Wonderful Woods completes stunning comeback with fifth Masters title

Tiger Woods completed one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history and sparked frenzied scenes at Augusta National by winning the Masters to claim a first major title in almost 11 years.

An extraordinary final round, brought forward by the threat of inclement weather, ended with Woods topping the leaderboard by one shot at 13 under following a closing 70.

Now a 15-time major champion, Woods was two behind Francesco Molinari at the start of the day, but he managed to overhaul the Italian, who dramatically found water at the 12th and 15th, and hold off a host of other contenders in a thrilling finale.

Xander Schauffele, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka shared second on 12 under, with Molinari, who was still two clear with seven to play, finishing one further back in a share of fifth alongside Jason Day, Webb Simpson and Tony Finau.

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AUGUSTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 14: Tiger Woods of the United States celebrates with his son Charlie Axel as he comes off the 18th hole in honor of his win during the final round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 14, 2019 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 14: Tiger Woods of the United States celebrates after sinking his putt on the 18th green to win during the final round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 14, 2019 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 14: Patrons cheer as Tiger Woods of the United States celebrates after sinking his putt on the 18th green to win during the final round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 14, 2019 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 14: Tiger Woods of the United States celebrates after sinking his putt on the 18th green to win during the final round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 14, 2019 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 14: Tiger Woods (L) of the United States celebrates with caddie Joe LaCava (R) on the 18th green after winning during the final round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 14, 2019 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 14: Tiger Woods (L) of the United States celebrates with caddie Joe LaCava (R) on the 18th green after winning during the final round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 14, 2019 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 14: Tiger Woods of the United States embraces his chief spokesperson, Glenn Greenspan, as he comes off the 18th hole in celebration of his win during the final round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 14, 2019 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 14: Tiger Woods of the United States celebrates after sinking his putt on the 18th green to win during the final round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 14, 2019 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 14: (EDITOR'S NOTE: This image has been converted to black and white.) Patrons cheer as Tiger Woods of the United States celebrates after sinking his putt on the 18th green to win during the final round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 14, 2019 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 14: (L-R) Tony Finau of the United States congratulates Tiger Woods of the United States on his win on the 18th green during the final round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 14, 2019 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 14: Tiger Woods of the United States celebrates after sinking his putt on the 18th green to win during the final round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 14, 2019 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 14: Tiger Woods of the United States reacts as he walks off the 18th hole after winning the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 14, 2019 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Golf - Masters - Augusta National Golf Club - Augusta, Georgia, U.S. - April 14, 2019 - Patrick Reed places the green jacket on Tiger Woods of the U.S. after Woods won the 2019 Masters. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Golf - Masters - Augusta National Golf Club - Augusta, Georgia, U.S. - April 14, 2019 - Tiger Woods of the U.S. holds up the Masters trophy and wears the green jacket as he celebrates after winning the 2019 Masters. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Golf - Masters - Augusta National Golf Club - Augusta, Georgia, U.S. - April 14, 2019. Tiger Woods of the U.S. celebrates with with his green jacket and trophy after winning the 2019 Masters. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
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Yet the day belonged definitively to Woods, who had never previously won a major having trailed heading into the final round and could afford the luxury of a bogey on the 18th. Understandably, the champion celebrated euphorically after sinking his winning putt, as spectators surrounding the green went wild.

When Woods last won a major, at the 2008 U.S. Open, he appeared a near-certainty to surpass Jack Nicklaus' record haul of 18 titles in golf's premier strokeplay events.

However, a shocking drought followed as he battled a succession of serious injuries, while his reputation was also damaged by lurid revelations about his private life.

As recently as November 2017, Woods was ranked 1,199th in the world, having acknowledged two months earlier that he may never play professionally again following his fourth back surgery.

Woods exceeded expectations last season, though, contending at two majors before claiming his first win in five years at the Tour Championship, and his remarkable return to the very top of the game is now complete.

When the pressure was at its highest on Sunday, with several players in contention, Woods found three birdies in four holes from the 13th to open up a two-shot advantage.

Five players - Woods, Molinari, Koepka, Schauffele and Johnson - shared the lead as the final group played the 15th hole, but golf's biggest name was soon out on his own. His tee shot at 16 almost produced a hole-in-one, which would truly have been the icing on the cake.

Amid the understandable fanfare for Woods, it was hard not to feel for Molinari, who won last year's Open Championship when paired with the former world number one for the final round.

Molinari never found his best form this time around and, although he initially demonstrated tremendous scrambling skills to stay in front, stretching his bogey-free run to 49 holes in the process, the wheels came off on the back nine and he signed for a 74.

Johnson and Schauffele shot 68 on the final day, while Koepka went round in 70. Of those three back in fifth, Day had the best score - a five-under 67.

Amid a frenetic finish, Patrick Cantlay briefly held sole possession of the lead after eagling the 15th, but he bogeyed the next two and shared ninth with Jon Rahm and Rickie Fowler.

The low amateur was Viktor Hovland, who completed a third successive 71 to finish three under.

Sunday's play began much earlier than scheduled, with players grouped in threesomes, due to the threat of storms in the afternoon.

In the end, nothing was going to steal Woods' thunder on a day that will live long in the memory.

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