Tiger Woods, 2019 Masters champion. Easy to say, hard to believe.
As ever with this true one-off, this ultimate sporting personality, the reaction said it all. When the 43-year-old tapped in to seal his astonishing one-shot win for his first major in 11 years, his first Augusta triumph in 14 years, there was a simple fist pump. And then the realisation hit home of what he had achieved, from the depths where he had risen, as he spread his arms wide and yelled towards the heavens.
From there, it was a blessed hug-fest… his playing partners, his caddie and then, he leapt over the ropes to the really important ones - his family. Woods's 10-year-old son, Charlie, was first, Kultida, his devoted mother, was second, Sam, his 11-year-old daughter, was third and then on to girlfriend Erica Herman. The children had never seen him win a major before. Yes, the 15th was beyond special.
Mention should also be given to the clinch with manager Mark Steinberg. Goodness, what a superstar Woods is now. What a commodity. There is nothing that sells as abundantly as redemption
Except this was not a marketing triumph, this was sport at its most pure and is essentially a story of a human who survived the ridicule of a sex scandal that tore apart his iconhood as well as his home life, and then faced an even more unequal fight against the ravages of time and injury. Four knee operations, four back operations, the last of which, less than two years ago, was a medical "Hail Mary!" to resurrect a career he genuinely believed had ended in agony. Lazarus might blush.
To think, all of the Tiger cubs were here in his wake, all of those kids who watched that dawning in 1997. They have grown up in his example, setting the bar higher than ever, and then when he came back and challenged those apprentices to cast away the sorcerer, so they could not cope with his magic, as he fired the 70 for a 13-under total. Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka in a tie for second with Xander Schauffele… all the way down the leaderboard to Rory McIlroy in tied 21st.
They cannot say they had not been warned. Woods signalled his intent last year, with a sixth place at Carnoustie and a second at the USPGA and his first PGA Tour win in five years. Yet this was a different level of re-validation entirely. How dare we ever doubt him.
For some reason, the bizarre staging of the final day, the leaders teeing off almost five hours earlier than usual because of forecasted thunderstorms, only added to the eeriness of the spectacle. Augusta always thought it had seen the most astonishing moment of the Woods career when he announced his majesty with that 12-shot triumph as a 21-year-old. But this lunchtime conclusion was something else. This was the first time Woods had ever won a major when not leading going into the final round and that break with habit appeared so appropriate. This feels like a fresh chapter; the second coming of Tiger Woods.
Starting two shots behind Francesco Molinari, the Italian who won last year's Open when playing alongside Woods, it appeared that Woods would once again be denied by the Turin metronome. After five holes, Molinari actually increased his lead when Woods three-putted and Molinari holed an eight-footer. Europe's Ryder Cup hero was taking it to the heart of America again and it was a wonder how Woods could stop Molinari.
He did so by persistence and flourishing in the heat of battle. By the back nine, the two-horse race at Augusta National had turned into the stampede of the Grand National, with proven thoroughbreds and eager colts laying down their challenge.
Schauffele, 25, and Patrick Cantlay, 27, audaciously nosed ahead at various intervals in this thrilling back nine. The three-time major champion Koepka was in the picture and suddenly out of it again with a double-bogey on the 12th when finding the water and then just as suddenly back in it again when eagling the 15th. That is what the Augusta run-in brings - dramatic fluctuation unparalleled in this sometimes pedestrian sport.
And credit to Ian Poulter because he played his part for England. The other 43-year-old was within two at the turn, before the 12th snarled him as well and started the freefall into a tie for 12th. That malevolent par three has a lot to answer for, and a lot for Woods to be thankful for, because that is where the Molinari foundations began to crack.
The 36-year-old's bogeyless streak was actually halted after 49 holes when he bogeyed the seventh but it was that 155-yarder where the brakes were terminally applied. Molinari was two ahead and only needed to locate the middle of the green, but for some reason went flag-hunting with the pin on the right. The gusts caught it and so it plopped. Woods, with all of his savvy, played safe and the double-bogey for Molinari saw them draw level.
