Augusta (Georgia), April 15: Golf icon Tiger Woods has won his fifth Masters, the first major of the season played this week at the Augusta National course, 14 years after his first victory here in 2005.
In a historic feat on Sunday, the 43-year-old golfer – who has undergone several back operations and endured a series of personal vicissitudes over the past 11 years – once again brought spectators to their feet shouting enthusiastically when he sank his last putt on the 18th green on a day marked by wind and light rain, Efe news reported.
His earlier Masters victories came in 1997, 2001, 2002 and 2005.
Finishing a whopping 13 under par, Woods – wearing a red shirt, black slacks and a black cap – beat out his countrymen Dustin Johnson (-12), Xander Schauffele (-12) and Brooks Koepka (-12) to win his 15th tourney.
“Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!” the crowd thundered at the 18th hole after he sank his last putt for the win. Woods, outwardly calm and cool the entire day up to then, let it all hang out at that point, throwing up his arms and yelling for joy, along with the hundreds of fans clustered around he green.
Every time he does something well, whatever it is, you hear a shout, said golfer Koepka earlier regarding the cheers for Woods that periodically shook the atmosphere at Augusta on the last few holes.
The day began with Italy’s Francesco Molinari in the lead and sharing the top slot with Woods and US golfer Tony Finau. Molinari at one point got three strokes ahead, but the water hazards at August swallowed one of his shots, thus drowning his chances to take the tourney.
“Instead of playing aggressively, I made my swing a little defensive because of the wind. I don’t think it was my best day, although I’m very happy with my first nine holes,” Molinari – the winner of the 2018 British Open where he finished 11 under par along with Finau and American Webb Simpson, as well as Australian Jason Day – told EFE.
In a post-game television interview, Woods said: “I’m a little hoarse from yelling … When I tapped the (last) putt 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 there in ’97 (at his first Masters win), and now I’m the dad.”
Sunday’s Masters was one of the most emotional in memory. Up until the last few holes, a dozen players – all tightly packed in the scoring – had a chance to win, including Americans Patrick Cantlay and Rickie Fowler, as well as Spain’s Jon Rahm, all at -10.
“It was a big struggle to get where I am and much remains to be done. In comparison with the rest of those who are ahead of me, I needed a round of -6 or -7 to give myself a chance (to win),” said Rahm, ranked No. 8 in the world, although he stepped on the gas on the last several holes, and scored three birdies and an eagle starting on the seventh hole.
The other Spaniard at the Masters on the weekend, Rafa Cabrera Bello, had an disappointing outing on the past three days and finished -4. “The main difference is that I putted well. It’s been a bittersweet feeling because I was lustening to the shouts of support for Tiger and I would have liked to have been in that group,” Cabrera Bello said.
Meanwhile, Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo was unable to overcome his problems and ended 8 over par, tied for last place in the rankings.
The 2019 Masters will go down in history as the year of Tiger’s comeback, after finding himself in 1,199th place in the world rankings just 16 months ago, whereas now he’s sitting pretty at the peak of world golf.
Strangely enough, on Sunday Tiger also became the golfer who has won the most money at Augusta, ahead of his countryman Phil Mickelson, taking home a little more than $2 million in prize money this year to add to the almost $7.5 million he had pocketed in his 22 previous outings at the course.