He's back: Tiger wins first Masters since 2005
Bob HarigESPN Senior Writer
·TwitterAUGUSTA, Ga. -- The roars were loud and earth-shattering -- and not just on the course. There was Tida Woods, inside the Augusta National clubhouse, screaming at the television, nervous energy and anticipation consuming the room while her son was attempting to finish the most improbable of major championship victories.
There were her grandchildren -- Tiger Woods' daughter, Sam, and son, Charlie -- waiting behind the 18th green, their trip to one of the game's most historic sites about to be rewarded with a Masters triumph that few dreamed possible.
Woods had a shot to spare on the final hole, as he tapped in for a bogey that wrapped a final-round 70 and a one-stroke victory over Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Xander Schauffele and produced his 15th major title -- 11 years after the previous one -- and fifth green jacket.
"Just unreal, to be honest with you,'' Woods said. "Just the whole tournament has meant so much to me over the years. Coming here in '95 for the first time and being able to play as an amateur. Winning in '97 and then come full-circle 22 years later, to be able to do it again. And just the way it all transpired today.
"There were so many different scenarios that could have transpired on that back nine. There were so many guys who had a chance to win. Leaderboard was absolutely packed, and everyone was playing well. You couldn't have had more drama than we all had out there, and now I know why I'm balding. This stuff is hard.
"This has meant so much to me and my family, this tournament, and to have everyone here, it's something I'll never, ever forget.''
It would be difficult for anyone to forget a tournament littered with big names and conquered by a player who endured so much.
For the first time in his career, Woods overcame a third-round deficit to win a major, making three birdies in his final six holes to overcome 54-hole leader Francesco Molinari and hold off a late charge by Johnson and a final push from Koepka to win. Woods passed Arnold Palmer with his five Masters wins, surpassed only by Jack Nicklaus' six.
The victory evoked some of the emotion the Golden Bear provided 33 years ago, when he won the Masters at age 46. Woods, at 43, became the second-oldest champion.
Woods now has won 15 major championships, second only to Nicklaus' 18. When Woods reached 14, it seemed a foregone conclusion that he would cruise past Nicklaus. But personal problems and four back surgeries derailed his momentum.
Nicklaus quickly reacted to Woods' win on Twitter:
"I think this is one of the best sports stories we've ever seen,'' said Trevor Immelman, who won the 2008 Masters, in which Woods finished second, the closest he had been to victory since his win in 2005.
"When I was coming through the ranks and he was at the height of his game, you always got the feeling that he knew he was the best, you knew he was the best, and that's just the way it is.
"But a couple of years ago, after surgeries and everything else that happened, it was the first time I had ever seen him uncertain. It's a word that I would have never used for Tiger Woods is uncertain. To dig himself back from that moment to here is something that is just so special. Special for our game. This is awesome. For my mind, this goes down in the same vein as Jack in '86.''
The stressful, emotional, exhausting day was made even more so for Woods by an early wake-up call due to impending storms that pushed up tee times more than five hours on Sunday. With all of his back problems, Woods goes through a lengthy process to get ready to play any competitive round of golf.
That paled in comparison to the treacherous comeback Woods endured in recent years as he tried to recover from multiple surgeries. The most recent of those was almost two years ago, just two weeks after Woods attended the annual Champions Dinner at Augusta National, needing a pain-killing shot just to make the trip.
So frustrated with his situation was Woods that he confided in a few past champions that he thought his career was over, that he'd never play competitive golf again.