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Tiger Woods ends five-year win drought with Tour Championship title

Times wires

ATLANTA — Tiger Woods, in his Sunday red shirt, both arms raised in victory on the 18th green.

For so many years, the scene was familiar.

This time, it was surreal.

"I can't believe I pulled this off," Woods said Sunday during the trophy presentation at the season-ending Tour Championship, where he gave thousands of delirious fans at East Lake, and millions more around the world, what they wanted to see, and what they thought they might never see again.

And at that moment, Woods was overcome with emotion and paused.
After two back surgeries six weeks apart, he couldn't lie down, sit or walk without pain. Golf was the least of his concerns, so much so that he once said that anything else he achieved would be "gravy."

One year ago, while recovering from a fourth back surgery, he still had no idea if he could come back to the highest level of golf.

Woods delivered the perfect ending to his amazing return with a performance out of the past. He left the competition feeling hopeless as he built a five-shot lead early in the final round and then hung on for 1-over 71 and a two-shot victory over former Gator Billy Horschel at 11-under 269.

"It was a grind out there,'' Woods said. "The fight and the grind and the tough conditions and just had to suck it up and hit shots, and I loved every bit of it.''

It was the 80th victory of his PGA Tour, two short of the career record held by Sam Snead that is now very much in play. And it was his first victory in more than five years, dating to the 2013 Bridgestone Invitational.

And that brought a new version of Tigermania.

After he hit his second shot to the par-5 18th safely in a bunker in front of the green, the crowd went through the ropes and followed behind in a chaotic celebration. Fans chased after any inch of grass they could find to watch the ending.

"I didn't want to get run over," Woods said, laughing.

"I appreciate it a little bit more than I did (before) because I don't take it for granted that I'm going to have another decade, two decades in my future of playing golf at this level. It means a lot more to me now in that sense because I didn't know if I'd ever be out here playing again, doing this again.''

This felt just as big as a major, maybe better considering where Woods had been.

Several players, including Zach Johnson, Rickie Fowler and Horschel, waited to greet him as he walked to the clubhouse. It was Johnson who unveiled red shirts at the Ryder Cup two years ago in the team room that said "Make Tiger Great Again."

"They knew what I was struggling with," Woods said. "It was special to see them."

Woods played only one tour event over two seasons because of his back. Off the course, he had to overcome the embarrassment of a DUI arrest early on Memorial Day 2017 when he was found asleep at the wheel of his car, later found to have a concoction of pain medication in his system.

And then he brought his game back to life this year. He had been close to winning before Sunday. In March he tied for second at the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook in Palm Harbor, and he was solo second at the PGA Championship last month.

It all came together for him the past four days. The players who had turns at No. 1 during his absence caught the full brunt of Woods in control.

Rory McIlroy, who started the day three shots back of Woods with Justin Rose, faded early and shot 5 over to end up six shots back. Rose faded late, shooting 3 over and finishing five back. His four bogeys over the last 10 holes also cost him the No. 1 ranking and gave it back to Dustin Johnson, who shot 67 and finished third at 7 under.

The one positive for Rose — and the only disappointment for Woods, a minor one under the circumstances — was his birdie on 18 to finish in a three-way tie for fourth and earn the season's FedEx Cup points title and the $10 million bonus that comes with it.

Without that birdie, Woods would have won his third FedEx Cup title after starting at No. 20 going into the Tour Championship.

The next stop for Woods is to board a plane with the rest of his U.S. teammates for France and the Ryder Cup this week.

After that?

There's no telling.

By the numbers

On Tiger Woods' Tour Championship win:

3 Career Tour Championship wins for Woods, most all time

3 Decades in which Woods has won PGA Tour's playoff finale: 1990s, 2000s, 2010s

5 Tour events Woods has won in three decades

13 Woods' new world ranking; started the season No. 1,199

80 Tour wins for Woods, two behind Sam Snead for most in tour history

1,876 Days since Woods had last won on the tour, at the 2013 Bridgestone Invitational

Source: Golf Channel

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