As Tiger Woods played the 18th hole at Augusta National Golf Club on Sunday, several thousand fans circled the green. Thousands more spilled down the 10th fairway and across an expanse of hundreds of yards to holes that hadn’t been played for hours.
“A monsoon of people,” Brooks Koepka would later say, nailing the description perfectly.
If most of the patrons saw Woods at all, his shirt was but a moving red dot. It didn’t matter. This was a day in sports history when people wanted to say they were on the grounds for possibly the greatest achievement in a career of superlatives.
“Well, I know where I was,” Woods said to laughter in the interview room. “I had a little one‑foot tap‑in.”
In likely the loudest roar for a bogey in golf history, Woods finished off a final round of two-under 70 to complete the tournament at 13 under and capture his fifth green jacket.
Not only did Woods go a record 14 years between enjoying that ceremony, he can claim to be a major champion for the first time since he won the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in 2008.
Woods stands three below the bar of 18 major wins set by Jack Nicklaus, who also had the most Masters wins with six. With 81 tour victories, Woods is one behind Sam Snead’s all-time record.
“Just unreal, to be honest with you,” said an emotional Woods, who possibly came as close to crying as he ever has in a post-round news conference.
“You know, 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.”
Asked to rate this victory with his others in majors, Woods said, “It’s got to be right up there, with all the things that I’ve battled through. Just was able to be lucky enough and fortunate enough to be able to do this again.
“It’s ironic that I’m given a chance to play golf again, and lo and behold, I won a tournament coming from behind, which I had not done for the first 14. So it’s just amazing.”
Indeed, there was a comeback within the comeback. Two behind Molinari in a round scheduled hours earlier than normal because of an impending storm, Woods faced that deficit until a fateful turn at the 12th hole.
On the beautiful par-three that has doomed so many Masters hopes, Molinari dunked his tee shot into the water, and Woods made a safe par to get into the lead for the first time at 11 under.
Over the last six holes, Woods made three birdies while staving off the challenges of major champions Molinari, Koepka and Johnson, as well as the 10th-ranked player in the world in Schauffele.
Woods grabbed the top spot by himself with a birdie at the par-five 15th and gave himself a “cush,” as he called it, when he nearly holed out his tee shot at the par-three 16th and recorded his sixth birdie of the day and 22nd for the week.
“You couldn’t have had more drama than we all had out there, and now I know why I’m balding,” Woods said, chuckling. “This stuff is hard.”
Koepka, who double-bogeyed the 12th hole and barely missed a birdie putt at 18 that would have ultimately tied Woods, judged it as “probably the coolest back nine in a major championship I’ve ever been a part of, or just in golf in general.
“I don’t know what it looked like on TV, but it was amazing to be a part of. I watch the leaderboard all the time to see where guys are, and to see Tiger, what he did down the stretch was impressive.
“We already knew he was back, but I think he put an exclamation point on it.”
Woods stirred a new belief in himself when he captured the Tour Championship in September, ending a victory drought of more than five years.
In a 2019 season that began in late January with a tie for 20th in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, Woods’ best finish in stroke-play competition was a tie for 10th. But he said he was able to strike the ball to his liking in his last start in the WGC-Match Play, where he reached the quarterfinals.
“I had a pretty good feeling going into this week that I was going to be able to contend in this event,” Woods said. “I really felt that I was starting to shape the golf ball, and my putting was starting to come around. My short game’s been there.
Tiger Woods celebrates after sinking his putt to win during the final round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 14 in Augusta, Ga.(Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images)
Tiger Woods celebrates with caddie Joe LaCava after winning the 2019 Masters Tournament on Sunday at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga.(Erik S. Lesser/ EPA-EFE/REX )
Patrons cheer as Tiger Woods celebrates Sunday after sinking his putt on the 18th green to win during the final round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga.(David Cannon / Getty Images)
Tiger Woods celebrates with family after winning the 2019 Masters Tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga.(Tannen Maury / EPA-EFE/REX )
Tiger Woods reacts as he wins the Masters golf tournament Sunday in Augusta, Ga.(David J. Phillip / Associated Press)
Tiger Woods reacts with his caddie Joe LaCava as he wins the Masters golf tournament Sunday in Augusta, Ga.(David J. Phillip / Associated Press)
Patrick Reed, left, helps Tiger Woods with his green jacket after Woods won the Masters golf tournament Sunday in Augusta, Ga.(Matt Slocum / Associated Press)
Tiger Woods celebrates after winning the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on Sunday in Augusta, Ga.(Andrew Redington / Getty Images)
Tony Finau, left, congratulates Tiger Woods on his win on the 18th green during the final round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on Sunday in Augusta, Ga.(Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images)
Playing partner Francesco Molinari of Italy, left, congratulates Tiger Woods after Woods won the 2019 Masters Tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga.(Tannen Maury/EPA-EFE/REX)
Tiger Woods hits on the 12th hole during the final round of the Masters golf tournament Sunday in Augusta, Ga.(David J. Phillip / Associated Press)
Patrons cheer as Tiger Woods celebrates his birdie on the 16th green during the final round of the Masters on Sunday at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga.(Andrew Redington / Getty Images)
Tiger Woods putts on the 15th hole during the final round for the Masters golf tournament Sunday in Augusta, Ga.(Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)
Tiger Woods hits his tee shot on the third hole during the final round of the 2019 Masters.(Justin Lane / EPA-EFE/REX )
Tiger Woods hits his tee shot on the 13th hole at Augusta National Golf Club during the Masters’ final round.(Justin Lane / EPA-EFE/REX )
Tiger Woods reacts to his putt on the ninth hole during the final round Sunday.(Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images)
Tiger Woods looks at his second shot from the patron area on the 11th hole.(Tannen Maury / EPA-EFE/REX )
Tiger Woods looks on from the 10th tee during the Masters tournament.(Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images)
Tiger Woods hits from off the fairway on the eighth hole during the final round of the 2019 Masters tournament on Sunday.(Justin Lane / EPA-EFE/REX )
“I know that I made a few mistakes the last couple tournaments, but it just felt like it was there. My hands were good.”
Woods was the best ball-striker of the week, leading the field by hitting 83% of the greens in regulation. He played the par-fives impressively, shooting eight under, with three birdies on the longest holes on Sunday.
Still, he was far from happy on the front nine. After draining a birdie at the par-four third, he made back-to-back bogeys to fall three behind to Molinari. Caddie Joe LaCava got an earful heading to the sixth tee.
“I was saying some things that I can’t really repeat here,” Woods said. “Then I went into the restroom and proceeded to say the same things over and over to myself, and then came out and I felt a lot better.”
There was a two-shot swing when Woods birdied No. 7 and Molinari bogeyed it, and they both birdied the par-five eighth.
The stunning turnaround came at the 12th, when Molinari tried to hit what he called a “chippy” 8-iron at the par-three, and his ball hit into the bank and dribbled into Rae’s Creek. If the reigning British Open champion had missed farther left by a few more yards, he would have been in the bunker. Instead, he ended with a double-bogey.
“Just a bad execution,” Molinari said.
Three holes later, still in the hunt, Molinari’s third-shot approach to 15 clipped a tree branch and fell short in the water. Molinari ended up scoring two-over 74 and tied for fifth at 11 under with Jason Day (67), Webb Simpson (70) and Tony Finau (72).
With so much drama late, Woods only needed a score of better than six at the final hole. He didn’t get the champions’ celebratory walk because he missed the green and had to chip up.
When Woods did gently tap the ball in for bogey, he celebrated with a joy and passion not seen since Torrey Pines. From hundreds of yards or thousands of miles, his fans heard the roar.