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Saturday 21 September 2019

Tiger writes an epic Masters chapter after long time in the shadows

Woods can't contain emotions after bridging 11-year Major gap with victory in US Masters

MAJOR MOMENT: Tiger Woods celebrates after making his putt on the 18th green to win the
US Masters at Augusta National Golf Club yesterday. Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
MAJOR MOMENT: Tiger Woods celebrates after making his putt on the 18th green to win the US Masters at Augusta National Golf Club yesterday. Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Drama, yes, but who was expecting epic?

Even before a weather alert resulted in an early start for the final round of this year's Masters, the leaderboard hinted at the emotional turbulence that lay ahead.

Plenty of players in the final shake-up had posted at least one impressive round over the first three days.

So Masters Sunday was never going to disappoint.

There'd be twists and turns, elation and heartbreak, before the coveted green jacket would be placed on the shoulders of the victor.

This being Augusta, it seems predictable that tragedy and triumph awaited the unwary at Amen Corner.

And, sure enough, it was there that Tiger Woods, all but written out of the game two years ago when it seemed his personal demons and four back surgeries had probably ended his time in the upper echelons, stared down the mischievous gods of failure and set down the marker that lead to the 43-year old writing another glorious page in the Great Book of Golfing History.

After five hours of nip 'n' tuck golf, a controlled fist pump signalled the return of Tiger Woods, a champion re-born.

The crowds who roared him on at Augusta witnessed a release of emotions only the most troubled, most anguished among us, could ever begin to comprehend.

Fourteen years on from his last Masters win, Tiger put his nightmare behind him and had earned the right to live the dream. Again.

What a tournament this had been.

BACK ON TOP: Tiger Woods celebrates with with his green jacket and trophy after winning
the 2019 US Masters at Augusta National Golf Club yesterday. Photo: REUTERS/Brian Snyder
BACK ON TOP: Tiger Woods celebrates with with his green jacket and trophy after winning the 2019 US Masters at Augusta National Golf Club yesterday. Photo: REUTERS/Brian Snyder

We'd woken on Saturday morning wondering if "Moving Day" would see Rory McIlroy find form and propel himself into the mix for a super Sunday finish.

We finished the day in awe of the old warhorse Woods who'd contest a possible 15th major victory.

The man to catch, Francesco Molinari, held a two shot lead over Woods and also over Tony Finau, as the trio lined up for their opening drives on Sunday's fourth round.

As all three were teeing off, Rory McIlroy, who'd begun with a bogey on day one, was playing the 15th hole.

It had been a disappointing few days for the Northern Irishman who later said: "My driving accuracy wasn't quite as good this week as it has been the last few weeks."

Woods finished two behind Molinari on Saturday. McIlroy, twelve behind, didn't figure in the final act.

But yesterday, with Woods looking a furnace of intent in a red top, the burning question at the start of the day was: "Could Tiger reel in the Italian or might FInau surprise them both?"

Where was the threat going to come from?

Would Molinari maintain his composure or would Woods buckle under the weight of expectation from those supporters who greeted him like a returning victorious chieftain?

No one gained an obvious advantage over the first nine holes.

Having won four of his fourteen major victories on this course, Woods began to display his innate understanding of the curious Augusta topography with apparently gravity-defying shots on the ninth green.

Molinari refused to budge. But a nervous smile suggested the man from Turin was beginning to feel the Tiger's breath win his neck as they headed towards Amen Corner.

It wasn't lost on Francesco, playing for just his fourth win on the PGA Tour, that Tiger is the man who required just two more PGA Tour wins to equal the record of Sam Snead. Molinari can't blame Tiger for the mistakes that saw him throw away the advantage in this showdown.

He can't even blame the gust of wind that held up his lofted shot at the 12th and saw it roll into the water costing him a double bogey.

Tiger showed his experience and awareness of the course by opting for a safety shot which ultimately saw him draw level with the genial Italian.

Rattled, Molinari repeated his mistake on the 15th and all that was left was for Woods to hold his nerve, despite a sudden flush of players clamouring for attention.

"It all flipped at the 12th," said Woods afterwards. "There was an amazing buzz out there. It's was a Who's Who. I still stayed focussed."

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