They traded birdies on the 13th, and then came Molinari's melting point on the 15th as the Woods glare was its fiercest. Woods was on the par-five green in two, Molinari, felt sure he had to go for it with his third and his ball hit a branch and from there it disappeared into the pond. Woods was ahead and when he conjured his tee-shot to two feet on the 16th, he was two ahead. He was not going to lose it from there, parring the 17th and enjoying the luxury of bogeying the 18th, before all that emotion exploded.
So let the debate ensue. Is it the greatest comeback golf/sport has ever seen? Can Woods overhaul Jack Nicklaus's 18 majors? Will the new world No 6, reclaim the No 1 spot? With Woods you just cannot tell. But certainly never say never again. Not after the 2019 Masters.
Pretty good endorsement
Patrick Reed presents him the jacket
Tiger Woods interview
"I was just trying to plod my way around and then all of a sudden I had the lead.
To have my kids here was great: it has come full circle. My dad was here in 1997 and now I am the dad.
To have my fifth jacket is overwhelming, after all that happened. To be the champion, 22 years between wins is a long time, I could not be more happy and more excited."
"This is up there [with my other accomplishments].
That leaderboard was a whos-who and then at 12 it all flipped. All the different scenarios start flying around, but to stay present and focused on what I had to do... I kinda liked it."
A tremendous sporting feat
He had never come from behind before to win a Masters. I thought that Molinari had it, he was rock solid until the 12th when he went in the water. But Tiger used all his experience, and produced one of the great shots on 16 to crush his rivals hopes. He is an amazing competitor.
Tiger Woods has done it! Tiger wins the Masters
And now he smiles! He roars, he whoops! He hugs his caddie and his rivals.
and now he goes to hug his family
He has two putts from
about, what, 15 feet?
Two putts to win the Masters
"I think it is amazing how he has kept it together, fan or not you have to admire him," says Peter Alliss.
He sends the first putt juuuuust wide....
Waits while his playing partner Tony Finau finishes off to end -11, as does Frank Molinari for the same result. Looked like Molinari had done it.
Up steps Tiger now to finish it off...
And it is not a great effort!
This has not ended up at all where he thought it was going. Not a disaster as such but...
He has margin of error here.
Finds the green safely enough. Nothing too flashy, but he is on the green in three.
Tiger second on the 18th
has nailed that drive. Onto the edge of the fairway. The wind ruffling his shirt now.
Only Brooks Koepka
can impact on this now. He has got a ten footer for birdie on the last.
Tiger Woods on the 18th tee
The legendary golfer, who announced himself to the world here in 1997, a black man tearing up the course that wouldn't let black men play there until 1975.
One of the most significant sportspeople of all time, a man who has been through the mill and who has never been an uncomplicated figure in many eyes, stands on the tee at the 18th with a two shot lead and one of sport's great comebacks in his grasp.
walks towards the 17th green. He is on -14. His challengers are on -12. His last Major win was at the 2008 US Open: who thought then that he would wait until 2019 for the next one? And put another way, two years ago, who would have bet on him winning another?
Anyway. To the present. He has an 8 footer for a birdie but misses, and will have to knock in a two foot effort for a four.
Tony Finau and Frank Molinari make their putts on that 17th, Tiger takes care of business.
on 18. Hmm. Think he's run his race.. out of this bunker and then into another one.
Tiger drives on 17
Yes Tiger. Solid. "Can it REALLY be happening?" asks Peter Alliss.
Tiger nails that putt, moves two clear
Oh my days. He is 14 under.
Is that Phelpsy?
Tiger is cheered and roared onto that 16th green
Tiger might do this
I think he might do this. He is sitting pretty here after a superb tee shot into the 16th green. It looks for a long moment that this is going to be a hole-in-one but it ends up a couple of feet away. He is surely going to knock that in.
This is going to be a sporting rebirth story for the ages if he can hang on. Wow.
has finished his round and he will be the clubhouse leader for a while anyway: a par on 18 sending him off (perhaps to return?) with a -12 to his name.
has birded 15 and he moves clear at -13. Incredible scenes if he can hold on...
