By Christopher Powers
Two years ago, at the Masters Champions Dinner, Tiger Woods whispered to three-time winner Nick Faldo that he was “done.” The injuries, the surgeries and the poor life decisions that played out on an extremely public stage had all taken their toll. Woods was finished.
On Sunday, Woods made that moment at the 2017 Champions dinner a distant memory, capturing his fifth green jacket with a final-round 70 to win by a shot over Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Xander Schauffele. It’s the 15th major victory of his career, putting him just three away from Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18. Woods win came 14 years after his last Masters win, which is the longest gap between victories in tournament history.
Things didn’t look promising early for Woods, as Francesco Molinari continued his machine-like play on Augusta National’s opening nine. Through 11 holes, Woods was in the same spot as he was at the beginning of the day, two back. At the 12th everything changed, as Molinari found Rae’s Creek as so many in contention on Sunday have before. Woods safely found the green, made par, and picked up two strokes on Molinari, who made double. It was game on.
The two remained in a tie after each making birdie at 13 and par at 14, and a host of other names like Dustin Johnson, Xander Schauffele, Brooks Koepka and Patrick Cantlay were charging in the groups ahead. Woods stayed steady, hitting the 15th green in two and making birdie to grab the solo lead. Molinari made another disastrous double bogey, ending his chances.
At 16, Woods hit what will be remembered as the shot of the tournament, an 8-iron that perfectly caught the slope and nearly went in for an ace. He made the birdie putt to take a two-shot lead to the 17th hole that he wouldn’t relinquish. A par-bogey finish gave him the one-shot win.
For Schauffele, Koepka and Johnson, the T-2 finishes are the best of each of their Masters careers. Jason Day, Webb Simpson and Tony Finau all finished in a tie for fifth with Molinari.