Reliving Tiger's Incredible Masters Triumph in 2019
IT WAS the sporting comeback to end all sporting comebacks. Tiger Woods hadn’t won a major since his epic victory at the 2008 US Open, when he defeated Rocco Mediate after 91 holes at Torrey Pines while nursing a broken leg.
It was his 14th major victory and it seemed to be only a matter of time before he surpassed Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18. But then fate and a catalogue of injuries intervened. In the years that followed there were still signs of the old genius but eventually his battered body appeared to have given up the ghost. He spent more time recovering from surgery than he did playing golf.
And then he had one last throw of the dice. Woods opted for back fusion surgery. It would either extend his career or finish it. And, incredibly, in 2018 he won the Tour Championship amid scenes that the PGA Tour hadn’t witnessed for years. In the process, he took Rory McIlroy to the cleaners.
But another major? Surely that was beyond him? And then came the 2019 Masters…
Against all the odds, Woods won his fifth Green Jacket, and 15th major, by one stroke ahead of three runners-up. It left him one shy of the Golden Bear's record six Masters wins, and three short of his record 18 major wins. At age 43 he became the second oldest winner, again only bettered by Nicklaus who won at age 46. It came 14 years after his last Masters win beating the previous record of 13 years held by Gary Player.
Woods only took the lead when Francesco Molinari came to grief at the par-three 12th and again at the 15th when he hit a tree. It meant it was the first time Woods won a major when not leading after the 54th hole.
Rory McIlroy, the only player to finish in the top ten in the previous five Masters, came into the tournament as the Players champion and with seven consecutive top-10 PGA Tour finishes. In search of the victory that would complete the career Grand Slam, he could only finish in a tie for 21st place. Two-time runner-up Justin Rose was fancied by many, but missed the cut, while Dustin Johnson ended the week in a tie for second place.
A record 65 players made the cut, including three amateurs. The leading amateur, and winner of the Silver Cup, was Viktor Hovland, who qualified as the US Amateur champion. He finished tied for 32nd place at three-under-par and wild later turn professional and waste little time in winning.
It was also the first time three players shot 64 or better in a single round at the Masters, as Patrick Cantlay, Tony Finau and Webb Simpson all achieved that score perfect conditions in the third round.
Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka tied for the lead after the first day with rounds of 66. DeChambeau's round included six birdies in his final seven holes. One stroke behind was three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson, with Johnson and Ian Poulter two adrift. Ten players were tied for 11th place on 70, including Rickie Fowler and Woods. Defending champion Patrick Reed opened with 73.
Five players, all major champions, shared the lead at the end of the second day. First-round co-leader Koepka struggled early with two bogeys and a double, but recovered with three birdies to score 71. Jason Day and Molinari both scored 67, while Louis Oosthuizen recorded the second best round of the day, 66. And 2013 champion Adam Scott shot a 68 that included an eagle on the par-five 15th. In the group one back were Johnson, Woods and Xander Schauffele, who shot a 65, the lowest round of the first two days. Woods, seeking his first major since the 2008 U.S. Open, made two front-nine bogeys in a round of 68. DeChambeau struggled with a 75, while Mickelson followed his opening 67 with a 73.
There was a delay during the afternoon because of thunderstorms in the area. Players remained on the course during the delay. The Masters had a "10 shot rule" whereby all players within 10 shots of the leaders make the 36-hole cut. With the leaders on 137 (−7) the cut was at 147 (+3). Four amateurs made the cut, the most since 1999. Among those who failed to make it to the weekend was 1991 champion Ian Woosnam, who announced his retirement as an active Masters competitor.
Molinari, part of a five-way tie for the lead at the start of the round, made four straight birdies from the 12th on his way to a round of 66 and a two-shot lead after 54 holes. Finau began his round with three straight birdies and made an eagle at the par-five eighth hole, tying the Masters record with 30 on the front-nine. He ended up with a round of 64, one off the course record, to jump into a tie for second. Woods was one-over through five holes before birdies at the sixth, seventh and eighth, and after three more birdies on the back-nine shot 67 to join Finau at 11 under par.
Simpson and Cantlay also shot 64, the first time in Masters history three rounds of 64 or better were shot on the same day. The field combined to shoot 80-under for the round, the lowest in tournament history.
Due to the threat of thunderstorms forecast for the final day, the players were grouped into threesomes with tee times at 7:30 am off the first and 10th tees.
Molinari led until he came to the 12th, where he came up well short and rolled back into Rae's Creek, leading to a double bogey and a tie with Woods at 11 under par. As the final threesome played the 15th, Molinari, Woods, Schauffele, Johnson and Koepka were tied at 12 under, but Molinari found water again at the 15th before Woods birdied the hole. Woods doubled his advantage at the 16th, after his tee shot came within three feet of the cup, and made a tap-in par at 17.
Needing only a bogey at the 18th to clinch the tournament, Woods chipped on and two-putted for a five and a two-under-par 70 for the win.
Woods became the fifth player to have a gap of more than a decade between major wins. The others were Henry Cotton, Julius Boros, Hale Irwin and Ben Crenshaw.
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