PGA Tour Win No. 80: Tiger Woods claims first title in 5 years at Tour Championship


Tiger Woods completed his comeback season with a sensational victory at the Tour Championship to claim his 80th PGA Tour title

He's back. 

Tiger Woods ended his return season on a high, posting a final round 71 to win his first tournament in five years at East Lake and finish second in the FedEx Cup to Justin Rose.

And the win was a significant one. 

Asked afterwards where this particular victory ranked among the others, he conceeded that he hadn't been sure that he was ever going to win again.

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"I just can't believe I pulled this off," he said, acknowledging how unlikely this victory seemed just under a year ago. "It's been tough. I've had a not so easy last couple years.

"It's certainly up there with obviously all the major championships I've won, Players, World Golf Championships. But this is under different circumstances. You know, I've explained throughout the year that I just didn't know whether -- when this would ever happen again. If I could somehow piece together a golf swing this year, I felt like I could do it. My hands are good enough, and I just didn't know if I could piece together a golf swing.

"But somehow I've been able to do that, and here we are."

The scenes surrounding the 18th hole at East Lake on Sunday were something that could only have been inspired by one player in history, truly affirming the impact Tiger has on the game. 

Hoards of spectators followed the final group up the fairway, and marshalls struggled to remain in complete control of the huge mass of bodies closing in on both Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy as they approached the green.

The galleries might have been desperate to get as close to this particular slice of history as they could, but even Tiger was hoping not to be trampled by his adoring fans.

"I just didn't want to get run over," he had said of the crowds afterwards. "I can't run anymore."

He closed out his victory with a two-putt par on the 18th, completing a feat that was unimaginable less than a year ago: Getting that 80th PGA Tour win.

The atmosphere was palpable, and the impact of his victory was apparent as he raised both arms triumphantly in the air before being congratulated by his caddie, McIlroy and a host of other PGA Tour players, while the crowds deafeningly chanted his name in unison. 

Even newly crowned FedEx Cup Champion Justin Rose, who finished out his round with a birdie to guarantee his place at the top of the season long rankings, apologised to the cameras and crowds for beating their man and was quick to congratulate Tiger for his victory. 

"I would like to take this moment to congratulate Tiger," Rose said. "I think the golf world is proud of you."

And his words resonated with many. 

Less than a year ago Woods had admitted he was unsure what his future held in regard to the game, and after four back surgeries and a fused spine, the golf world had all but accepted that the once near-unbeatable force might have lifted his last trophy. 

Woods had already returned too early after surgery before, so when he made a solid top 10 re-appearance at the small-field Hero World Challenge last December, it was viewed with caution. By then he had been ranked outside the top 1000 in the world, and by the time he started 2018, that number was 668th.

Since then he's come a remarkably long way to get back to the top of the game, but more impressive is the speed he's done it in. 

On Monday, he'll move to World No. 13. 

Tiger Woods: A successful comeback

Woods' first chance to win on Tour came in 2018 at the Valspar in March, but many still were unsure if he would be able to get over the line. Two chances at winning majors this year also narrowly passed him by, but it felt like momentum was building throughout that time as he tinkered with styles of putters and began to understand the limitations of his new body on the course.

When it came to the final day of the Tour Championship, Woods would have been forgiven for being nervous given that it had been five years since he had last lifted a trophy and just a couple of shots behind him were both Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy. 

But there seemed to be little or no nerves from Tiger Woods as he began his final round, making a birdie at the first to increase his lead to four, setting in motion his play towards PGA Tour victory No.80. 

It felt just like old times. Rather than mounting a challenge, Rose and McIlroy stumbled backwards on the leaderboard as Tiger held firm, carding a birdie and eight pars in a row to find himself five shots clear by the turn. 

The 14-time major winner began to stutter himself on the back nine, dropping a shot on the 10th but still retaining a five-shot lead as Rose made a dropped shot of his own. 

A birdie on the 13th left him five shots ahead with five to play, but quickly that number reduced to two as Billy Horschel made a late charge to set the clubhouse lead on nine-under and Woods dropped shots on both 15 and 16. 

Tiger made a gritty up and down on the par-four 17th to remain two ahead of Horschel, and with the par-five 18th to go, the title felt more like a formality. 

A driver down the middle was followed by a second shot in to the greenside bunker. He splashed out and just rolled by the putt for birdie, but it was enough.

As the crowds erupted and Woods celebrated, the magnitude of his victory began to sink in. Many began to proclaim it one of the biggest comebacks ever in golf, or perhaps in sport in general.

The only thing is, it feels like Tiger's comeback is just beginning to gain momentum.