The American’s last Major title came at the U.S. Open 11 years ago and since then he has undergone numerous back surgeries, falling to 1,199th in the Official World Golf Ranking just 17 months ago.
A return to fitness and form in 2018 hinted at what was to come, and a closing 70 at Augusta National Golf Club secured a fifth Green Jacket at the scene where he burst onto the world stage in 1997.
Woods’ record 12 shot victory 22 years ago set in motion a remarkable run of dominance at the top of the game, and the 43 year old will now once again have his sights set on Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 Major Championships, after following Nicklaus to become just the second player to win the Masters in three different decades, and to win Major Championships 20 or more years apart.
Woods had been two shots clear standing on the 18th tee, but despite a bogey on the last, wild celebrations followed his final putt, which took him to 13 under par and one ahead of countrymen Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Xander Schauffele, who was making just his second appearance at The Masters.
Overnight leader Francesco Molinari had been right in the mix before finding water twice on the back nine, and the Race to Dubai Champion finished at 11 under par alongside Australian Jason Day and Americans Tony Finau and Webb Simpson.
Spain’s Jon Rahm was then one shot further back in a tie for ninth place alongside Americans Patrick Cantlay, Rickie Fowler and Bubba Watson.
Talking after his victory, Tiger Woods said: “It’s just unreal. The whole tournament has meant so much to me over the years. Coming here in ’95 for the first time and being able to play as an amateur, winning in ’97, and then coming full circle, 22 years later, to be able to do it again, and just the way it all transpired today.”
He added that there were so many different scenarios that could have transpired on that back nine.
“There were so many guys that had a chance to win. The leaderboard was absolutely packed and everyone was playing well. You couldn’t have had more drama than we all had out there, and now I know why I’m balding. This stuff is hard.
“Just to come back here and play as well as I did. This has meant so much to me and my family, this tournament, and to have everyone here, it’s something I’ll never, ever forget.”
Leader of the third round Francesco Molinari was meanwhile gracious in defeat. “It’s great to see Tiger doing well. The way he was playing last year, I think we all knew it was coming sooner or later. Maybe next time would have been better for me, but it was nice to be out with him, he played well, hit the right shots at the right time and he deserved to win.”