ record 18. His five Masters wins broke a tie with Arnold Palmer for second all-time, and he’s now just one back of Nicklaus’ six-pack of jackets.
Lost in the shuffle of this victory: Tiger now has 81 career PGA Tour victories, leaving him just one short of Sam Snead’s all-time mark.
With the milestone victory, Tiger also jumped to No. 6 in the Official World Golf Rankings, the first time he has been inside the top 10 since he withdrew from the 2014 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
TIGER’S 2019 SEASON
Wins: 1 (Masters)
Addtl Top 20s: 4
Money: $2,734,717 (8th)
FedExCup: 888 (12th)
OWGR (Start 2019/Current): 14th/6th
While Tiger’s career comeback is going to grab all the headlines, and justifiably so, there very nearly was an historic tournament comeback by Patrick Cantlay.
The 27-year-old former amateur superstar opened his third Masters start with back-to-back 73s, and at 2-over, he barely made the cut. Cantlay then exploded on Saturday with a (co-field low for the week) 8-under 64 to suddenly get himself on the periphery of contention.
Going very low in back-to-back rounds is famously difficult in majors, but Cantlay stayed hot into Sunday, with four birdies in his first seven holes. After an immaculate eagle on the par-5 15th, Cantlay suddenly held the solo-lead.
The nerves seemed to set in at that point, however, as Cantlay finished bogey-bogey-par to drop into a share of 9th, but a 64-68 weekend was still the best in the field. His T9 also marks his first career top 10 in a major.
After World No. 1 Justin Rose failed to make the cut this week, Dustin Johnson came into the weekend as the highest-ranked player in the field. The 20-time PGA Tour winner, was quiet for most of the week, but out of seemingly nowhere, he exploded onto the leaderboard with birdies on 13, 15, 16, and 17, with that last one temporarily placing him into the co-lead.
He was unable to birdie 18, which could have really put substantial pressure on Tiger, but his 4-under 68 was the third best score in the Sunday field, and led to a runner-up finish.
DJ’s third career runner-up at a major was also his 16th career major top-10, although he is still stuck on one career major victory (2016 U.S. Open).
The low score of the day was a 5-under 67 shared by two players, with the most significant posted by Jason Day, who also posted a 67 on Friday, matched three front-nine birdies with three down the back.
He did not seem especially in contention most of the day, but after Molinari imploded, Day suddenly stood a chance. When he birdied 18, he reached 11-under for the week, which was the clubhouse lead for a good amount of time.
Day finished T5, the third time he has finished inside the top 10 at Augusta (T2 in 2011, 3 in 2013). He now has nine career top 5s in majors, but this is his first since he finished runner-up at the 2016 PGA Championship, where he was defending his only major championship victory.
Day’s 67 was matched by 22-year-old Aaron Wise, who rebounded from an opening round 75 to finish T17, his first made cut in four career major starts. It was his Masters debut.
Molinari had only two poor holes the entire week, but they came at the most inopportune time. The tournament appeared to be his to lose for most of the day, but the usually unflappable Italian torpedoed his shot at a second major championship in his last three major starts with those shocking water-balls on Nos. 12 and 15, both of which led to double bogeys.
Molinari finished with a 2-over 74, the worst Sunday score among those who finished inside the top 28.
Phil Mickelson opened his week with a 5-under 67, which left the 48-year-old just one back after 18 holes in his quest to become the oldest player to ever win a major championship.
The three-time Masters winner was nowhere near as good in the middle rounds, shooting a 73 and 70, respectively, but after Sunday birdies on Nos. 3, 5, and 6, Mickelson was suddenly at 8-under for the week, and had an outside chance.
However, Phil’s birdie on the 6th would be his final for the week; he carded 11 pars and a double-bogey over his last 12 holes to shoot a pedestrian even-par 72. He finished T18 with Patton Kizzire and Adam Scott, the latter of whom held the solo-lead at 8-under-par at one point on Friday.
Louis Oosthuizen seems to be in the mix in nearly every major, and was again in good position through three rounds, where his 8-under score had him in a share of 7th place. The man who has finished runner-up at all four majors (with one victory) could not get anything going on Sunday, however. His only birdie came on the first hole, and after adding three bogeys and a double, Oosthuizen had finished his Sunday with a disappointing 4-over 76, which dropped him to T29 for the week.
“I had serious doubts after what transpired a couple years ago. I could barely walk. I couldn’t sit. Couldn’t lay down. I really couldn’t do much of anything.
“Luckily I had the procedure on my back, which gave me a chance at having a normal life. But then all of a sudden, I realized I could actually swing a golf club again. I felt if I could somehow piece this together that I still had the hands to do it. The body’s not the same as it was a long time ago, but I still have good hands.”
– Tiger Woods, Masters Champion
FINAL MONEY, POINTS, SCORES: THE MASTERS
Augusta Golf Club | Augusta, Georgia | Apr. 14, 2019