Molinari makes the best of a
bad job as he gets up and down but 7 on 15 has ended his hopes, barring a miracle.
Molinari in the drink again!
He has found the water on at 15, he clipped a branch as he hit it out of the scrub and it is slap bang into the water. It wasn't even close to getting over.
Oh boy he was looking so calm and solid earlier but this looks like the end of his challenge, surely?
But Johnson's tee shot on 18
Goes in the sand. All of this happening in a mad rush, the weather is closing in and the threat of storms grows!
Never mind four
how about five tied at the top? Brooks Koepka has birdied 15 and joins the group on -12.
You know I said Dustin Johnson
was coming with a late run? Another birdie! He scores on 17, and we now have a FOUR-WAY tie a the top!
John Rahm's day is done
he cards a 68 and will sit down -10. Jason Day is the clubhouse leader on -11.
Tiger on 15th
He's thumped that and it's just just one the edge of the fairway.
Patrick Cantlay's eagle at 15
seems a long way ago now after bogeys at the subsequent two holes.
is a West Ham fan - good omen for him in that West Ham Women won on a penalty shoot out this afternoon to reach their FA Cup Final?
has snuck up that leader board with birdies on 13, 15 and 16. Not bad!
Jason Day has finished his round
he's wrapped things up with a birdie and, on -11, who knows? Could we see a ten-way play-off?!
Ten players within
two shots of the lead. Not easy to predict the winner, to say the least.
"I didn't play too different today, I just kept the mistakes off my scorecard. My game is in a good place but I did not quite have it this week. I am happy with everything but there are plenty more weeks ahead."
hitting the front has not helped Cantlay
His tee shot on 17th leaves plenty to be desired.
Tiger on the 14th
his driving has not been ideal recently, but this is nice. He goes to his fade, more reliable under pressure. Nails it.
But not for long
Tiger Woods has taken a share of the lead with a birdie on 12, and Molinari joins him just a second later.
Woods, Molinari, Schauffele all share the lead
Birdies for Schauffele
at 13 and 14. But a bogey for Cantlay at 16.
We have a clear leader, and it is Xander Schauffele
As it stands
-12: Cantlay (15), Schauffele (14)
-11: Koepka (13), Molinari (12) Woods (12)
-10: Day (17), Rahm (16)
The action coming thick and fast
Hole-in-one for Justin Thomas!
And talking of eagles...
Brooks Koepka is suddenly back at the races! He's eagled 13, meaning that those double bogey memories of 12 are in the past now.
Tony Finau is having a shocker and I think we can eliminate him from our inquiries.
We have a new leader: Patrick Cantlay
He was nicely nestled in behind the men who looked to be running the show, but an eagle on 15 has blown this wide open for Patrick.
Four contenders hit their tee shots at No. 12 into Rae's Creek. Xander Schauffele and Tiger Woods stayed dry.
Molinari, Tony Finau, Ian Poulter and Brooks Koepka all hit the water on the 155-yard par-3. The wind has picked up at Augusta National over the last few hours with potential thunderstorms bearing down on the course.
All four made the same mistake, leaving their shot short and watching it roll down the hill into the water.
Tiger on the 13th
He's hit the tee into the trees but I think (I think) it has pinged off a tree and out into the sunlit uplands of the fairway.
Tiger missing his chances on 12?
Tiger had a real opening here on the par three but has left his put 8 foot short...
He's got it! Tiger makes par at the 12th, it leaves him still on -11 but the more significant factor is that Molinari has made a double bogey and is now -11.
And to top that off, Xander Schauffele has notched up two quick birdies to move to -11 and a threeway tie for the lead!
has completed his round, a more than respectable 68 on the day for a five under total. Not his time.
Molinari takes a drop
And talking of drops, a few spots of rain now...
OOOH BIG MOMENT!!!
Molinari is in the water on 12
Can Tiger Woods cash in? Well, he's found the green. And that is a solid start.
But Finau is in the water as well. Blimey. This 12th hole is having its say.
"Some of the weather is heading our way in about 15 minutes, we will be very lucky if we don't get the waterproofs out."
The results of that minute of pain
A bogey for Poulter moves him back to -9.
