Woods, of course, had never lost faith. Champions always believe, and there have been few serial winners more ruthless than this golfer, whose significance has long-since transcended the game of golf.
“I did think it would come,” the 43-year-old told CNN of his everlasting dreams of a 15th major.
His battle with Molinari at Carnoustie had given him that belief. He had also finished second behind Brooks Koepka at Bellerive in the 2018 PGA Championship.
“I knew it was in me, now did I know it was going to be this week? No. But I had a good feeling that the way I was shaping the golf ball that I was going to be in the mix,” Woods, who will now climb to No.6, added.
“Now being in the mix and winning a championship are two totally different things. The last two major championships, yeah I was in the mix, but I didn’t win.
“It all flipped at 12 you know when Franky made a mistake there. He just let everyone back in the tournament. And with six or seven guys with a chance to win the championship it got a little complicated but fortunately I was able to hit some of my best golf shots all week.”
Sunday’s thrilling victory 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.
“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.”
“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.
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 in 2017 — 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.”