Masters Sunday always has a special moment. Recently, we saw 21-year old Jordan Spieth blowing away the competition in 2015 and striding down the gauntlet of fans with his arms around his parents. Then, Sergio Garcia surviving a playoff against Justin Rose in 2017 and celebrating with his fiancé.
This Sunday was no different.
Tiger Woods steals the show
Tiger Woods stormed from behind on the back nine of Augusta National to win his fifth green jacket and his first since 2005. Woods had the memorable moment in 2019 when he embraced his kids in a moment of pure joy. This was reminiscent of his father hugging him back at the 1997 Masters when he won his first major.
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Woods finished 13-under par after posting a 2-under 70 on Sunday to close one shot clear of big bombers Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka. Xander Schauffele also finished at 12-under and one back.
Masters Front 9 Recap
Heading into Sunday’s round, which was moved up over 5 hours due to inclement weather approaching, Francesco Molinari was the guy to beat. He had a 2-shot lead and had already beaten Tiger toe-to-toe in the Open Championship at Carnoustie last summer.
To make matters worse for Woods, he had never come from behind to win a major championship while trailing going into the final round. That’s actually very hard to believe.
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After back to back bogies at 4 and 5, Tiger fell to 10-under par, three back of Molinari, who remained steady. Clutch par putts at the 1st and 5th holes after shaky approaches to the holes made it seem like it was Molinari’s time to take the green jacket.
It was Molinari who looked like Tiger back in his prime when closing out a major championship. Always finding ways to keep calm and make pars.
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But then Tiger stuck his approach shot on 7 within two feet, tapped in for birdie, and then birdied the 8th as well. Molinari followed suit with a birdie of his own on 8 but the lead was down to a single stroke heading to the back 9.
Amen Corner turns the tides
A bogey on 10 after an errant tee shot left Tiger two strokes behind once again heading into Amen Corner. This is where the tides finally turned in Tiger’s favor.
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Molinari calmly parred the 11th after Woods did which set up the 12th. Oh, boy has this hole been a game changer in the past. Just ask Jordan Spieth.
Molinari hit his tee shot a little short and ended up in Rae’s Creek. Ouch. Now, after he saw that happen, Tiger switched his strategy up a bit here. Instead of going for the pin and risking the same fate, Woods played a safe shot in the dead center of the green. That’s a veteran move right there.
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Knowing that Molinari is at best dropping one stroke, a simple par for Tiger would help him get right back in it. Fortunate for Tiger, Molinari’s third shot after the penalty wasn’t close enough for him to bang in his bogey putt. He would double bogey while Tiger sank his par putt. Tie game.
After 12, it kind of felt like the stars were aligning. This was Tiger’s day, and no one was going to change that. Not even a charging Brooks Koepka or Dustin Johnson ahead of him.
Woods takes control
Birdies on both par 5s, 13 and 15, put Tiger at 13-under par. Molinari would put his third shot in the water once again on the 15th, effectively ending his bid at a green jacket. Tiger had control of the tournament at this point but the next hole is where he put it away.
Walking onto the par-3 16th with a lead must’ve been an incredible feeling for Tiger but then it got even better. Just like he did when he won his last Masters in 2005, Woods had another vintage moment.
Tiger’s 8-iron off the tee landed in the perfect landing spot above the hole which allowed the ball to funnel right towards the cup. It would stop a foot and a half away. After his near ace, Tiger buried his short birdie putt to go up two strokes with two to play.
The gallery on the 16th after that was a surreal scene. The crowd looked like it was 20-plus deep as Woods got to 14-under. One group ahead, Brooks Koepka had to back off his tee shot on 17 because of the roars from Tiger’s birdie.
Like fellow PGA Tour golfers have said before – There are roars, and then there are Tiger roars.
That was a Tiger roar.
Tiger Woods Masters Champion once again
At this point, it was obvious that Tiger only needed to par 17 and 18 to grab the green jacket. Brooks Koepka was a group ahead of Woods and after his par on 17, it seemed improbable for a collapse. The way Tiger was playing this week made fans confident going into the closing hole.
That confidence grew once Tiger smoked a drive down the middle on the 18th. Then it grew even more once word got to him that Koepka had missed his birdie putt and tapped in for par on 18. A bogey 5 on would give Woods his first major championship in eleven years.
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Tiger showed his veteran presence once again by safely chipping to the center of the green. From there, he knew a 2-putt was good enough and that’s exactly how it played out.
Inside the Numbers
Woods shot 70-68-67-70 en route to his 2019 Masters victory. It was consistency from Tiger that won him this tournament. At 43 he became the second oldest Masters Champion ever, behind only Jack Nicklaus who won at 46 in 1986.
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A big reason for his consistency was his tee-to-green play all week. Woods finished first overall for the tournament in Greens in Regulation. He hit 58/72 greens which is good for 81%. Add in having the second most birdies in the field at 22 and great results will come.
Tiger’s 13-under 275 would have been good enough to 73 out of 83 Masters Tournaments. He would have been tied with the winner in 2 others. Again, very impressive.
Tiger Woods’ impact
There’s no argument that Tiger Woods transcended golf. He changed the way that golfers prepared, played, and analyzed the game. Tiger grew the game more than anyone else in its history.
He got people into golf and made everyone want to play. Tiger simply made golf cool. I’m certain there will be a bigger golf bug than ever going around this summer because of this. Everyone will want to play. That’s the impact that Tiger Woods has on the sport of golf.
This is why you watch sports. You watch for the opportunity to see something amazing like what transpired at Augusta National on Sunday afternoon.
Watching Tiger rise to the top once again after being so low the last few years is something you’ll never forget. The fight inside of him and the obstacles he needed to overcome to complete his comeback make it more special.
Celebrating with his family, including his two kids who have never seen their dad at the top of the mountain in a major, makes it even better.
Not only did older fans get a taste of nostalgia and see him win again after so long but the younger generation that has never seen him like this get to experience it for the first time.
Greatest Moment in Golf History
I don’t think it’s that polarizing to say that this was the greatest moment in golf history. Most people, including Tiger, never thought he’d seriously compete again.
There were times over the last half dozen years or so when we thought Tiger was possibly back, but he really wasn’t. Every cut made in a major or every successful back surgery was a glimmer of hope for us as fans. We would hold on to that hope and think that one day he could return to the top.
Well, today that day has finally come. Tiger Woods is officially back.
He has 15 majors, 3 back from Jack Nicklaus’ untouchable record of 18.
The chase is back on.