Tiger completes a decent escape and even has a long long birdie putt. Cannot get it but he does get his par.
Poor Brooks Koepka has to tolerate a double bogey and that's surely all she wrote for his hopes.
Several contenders having a bad minute or two
Poutler bogeys 11 after a ropey tee shot!
Koepka has hit his into the water at 12!
Woods has hit his tee shot into the trees at 11!
But Woods's journey home
runs into trouble at the first opportunity. Wayward tee shot on ten, has to just donk that out, and though there is not a lot wrong with his approach it nuzzles up against the cut at the very back of the green. Good luck putting in from there.
It leaves him this, and he leaves it short for a bogey five. Tiger back to -11
Molinari needs some steely work with a wedge and makes his par.
So the leaders have completed the front nine
Molinari one birdie one bogey, strong and silent, not necessarily a thrilling round so far but huge admiration for his mental strength. -13
Tiger flamboyant, some wonderful stuff, the crowd roaring him on. Had the rub of the green once or twice. -12
Koepka and Finau hanging tough in -11.
Here is Tiger
on that ninth green with a ridicuputt on the ninth.
Sensational effort to leave that within in a foot... it was rolling so, so slowly. It looked like it might grind to a halt but he just got it there. Wonderful judgement.
Molinari, Woods and Finau
Are taking on the ninth.
-13: Molinari (8)
-12: Woods (8)
-11: Koepka (9), Finau (8)
Molinari in the sand off the tee!
On the par five 8th. Decent recovery, and a nice iron shot into the green. And amazingly he has got out of that hole with a birdie.
Wind is getting up apparently.
But the BBC satellite seems to be showing that the bad weather is going to skirt to the west.
Ian Poulter is having a bit of a moment
Birdies at six and seven move him to ten under and he consolidates with a par on eight, albeit that he needed three putts to do it.
Here he is on the ninth, hitting off the downslope.
He's hoping for some spin back that doesn't come and he is going to have a looooooong putt back.
Leaderboard at a glance
Koepka, Poulter, Fianu -10
Tiger Woods on the 7th
lovely second shot, spins back and that is a gimme for birdie there. Superb iron play. And for the first time today, Molinari is under some pressure. Wayward off the tee, tried to get it around the trees but came up short on the second, and so here is where he is at for his third...
Poor but not disastrous results from that, and although he takes care of the bogey putt, that is indeed a shot dropped and Francisco Molinari is back to -12.
A second later, Tiger Woods knocks in the unmissable par putt to go to -11 and we have ourselves a ball game!
Rory McIlroy is enjoying his round
He started on the tenth and has now gone round the turn. Birdies on holes 1 and 2. On the third now, finds the edge of the green, the very very edge. It's about a mile and a half to the flag from there, and he'll need both of those putts.
Tiger Woods on the sixth tee
Both he and Finau have dropped a shot today. Molinari has been solid. Tiger needs something - and maybe this is it! 8 iron off the tee, thumps into the bank on the side of this par three, and this gives him a more than reasonable putt for a birdie.
But he's missed it! It swung a fair bit, he didn't really give it quite enough, and it drools wide. He must settle for a three, but he does not look happy about it.
Molinari meanwhile has this six footer for par.
He gets it! This is a nerveless display from the Turin-born man.
Thorbjorn Olesen has just sunk
an absolute screamer of a putt.
Molinari is like
a rock in the lead. A solid putt on five drops and he is even for the day with five pars, -13, and that's three shots clear now.
Tiger bogeys the fifth
to go with bogey on fourth. He had a tricky one for birdie, a huge breaking thing that he left well wide. Failed to get in at the second time of asking.
Ian Poluter has
birdied the par three sixth. He is now fifth on nine under.
Finau has this for birdie
Good luck with that mate.
Oh dear he has had a shocker. It goes up the side of that bluff, doesn't have the legs and has slid back down the slope. He's got a hideous put to save par.
Weather fair but humid
According to the telly coverage.
has had a bit of luck here after a sliced tee shot on five.
