STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Tiger Woods seals fifth Masters title and 15th major

Tiger Woods clinched his fifth Masters and 15th major title to seal one of the greatest comeback stories in sport after overcoming career-threatening back problems. CNN's Don Riddell reports.

Posted: Apr 15, 2019 3:20 AM
Updated: Apr 15, 2019 3:20 AM

Tiger Woods clinched his fifth Masters and 15th major title to seal one of the greatest comeback stories in sport after overcoming career-threatening back problems.

The 43-year-old muscled his way through a tightly packed leaderboard to win by one shot at Augusta for his first major title in 11 years and first Masters win since 2005.

It completes a fairytale return for the most dominant player of his generation -- and arguably the best ever -- after enduring "dark times" through injury since 2014.

Woods underwent career-saving spine fusion surgery in 2017 and sealed an impressive comeback season last year with his first win for five years.

Sunday's thrilling victory to complete a remarkable redemption puts the former world No.1 just three majors behind the all-time record of Jack Nicklaus.

Only fellow American Nicklaus has won more Masters, with six. Woods also joins Nicklaus as the only player to have won the Masters in three different decades after he clinched his first as a 21-year-old in 1997.

"It's overwhelming just because of what has transpired," Woods said in the Green Jacket ceremony in the Butler Cabin.

"Last year I was very lucky to be playing again. At the previous Champions Dinner I was really struggling and missed a couple of years of not playing this great tournament and now I'm the champion. Twenty two years between wins, it's a long time and it's unreal for me to experience this. My mom was here, she was there in 1997 as well. I'm just so happy and excited and I'm at a loss for words."

READ: Tiger Woods: I don't need to win the Masters, but I really want to'

Visit CNN.com/Sport for more news, features and video

'Epic Sunday'

Woods began the day two shots behind Italy's Francesco Molinari, and rode the roller coaster of a gripping final round to first share the lead after the Italian found the water in front of the short 12th.

Two holes later five players were tied at the top, but Woods' birdie on the long 15th took him clear on his own. Another birdie on the short 16th ignited thunderous roars which reverberated around the towering pines as Woods marched off with a two-shot lead and a thousand-yard stare in scenes reminiscent of his heyday.

Sporting a red mock turtleneck in a nod to his last win at Augusta in 2005, and chewing gum throughout, Woods maintained his focus to edge world No.2 Dustin Johnson, three-time major champion Brooks Koepka and another American Xander Schauffele.

When the winning putt dropped, Woods clenched his fist and punched the air to tumultuous applause, before walking off the 18th to embrace his mother Kutilda, children Sam and Charlie, girlfriend Erica Herman and members of his team. Woods' father and mentor Earl died in May 2006.

"To have my kids there, it's come full circle," Woods added. "My dad was there in 1997 and now I'm the dad with two kids there."

The celebrations lasted an eternity as the patrons chanted "Tiger, Tiger" around the 18th green before a beaming Woods whooped and high-fived his way to the scorer's hut.

Woods' bogey at the last gave him a round of 70 for his first major title when trailing going into the final day.

"It's been an epic Sunday here at the Masters and a great day for golf, just one of the most amazing days in our history," said Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley.

READ: The Masters A-Z in photos

Downward spiral

Woods changed golf forever when he clinched his first Masters by a record 12 shots in 1997. Because of him, players became fitter, prize money increased and interest in the game jumped significantly. He's been golf's heart, soul and chief needle mover ever since.

Woods may not have been to everyone's liking over the years, perhaps from a combination of his unerring success in his early 2000s pomp, his single-minded pursuit of excellence, a frosty persona and later personal choices.

But life's issues appear to have mellowed him of late and the remarkable reception he received at Augusta suggested the narrative of his back story gave the sporting achievement more resonance.

A raft of celebrities took to social media to congratulate Woods.

NBA star Steph Curry called it "the greatest comeback story in sports," while tennis legend Serena Williams said she "was in tears" and said it was "greatness like no other."

Nicklaus tweeted his praise, while even former US President Barack Obama joined in.

In the build-up to the Masters Woods said he couldn't have foreseen being stranded on 14 majors when he won his last, the US Open, in 2008. He was later diagnosed with a fractured leg and took the rest of the season off but from then on nothing was the same.

At the 2009 US PGA he led going into the final round but failed to seal the win for the first time in his major career, losing to South Korea's YE Yang.

Later that year, news of his extra marital affairs broke, ending in divorce, and Woods' golf and life took a downward spiral.

Greatest ever?

