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Posted April 14, 2019 02:04 pm
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Tiger Woods wins 2019 Masters Tournament

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    Tiger Woods celebrates after winning the Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club, Sunday, April 14, 2019, in Augusta, Georgia. [ANDREW DAVIS TUCKER/FOR THE AUGUSTA CHRONICLE]

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    Tiger Woods stands with his green jacket on on the putting green after winning the 2019 Masters Tournament. [ANDREW DAVIS TUCKER/FOR THE AUGUSTA CHRONICLE]

Tiger Woods added to his Masters greatness by flipping his normal script in a Sunday matinee at Augusta National Golf Club to claim a fifth green jacket.

In one of the most emotional finishes in tournament history, the 43-year-old Woods, playing like the Tiger of old and beating players he inspired with his 1997 win at Augusta National Golf Club, came from behind to win the 83rd Masters Tournament by a shot.

Rallying to win major championships was not in Woods’ DNA before Sunday. In all 14 of his previous major wins, he was either tied or in the lead after 54 holes. This time, he was two behind Italy’s Francesco Molinari, who outdueled Woods to win the British Open last year.

Woods evened the score Sunday, firing 2-under-par 70 and finishing at 13-under 275. He became the first $2 million man ($2,070,000 for the winner) in Masters history.

PHOTOS: Tiger Celebrates 5th Masters Win

“It was an epic Sunday and a great day for golf,” said Fred Ridley, the chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament. “It’s one of the most amazing days in our history.”

Play began at 7:30 a.m. as the tournament rushed to beat the threat of inclement weather. Groups of three went off Nos. 1 and 10, and the leaders went off at 9:20 a.m. Woods tapped in the winning putt around 2:30 p.m., well before the usual 7 p.m. finish.

This week, Woods trailed by four after an opening 70, was one back after a second-round 68 and was down by two shots after his third-round 67.

“To have the opportunity to come back like this, it is probably one of the biggest wins I’ve had for sure,” Woods said.

Woods had 22 birdies, the second-most in the field after Xander Schauffele’s 25. He led the field in greens in regulation, hitting 58 out of the 72 greens.

“I just felt so prepared coming into this event,” Woods said. “This year, my finishes don’t really reflect it, but I was starting to shape the golf ball the way that I know I can, which I needed for this week.”

PHOTOS: Tiger's Green Jacket Ceremony

Woods’ fifth Masters title moved him past Arnold Palmer and puts him one behind Jack Nicklaus for the most green jackets in history. He’s also three majors behind Nicklaus’ record of 18.

The latest major came at his favorite tournament, where Woods made his debut in 1995 and was the low amateur. He went on to win in 1997, 2001, 2002 and 2005 before Sunday.

“Just unreal, to be honest with you,” Woods said. “Just the whole tournament has meant so much to me over the years.”

There was a three-way tie for second place among Dustin Johnson, Schauffele (both with 68s) and Brooks Koepka (70).

Molinari (74 with double bogeys on Nos. 12 and 15) tied for fifth with Jason Day (67), Webb Simpson (70) and Tony Finau (72) at 11-under.

Finau, playing in his second Masters, was paired with Woods and Molinari in the day’s final grouping.

“When you’re someone like me in my shoes still trying to come up, still trying to win majors, still trying to contend, you can’t beat playing with the best player in the world, the best that’s ever done it and just see if you can get the job done is cool,” Finau said, referring to Woods. “I wanted to get the job done today, but Tiger is great for the game and, again, unbelievable that he’s winning his 15th major today.”

PHOTOS: Tiger's Sunday round at The Masters

Woods set or tied 27 records when he won the 1997 Masters by 12 shots, including being the youngest winner at 21 years, 3 months, which still stands. Now he also has the record for length of time between Masters victories at 14 years. Jack Nicklaus has the record for the length between the first victory and his last one, at 23 years. Woods went 22 years between his first and fifth wins.

Koepka could see it coming. Earlier in the week, he said, “We all know Tiger is back.”

After Woods’ win, Koepka said, “I’m sure this won’t be the last. It’s cool to see, if you take a step back while you’re playing. It’s fun. I mean, you watch him walk down after he won on 18 there, I mean, it’s just a monsoon of people. As a fan, I love it. I think it’s awesome. I’m glad he’s back."

Because of Woods' four back surgeries and the same number of knee operations, not many people thought he had another major victory in him. His last one had come at the 2008 U.S. Open. His last Masters title was three years before that.

“I had serious doubts (about my golf future) after what transpired a couple years ago,” Woods said, referring to his back problems. “I could barely walk. I couldn’t sit. Couldn’t lay down. I really couldn’t do much of anything.”

That’s why Sunday’s victory capped one of the greatest comebacks in sports history from injury. Two years ago, Woods thought his career was over after the third back surgery didn’t relieve his pain. But spinal fusion surgery on April 19, 2017, gave him a new lease on life, and golf.

Asked where he would rank this one among his majors, Woods said, “It would be up there. It was one of the hardest I’ve ever had to win just because of what I’d been 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.”

Not even a bogey on the 72nd hole could derail Woods on Sunday, who played his final nine holes in 1-under 35 with birdies on Nos. 13, 15 and 16.

“I hit some of the best shots on that back nine; I just flushed it coming home, which is a nice feeling,” said Woods, who couldn’t remember much of what happened after he tapped in the final putt except that he screamed. For the record, he also hugged caddie Joe LaCava; his children, Sam and Charlie; and his mother, Kultida, among many others.

The road to this Masters victory started in September, just two hours up the road, when Woods won the Tour Championship in Atlanta for his first victory since 2013. This win gives Woods 81 PGA Tour titles, one shy of tying Sam Snead’s record.

“East Lake was a big step for me, confirming that I could still win out here and against the best players,” Woods said. “Because East Lake, obviously it’s the hottest 30 guys for the year. It gave me a lot of confidence going into this year, and just keep building on it and let’s try to get the mind and body peaking towards Augusta.”