"Mucho dinero", says Peter Alliss. Think he's Italian tbf but Peter's the expert.
is catching the eye. He has rattled along to -9, making his fourth birdie of the day on hole 7
however has dropped a shot at the 4th and is back to -11, joining Koepka and Finau, meaning that Molinari is back to two shots clear.
Here is Tiger on the fifth tee, he has gone bogey, bogey, bogey so far here this week..
But this is more like it! Solid drive right down the fairway.
Nerveless stuff from the veteran as he knocks in his par putt on 7, to stay -2 on the day.
Molinari steady as she goes at the top of the leaderboard but one T Woods is poised in behind if he gives an inch.
Roar! The crowd go wild
as Tiger Woods knocks in a birdie at three to move into clear second place on -12.
Despite a bogey on the first
Phil Mickelson has hit three birdies and is on eight under. Surely not?! Probably just one or two far back when he started but who knows. John Mc Enerney writes:
Tiger has this on the 2nd for par
Nails it. Got lucky with that wayward tee shot, it avoided most of the problems and he has managed to putt this one away and breathe a sigh of relief.
Was holding out for a picture of this...
Bryson DeChambeau's tee shot on 16 pitched in the ideal spot, avoided the ball of Kevin Kisner as it rolled down the slope and dropped into the cup.
with a hot start, he's had a birdie to move him to -11.
Tiger Woods messes up tee shot on 2
Ooh dear, this has not been a happy hole for him this week - and he has sent that careening into some trees and possibly a ditch.
Phil Mick has just produced a glorious approach shot that looks for all the world like it is going in before stopping half a ball width short.
Sure enough, there was no comeback from that drive for Tony, and he has dropped a shot. He and Tiger -11 (Tiger made his par on one) and Molinari now two clear on -13.
Talking of good days
Kisner is on fire! That's four under on the day for him now - and perhaps an indication that we might see some heavy scoring
Legends of yore
is having a good day, he is three under through six.
Tiger and Frank
Molinari both with decent drives, but Tony Finau their playing companion has muffed his drive slightly.
And the legend himself
He has never won a Major when trailing after 54 holes. But he's safely aboard with his first shot today.
Here he is then
The leader Molinari is on the first tee.
is up and running, and he has an early birdie to boot.
A bright start
for Kevin Kisner so far today, he has picked up two shots through 13 and is minus four.
Some big talent
in a trio going off right now. Jordan Spieth, Tommy Fleetwood, Corey Conners tee off at 1.03pm, they are all on -4. Too far back to win much today, but no doubt Jordan especially will be having a say here in years to come.
So just to recap: because of the threat of bad weather, the organisers have take the decision to group the players into threeballs rather than pairs, and start some groups on the 10th. Should make for a fun and possibly slightly chaotic day!
Hope you're having a great Sunday, certainly we have a huge feast of sport to bring you today, with a crunch day in the Premier League, Grand Prix, Paris-Roubaix and perhaps most special of all, the final round of the Masters at Augusta.
The opening groups are out as we speak, but of course it is the men at the business end of the leaderboard in whom we are most interested. (The following times are BST, we are five hours ahead here of Augusta)
1325 Phil Mickelson, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm (Spa)
1336 Adam Scott (Aus), Patrick Cantlay, Thorbjorn Olesen (Den)
1347 Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa), Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler
1358 Justin Harding (Rsa), Matt Kuchar, Xander Schauffele
1309 Brooks Koepka, Webb Simpson, Ian Poulter (Eng)
1420 Tony Finau, Francesco Molinari (Ita), Tiger Woods
The interest, you don't need me to tell you, is in the last of those names. Tiger Woods, the one-time winning machine, the man that was said to be so good he was spoiling the sport, who then looked absolutely finished, takes to this great sporting stage with every chance of wining the Masters.
Here's Paul Hayward to put all that in context for you.
Tiger Woods can already claim a victory of sorts after overcoming so much since 2008
And here is our golf guru Jamie Corrigan with a look at the other players who are in the mix today anda report of yesterday's action.
And finally, Oliver Brown on the leader: Tony Finau stands poised to bring family sacrifices to ultimate fruition at the Masters