Masters report: What happened on Sunday at Augusta National?

It is the victory many of us thought could never happen. In his darkest moments, Tiger Woods must have felt that way too.

Fourteen years since his last Green Jacket, 11 since his last major title – No. 15 has improbably arrived for the greatest player of all time after a dramatic final round at the Masters.

For there can surely now be no doubt to his status as the best to have ever played the game.

Yes, Jack’s got 18 majors and who is to say that Tiger can’t now bear down on that record with renewed determination.

It wasn’t much more than 18 months ago, though, that the 43-year-old didn’t know if he’d even be able to play a few holes with his kids.

So stricken had he been with back pain, a constant agony that required his spine to be fused, that he couldn’t sit in a buggy without discomfort.

Now he has a fifth victory at Augusta National.

masters report

Francesco Molinari gave him the opening. The Italian had been almost robotic over the first three days – cool and unflappable.

It’s a cliché to say the Masters only begins on the back nine on Sunday but it couldn’t have been truer today.

Standing with a two shot lead on the 12th, on the hole that’s sunk so many Augusta dreams over the years, Molinari found the water and his lead was gone.

Worse was to come for the Open champion.

He clipped the branches of the trees on his approach on the 15th, met a watery grave once again, and his challenge was at an end.

One by one they stepped up to make their claims: Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson. At one point down the stretch they all hit the summit. A surging Bubba Watson was just behind.

But wearing that iconic red shirt and black trousers, the uniform that was the symbol of so much glory, Tiger looked like he’d stepped straight out of 2005. It brought back so many evocative memories.

And as he played those pivotal closing holes on this most famous of courses, it was absolute vintage.

As in the third round, he had his share of fortune. The tee shot at 13 took too much off the left and somehow found its way through a dozen trees to make the fairway.

The approach, though, was precision – as it was at 15 where Molinari’s nightmare, and Woods’ birdie, pushed him into the sole lead.

Then came the moment at 16. An arrow of an iron, the perfect spot on the green, and the delicious few seconds where the ball trickled down to the hole.

Another birdie and, with the pressure racheting and the moment at hand, he striped his drive down 17 and threw a dart onto the green.

There were nerves on the last, an approach that left a tricky chip but was handled with relative aplomb as he putted out for a 70, a 13-under total and a one shot win over DJ, Schauffele and Koepka.

There was unbridled joy at the finish – a reaction the like of which we have never seen from Tiger on a golf course.

And that’s as it should be, for this achievement was monumental – a victory that will surely be remembered as one of sport’s greatest revivals.

Tiger is back.

Masters report: Sunday talking points

Well that all felt a little odd, didn’t it? The prospects of a Sunday storm – and not just one between the participants – meant the tee times for the final round were moved forward.

So it was a “Sunday unlike any other” (yes, they really did say that) as we had a two-tee start with the first three-balls going off at 7.30am US time.

Reports said people began waiting near the gates at 1am – a full six hours before they would be allowed inside the grounds.

masters report

And given the Masters is all about traditions (yes, yes, unlike any other) the weather forecasts must have been utterly biblical for the Green Jacket ceremony to be cancelled.

Most of us only witness the contrived, and usually very awkward, Butler Cabin rigmarole on TV – the moment when Bubba Watson left former chairman Billy Payne hanging for a handshake in 2012 remains a personal highlight – but the rest of the ‘patrons’ get their own glimpse of green when the garment is, oddly, re-presented on the terrace putting green.

Only they didn’t this year. The tournament committee cancelled the full ceremony in order to “expedite gate closures”, a club statement said.

In other words, get off the property ASAP.

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It was 49 straight holes, following the 11th on Thursday to the 7th on Sunday, between dropped shots for Francesco Molinari.

That streak set some of us, well me actually, wondering what was the lowest number of bogeys – not including a double – recorded by a player to win the Masters. After extensive research (thanks Google), I can reveal the answer is five.

Jimmy Demaret, in 1949, Jack Nicklaus, in 1965, and Ben Crenshaw, in 1995, all surrendered only a quintet of shots in their successful Green Jacket campaigns.

**

masters report

Rory McIlroy is forever telling us he doesn’t feel any extra pressure returning to Augusta National each year after spending months being bombarded with talk of the Grand Slam.

The statistics, though, suggest otherwise. His final round 68 today was his 11th sub-70 effort of his 11 appearances in the Masters, and five of those have come on the last day.

That’s good, isn’t it? Not quite. Those rounds: 69 in 2013 and 2014, 66 in 2015, 69 in 2017 and 68 now all have one thing in common. McIlroy was never really in contention.

There’s no doubt the four-time major champion has the tools to unlock this golf course. Whether he will win the Masters or not, though, may depend on the six inches between his ears rather than the 7,400 yards of land in front of him.

Masters report: Best quote

When I tapped the putt in, I don’t know what I did but I know I screamed.

Tiger Woods on the moments after winning his fifth Masters

Masters report: Best moments

Lovely if you backed the 4/6 on ‘yes’ for a hole-in-one. Which I did. So thank you Bryson DeChambeau for this on 16.

He was quite pleased, too. It was his first ever ace…

They’re like buses, you know…

How on earth did this stay out?

I’m not even sure how you go about figuring out this puzzle. Bravo Alex Noren…

In your life etc…

Need to know what happened to get us to this point? Check out our day-by-day review, starting on the next page…