Woods fought his way back to world No.1 in 2013 but the back issues surfaced the following year.

Many wrote off his career as the injuries took their toll on his form, world ranking -- he plunged to outside the top 1,000 -- and quality of life.

He admits he struggled with everyday tasks such as getting out of bed, driving and taking his kids to school, and is widely reported to have confided at the pre-Masters Champions Dinner a couple of years ago: "I'm done."

But after seeing a specialist in England, Woods underwent fusion surgery, his fourth back procedure, in the US. However, if things looked bleak from a playing point of view, Woods looked to have hit rock bottom when he was arrested on a driving under the influence charge in May 2017.

Found asleep at the wheel of his car at the side of a road in Palm Beach, Florida, pictures and dashcam video of a confused and disoriented Woods were flashed around the world.

He was later found to have five different drugs in his system, but Woods blamed the incident on the prescription painkillers he was taking for his back injuries. He pleaded guilty to reckless driving and was put on a diversion program, but from that nadir, Woods' trajectory has reached sky high.

On doctor's advice he made a tentative return to hitting golf balls at home in late August 2017, and returned to the circuit in 2018 with remarkable success,. He briefly led the Open at Carnoustie before finishing second to Koepka in the US PGA and winning the Tour Championship for his 80th PGA Tour title, just two behind the record of Sam Snead.

And now this.

"This will be up there with one of the hardest I've had to win because of what transpired over the last couple of years," he added.

"it was just an amazing buzz out there, trying to figure out what was going on but to stay present and focused on what i was trying to do. I kind of liked it."

Greatest ever already? Maybe.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 32888

Reported Deaths: 1188
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds264246
DeSoto176718
Madison135536
Jones115949
Neshoba101673
Harrison100312
Rankin99915
Lauderdale93781
Forrest92743
Scott78515
Jackson70417
Copiah62715
Washington62610
Leake59820
Lee57521
Holmes57041
Oktibbeha55728
Wayne55116
Warren54020
Yazoo5336
Grenada5227
Lowndes51513
Leflore50756
Lamar5007
Lincoln49234
Pike46617
Sunflower4368
Monroe43135
Lafayette4194
Covington3965
Panola3926
Bolivar37018
Attala36523
Simpson3603
Newton35210
Adams33218
Tate31912
Pontotoc3166
Marion30812
Chickasaw29119
Claiborne28910
Winston28210
Noxubee2738
Pearl River26932
Jasper2666
Marshall2643
Clay25111
Smith23412
Union23311
Coahoma2136
Clarke21125
Walthall2087
Lawrence1892
Yalobusha1838
Kemper17914
Carroll17111
Humphreys1569
Tallahatchie1564
Montgomery1432
Calhoun1425
Tippah14211
Itawamba1408
Hancock13413
Webster12811
Tunica1153
Jefferson1143
Jefferson Davis1144
Prentiss1113
Greene1089
Amite1043
George943
Wilkinson949
Tishomingo911
Quitman891
Alcorn762
Perry764
Choctaw754
Stone722
Franklin472
Benton420
Sharkey400
Issaquena101
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 46424

Reported Deaths: 1032
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson5687161
Mobile4315136
Montgomery4275109
Tuscaloosa238248
Marshall181511
Madison16208
Lee146337
Shelby141424
Morgan11575
Baldwin10399
Walker101825
Elmore97519
Dallas9189
Franklin90616
Etowah83413
DeKalb7905
Chambers64727
Autauga64312
Butler63728
Tallapoosa60669
Russell5890
Unassigned53826
Houston5366
Limestone5251
Lauderdale5146
Cullman4905
Lowndes47922
Pike4525
Colbert4426
St. Clair4402
Escambia4358
Calhoun4035
Coffee3923
Covington38110
Bullock36910
Barbour3622
Jackson3432
Talladega3337
Dale3261
Marengo32011
Hale31722
Wilcox2958
Clarke2876
Sumter28512
Winston2773
Chilton2762
Blount2581
Monroe2442
Pickens2446
Marion24114
Randolph2289
Conecuh2187
Macon2029
Choctaw19912
Bibb1981
Greene1888
Perry1791
Henry1403
Crenshaw1253
Washington1217
Lawrence1130
Cherokee1117
Geneva860
Lamar801
Fayette721
Clay692
Coosa601
Cleburne391
Out of AL00
Tupelo
Overcast
78° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 74°
Feels Like: 81°
Columbus
Overcast
74° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 73°
Feels Like: 74°
Oxford
Overcast
75° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 75°
Starkville
Overcast
72° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 72°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather