OH MY, WHAT A WIN – TIGER AT THE MASTERS
In the catalogue of Tiger Woods’ major wins, the 2019 Masters will no doubt be regarded as his sweetest.
The 43-year-old rewrote history to claim his first major in 11 years and the 15th of his career in what must rank among sport’s greatest ever comebacks.
When Tiger won the 2008 US Open playing with a broken leg, it was impossible to imagine it would be over a decade before he’d win another major.
But the ensuing years became a battle for Tiger on multiple fronts.
Instead of headlines that spoke glowingly of Woods’ golfing achievements, knee surgeries and back pain became an all-too frequent storyline, while his personal life became tabloid fodder after his extra-marital affairs led to a marriage breakdown.
Countless back injuries led to last-resort spinal fusion surgery in 2017, the same year he was arrested for driving under the influence with pain-killing medication in his system.
The DUI charge saw Tiger’s embarrassing dopey-eyed mug shot go viral, with one cheeky fan at last month’s Player’s Championship printing the image on his shirt and receiving some well-humoured acknowledgement from the man himself as he walked past.
After significant doubt about whether Tiger would ever tee it up again let alone win, it became apparent that the spinal fusion was a success when he finished runner-up to Brooks Koepka in the US PGA Championship last year before winning a FedEx Cup playoff tournament at East Lake in September.
But Sunday’s final round at Augusta, which started early to beat an impending afternoon storm, loomed as something special as Tiger started two strokes behind Francesco Molinari.
Wearing his famous final round black pants/red shirt combo – reviving the faux turtle neck that he wore in his last Masters triumph in 2005 - Tiger hung tough through the front nine before gaining a share of the lead at the 12th when Molinari dunked his tee shot on the iconic par 3.
In what was a turning point for Woods, four of the last five players to play the hole rinsed their tee shots in Rae’s Creek, with swirling winds to blame.
Aware of the potential for trouble, Tiger played for safety to the centre of the green to notch a highly-valuable par.
He followed up with birdies at 13, 15 before a sensational gain at the par 3 16th put him out in front of rivals such as Patrick Cantlay, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Xander Schauffele.
While all four players threatened to spoil the fairytale at some stage, they ultimately couldn’t convert when they needed to, particularly major-machine Koepka who missed two makeable birdies in his final two holes.
It meant Woods came to the 18th needing nothing worse than a bogey to secure his fifth Masters green jacket.
And bogey it he did after some dodgy play up the last, but the tap-in for the win saw Woods celebrate with a trademark fist pump in front of the raucous Masters crowd, who revelled in the champ’s return to the majors winner’s circle.
Tiger’s final round two-under-par 70 got the job done to win by one shot from Koepka, Johnson and Schauffele in more of a grinding than spectacular fashion.
But the win will be talked about for generations to come. After celebrating his first Masters win in 1997 with his father Earl, Woods embraced his two children and mum after the victory, completing what many pundits thought was an impossible dream only two years ago.
This Masters win was a gutsy and awe-inspiring performance from Tiger that will rank as one of his grittiest and most determined wins.
And after an 11-year drought in major championships, it surely restarts the debate about whether he can surpass Jack Nicklaus’ 18 major titles.
Tiger equipped his TaylorMade P7TW irons in his Masters 2019 winning golf bag and we got the chance to test them.