Woods wins Masters to claim first major in 11 years

Molinari sits alone atop The Masters leaderboard at 13-under-par

Molinari sits alone atop The Masters leaderboard at 13-under-par

Paired together in the final round of last year's The Open Championship, won by the Italian at Carnoustie, Molinari and Woods found themselves in the last group again battling for a major title.

Augusta National officials had scrapped the usual 18th-green presentation of the green jacket, wanting to clear the course before expected severe weather moved in.

And now the player who transformed golf with his first Masters title in 1997 is a major champion again after 11 years marked by personal turmoil and injuries that threatened not only his career but his prospects of living an ordinary life.

Fellow Americans Dustin Johnson, Xander Schauffele and Brooks Koepka tied for second place at 12 under, while four players - Jason Day, Webb Simpson, Francesco Molinari and Tony Finau - were a further shot back.

Who would have thought that Woods, 43, who had back surgery in 2015, would be healthy enough to even challenge for another major title let alone win another one?

In 2002 he emulated Nick Faldo and Jack Nicklaus in winning back-to-back Masters. They couldn't make it to East Lake last September, when he won the Tour Championship for his first victory in five years.

Molinari played in the final pairing with Woods at the British Open a year ago and beat him. It was two years ago at the Masters when Woods said he needed a nerve block just to walk to the Champions Dinner.

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Molinari was also magnanimous in his praise for Woods, who took full advantage of his playing-partners mistakes and reeled off three birdies in four holes from the 13th before closing out a momentous win amid jubilant scenes on and around the 18th green. I just couldn't be more happy, more excited. "So I enjoy it, it's fun, getting definitely more comfortable with it as every major goes by".

Koepka has said all week he was focused on his own game and not worrying about what anyone else is doing, but that could prove tough come Sunday with the leaders playing right behind him.

After sitting out the rest of 2017, Woods returned to competition in 2018, and in September, he captured the Tour Championship with his kids on hand. His birdie putt on the 18th from just outside 10 feet missed, and he had to settle for a 70.

This was one is sure to at least rival it.

"I think the kids are starting to understand how much this game means to me, and some of the things I've done in the game", Woods said.

"I think I made a few new fans today with those double bogeys", he said.

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