The 43-year-old, who feared his career could be over as he appeared to be fighting a losing battle with back trouble two years ago, had fans singing his name around the 18th green as he secured a sensational victory on a crazy closing day in Georgia.
Woods, who closed with a 70 for a 13-under-par 275 total, finished a shot ahead of fellow Americans Dustin Johnson, Xander Schauffele and Brooks Koepka, with Open champion Francesco Molinari among four players a further shot back after letting a two-shot lead slip from his grasp over the closing stretch.
Woods required spinal fusion surgery to prolong his career after three earlier procedures failed to have the desired effect. The win, therefore, was remarkable and enabled him to bridge a 14-year gap as he claimed another Green Jacket. “It fits,” he quipped after having it slipped over his shoulders by the 2018 winner, Patrick Reed.
It was his 15th major victory, but first since the US Open in 2008. The next two majors – the US PGA Championship and US Open – are at Bethpage Black and Pebble Beach, venues where Woods has tasted success in the game’s biggest events in the past. His quest to beat the record 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus has been re-ignited. “To win again here is overwhelming just because of what has transpired over the last couple of years. It’s unreal,” admitted Woods as he savoured winning his first major after coming from behind on the final day. “This tournament has meant so much to me over the years, coming here in ’95 for the first time as amateur; winning in ’97, and then coming full circle, 22 years later, to do it again.
“There were so many different scenarios that could have transpired on that back nine. There were so many guys that had a chance to win. The 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.”
As the fans celebrated his win by chanting “Tiger, Tiger, Tiger”, Woods hugged his two children, son Charlie and daughter Sam, at the back of the 18th green, where he was also greeted by his mum, Kultida.
“This tournament has meant so much to me and my family, and to have everyone here, it’s something I’ll never, ever forget,” he added. “My dad [Earl] shouldn’t have come in ’97. I mean, he had heart complications, and wasn’t supposed to fly, but he flew and came. Gave me a putting lesson on Wednesday night, and the rest is history.
“My dad’s no longer here, but my mom’s here, 22 years later, and I happen to win the tournament; and then to have both Sam and Charlie here, they were there at the British Open last year when I had the lead on that back nine, and I made a few mistakes, cost myself a chance to win the Open title.
“I wasn’t going to let that happen to them twice, and so for them to see what it’s like to have their dad win a major championship, I hope that’s something they will never forget.”