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Tiger gets 15th major, fifth Masters victory at Augusta National

Tiger is back . . . in a green jacket.

“We already knew Tiger was back, but I think he just put the exclamation point on that,” Brooks Koepka said Sunday after Woods shot a 2-under 70 to win his first Masters since 2005.

Woods finished 13-under overall at Augusta National Golf Club to win his 15th major championship and first since 2008. Koepka, who tied with Columbia’s Dustin Johnson and Xander Schauffele for second place, was one of several players who waited to congratulate Woods after their rounds finished.

“As a fan, I love it. I think it’s awesome,” Koepka said. “I’m glad he’s back. You finish in second place, and you’re pretty bummed out, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. He’s just good, man. I don’t know what to say.”

Woods, who will collect a $2.07 million check along with the title, started the day tied for second place at 11-under, two shots behind leader Francesco Molinari. For most of the day Sunday, he could do no better than that, but he birdied Nos. 12, 15 and 16 to pull away from a field that at one point featured five players tied for the lead on the back nine.

“I hit some of the best shots on that back nine today,” Woods said. “I felt like I just flushed it coming home, which was a nice feeling.”

Woods is now a five-time Masters winner.

“It was probably the coolest back nine I have ever been a part of,” Koepka said. “I don’t know how it looked on TV, but it was amazing to be a part of.”

Woods, playing in his 22nd Masters, made a two-foot bogey putt on No. 18 to seal the victory, which came at 2:30 p.m. because the final round was moved up to avoid possible storms in the area. After a quick fist pump, he threw both arms in the air, celebrated with his caddie and then walked off the green with watery eyes before sharing long hugs with son Charlie, mom Kultida and daughter Sam.

“Just unreal to be honest with you,” Woods said. “Just the whole tournament has meant so much to me over the years. This tournament has meant so much to me and my family. To have them all here is something I will never forget.”

Columbia’s Dustin Johnson, a Dutch Fork High graduate, made a late charge, birdying Nos. 13, 15, 16 and 17 to get to 12-under, which tied for second place. When Johnson tapped in for par at No. 18, he was technically tied with Woods and two others at 12-under, but Woods’ birdie on No. 15 was posted as Johnson was walking from the 18th green to the scoring room, broke that tie and dampened his chances of a first green jacket.

Johnson, who shot a 4-under 68 for the day, walked to the clubhouse with mom Kandee and fiance Paulina Gretzky. This is his best Masters finish, and he has now finished in the top 10 in each of the last four Masters in which he has played.

Tony Finau, Jason Day, Webb Simpson and Molinari finished tied for fifth at 11-under.

“Not the ending that I wanted, but to witness that, a handful of years ago I don’t know a lot of people believed that Tiger would win another major,” Finau said. “From what I saw today, obviously he’s not going anywhere anytime soon, and congrats to him on his 15th major.”

Woods’ last major championship before Sunday came in the 2008 U.S. Open, before his career hit a variety of personal and professional roadblocks. He needs three more major victories to tie Jack Nicklaus’ all-time record, and one more Masters win to tie Nicklaus’ career lead in that category.

“I really haven’t thought about that yet,” Woods said. “I am sure I will going down the road. I am just enjoying 15.”

Until Woods’ late charge, Sunday’s final round was shaping up like something of a dud. Four of the six players in the final two groups of the day — Ian Poulter, Koepka, Tony Finau and Molinari — hit their tee shots on No. 12 into Rae’s Creek. Molinari put on in the water again at No. 15.

Sunday was the first time Woods has come from behind on the final day to win a major championship.

“It is probably one of the biggest wins I have had because of that,” Woods said.

Woods wore his trademark Sunday red for the round, bringing back the mock turtleneck he has worn in the past, a decision about which Schauffele was skeptical.

“I actually told Tiger at Torrey (Pines) that I think they are hideous,” Schauffele said. “He laughed and said a few more words after that. I can promise you that half a million are going to sell tomorrow.”

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Josh Kendall has covered SEC football for almost 20 years. He has covered the Gamecocks since the 2010 season. Have a question? Shoot him an email or find him on Twitter, and he’ll be happy to respond.
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