It had been 14 years since Tiger Woods won a Masters championship in golf. Scandal, injury, and the inevitability of age had taken its toll on his body and mind, leaving the man considered to be the greatest golfer who ever lived a shadow of his former self.
But Sunday at Augusta National Golf Course — the most iconic venue in sports — Tiger Woods peeled back the years and gave golf fans the world over a treat they will never forget.
Trailing Italian phenom Francesco Molinari by two shots entering the final round of play, Woods roared down Augusta’s back nine, seizing the lead in the final holes to achieve the seemingly impossible — a 5th green jacket at age 43.
He became the second oldest player to win the Masters behind Jack Nicklaus, whose emotional 1986 win at age 46 was one of the high points in the history of the sport. Tiger’s win was perhaps even more emotional given the long, tortuous journey back from debilitating injuries, surgeries, recoveries, and a reinvented swing that held up under the enormous pressure of championship golf.
Woods made birdies at the 13th and 15th holes to take the outright lead on the final day of the Masters for the first time since his previous victory here, in 2005.
Then came what was perhaps his shot of the tournament, a perfect 8-iron at the par-3 16th — where two aces were made Sunday — that landed on a slope and trickled down toward the cup, just sliding past the hole. He made the 4-footer for birdie and a two-shot lead.
A perfect drive at the 17th led to an easy par, and then the telling tee shot at the 18th with a 3-wood up the right side put him in position to close out a remarkable victory, although he missed the green and had to sweat out a pitch shot that set up the two-putt bogey and a final tally of 275, 13 under par.
Woods, who made four bogeys Sunday and nine for the tournament, led the field in greens in regulation, hitting 58 of 72. He also made 22 birdies and had no penalty shots. And despite taking 15 more putts than Molinari, he mostly avoided the issues on the greens that have plagued him at times during his comeback.
The period between the end of the last century and the first decade of this one saw Tiger Woods play perhaps the most dominant stretch of championship golf in history. But the rest of the world eventually caught up with Woods as players adopted his fitness regimen, and strength and conditioning habits. He spent 254 weeks as the number one player in the world, a record that may never be broken.
Woods will now be ranked in the top ten in the world again. And he will once again be one of the favorites at the remaining major championships. But Woods’ stunning victory at Augusta transcends the sport of golf, becoming a personal triumph not only satisfying for the golfer himself, but thrilling his legions of fans who never gave up hope that he could return to his former glory.