It was heralded as one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history as Tiger Woods claimed the Green Jacket for the fifth time in his career by winning the 2019 Masters at Augusta.
The 43-year-old had endured a ten-year winless run in majors since his last triumph at the 2008 US Open. Injuries, a lack of form and off-the-course problems had threatened to prematurely end the career of one of the greatest golfers of all time.
Back to His Best
Woods displayed signs of a return to form last season, finishing in the top ten of The Open before placing second behind Brooks Koepka in the PGA Championship. Although he had performed well in the two events, he did not build on his success on the PGA Tour, failing to make a significant impact in the tournament before arriving in Augusta.
The American made a steady start to the tournament before upping the ante on day two to move into contention. A round of five-under on Saturday put Woods in contention for the Green Jacket, although he was still two strokes off the pace of leader Francesco Molinari among a competitive field. It appeared as though the Italian would maintain his stranglehold on the competition until the back nine, where he made two crucial errors, hitting into the water at the 12th and 15th.
Woods displayed the killer instinct that has been pivotal in capturing his previous 14 majors. He birdied the 15th and 16th before seeing out the victory by notching pars on the final two holes. The 43-year-old became the fifth player to have a gap of ten years between major wins, while he pulled within three crowns of Jack Nicklaus all-time record of 18.
The question now is whether Woods can surpass the achievement of the Golden Bear that he seemed on course to smash when he triumphed in the US Open in 2008. It has been a long road back to the top for the American and he will be determined to make the most of his form. His next opportunity to close the gap comes at the PGA Championship, which has been shifted up the schedule from August to May to ease the burden on the schedule later in the term.
Can Woods Deliver Another Victory?
This year’s PGA Championship takes place at Bethpage Black – a venue that Woods knows all too well. He won the 2002 US Open on the course, finishing three strokes ahead of Phil Mickelson, displaying the quality that the rest of the field struggled to produce in difficult conditions. Woods was the only player to finish under par in the tournament, although a lot will have changed in the 17 years since Woods’ triumph in Long Island.
Due to his victory at The Masters, the American has been installed as the favorite for the event, being backed in the range of +700. The usual crowd of Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Justin Thomas and Koepka are among the leading contenders in and around Woods in the thoughts of the bookmakers. Other than Koepka in recent years, none of the leading players in the world have been able to stamp their authority on the majors in the ilk of Woods at the peak of his powers.
McIlroy has not won a major since 2014, missing on the slam at The Masters with an underwhelming outing. Johnson only has the one triumph in the 2016 US Open, and has perennially failed to rise to the occasion when the pressure has been on.
Thomas has failed to kick on after his breakthrough in 2017 in the PGA Championship, while Jordan Spieth has fallen off completely, although he did have a decent outing at Augusta. Woods will smell blood in the water and will aim to display the killer instinct that the rest of the field have been unable to impose in his exile from the top of the sport.
Now that the American is operating at his best, the rest of the golfers on the tour will be looking over their shoulder and the leaderboard to watch his progress. It would be no surprise for Woods to kick on from his success at Augusta to claim his 16th major at Bethpage Black.