Tiger Woods produced a scintillating finish to win a fifth Masters title and end an 11-year wait to claim a 15th major.
There were raucous celebrations around the 18th green as Woods finished with a two-under-par 70 to win on 13 under, one clear of fellow Americans Dustin Johnson, Xander Schauffele and Brooks Koepka.
Overnight leader Francesco Molinari’s hopes sunk with two double bogeys on the back nine and he had to settle for a share of fifth on 11 under.
Woods, written off by so many so often as he battled back problems in recent years, punched the air in delight, a wide smile across his face, before celebrating with his children at the back of the green.
“I’m a little hoarse from yelling,” said the 43-year-old. “I was just trying to plod my way around all day then all of a sudden I had the lead.
“Coming up 18 I was just trying to make a five. When I tapped in I don’t know what I did, I know I screamed.
“To have my kids there, it’s come full circle. My dad was here in 1997 and now I’m the dad with two kids there.
“It will be up there with one of the hardest I’ve had to win because of what has transpired in the last couple of years.”
Woods’ triumph saw him come from behind in the final round to win a major for the first time. It was also his first Masters victory since 2005.
He is now just one behind Jack Nicklaus’ record of six wins at Augusta National and three behind his fellow American’s overall major tally of 18.
Victory caps a remarkable resurgence for Woods, who missed the 2016 and 2017 Masters with back problems before finally undergoing back fusion surgery in April of that year.
A superb 2018 followed where he challenged at The Open before finishing joint sixth and pushed eventual champion Koepka close at the US PGA Championship.
He then capped off the season by winning the Tour Championship for his 80th PGA Tour title and this victory puts him one behind the record of 82 held by Sam Snead.
No stopping Woods’ march to glory
Perhaps the crucial hole in the story of this year’s Masters was the 12th on the final round, the treacherous par three where any errant tee shot risks being sucked back into Rae’s Creek.
Molinari, who played with Woods in the final round as he won The Open last July, dumped his tee shot into the water at the front of the green and walked off with a double-bogey five.
Tony Finau, also in the final group, followed Molinari in the water to drop back to eight under.
The more experienced Woods, who was playing his 22nd Masters, played to the heart of the green and two-putted for par to join Molinari at the top of the leaderboard on 11 under.
That par was cheered like a birdie by the thousands of patrons who have followed his every stroke this week, alerting more and more to join the party and roar Woods home.
Others were challenging from behind with Schauffele and world number two Johnson posting four-under-par 68s to set the clubhouse target at 12 under.
Molinari faded further after hitting his third shot into the pond guarding the 15th green and from that moment there was no stopping Woods’ relentless march to the title.
A par on the 17th left the world number 12 with a lead of two shots going up the last – only Koepka, who has won three of the past seven majors, could realistically put any pressure on but the American missed an eight-foot birdie putt to stay at 12 under.
Woods appeared to fluff his second shot to the 18th, leaving it well short of the green and could only chip on to 14 feet, but a straightforward two-putt sealed the win.
‘What an extraordinary story’ – what they said
Three-time major winner Padraig Harrington: “There is not a golfer in the world that isn’t happy that Tiger Woods won. In the modern era, he’s been a golf and sport superstar. This comeback story will break out from golf into all sports and all the news. It will be everywhere. There will be people who have never looked at golf and will be seeing this and wondering what it’s all about.”
Former Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger: “I never thought I’d see it. I thought he was done. He whispered to a champion at the Champions Dinner once that he was done. Since the fused back he has been a living, breathing, walking miracle. To perform at this level, it’s something you behold.”
BBC golf correspondent Iain Carter: “What an extraordinary story and what scenes at Augusta. The hug with his mother, his son is leaping into his arms, the chants of Tiger everywhere. It is all about this man who dominated golf. I have never seen him celebrate like that.”
18-time major winner Jack Nicklaus: “A big ‘well done’ from me to Tiger Woods! I am so happy for him and for the game of golf. This is just fantastic.”
Woods’ career in numbers
3,954 – days since victory over Rocco Mediate in a US Open play-off at Torrey Pines.
1,199 – Woods’ ranking in the world in November 2017. Victory at Augusta National means he will be sixth in Monday’s updated standings.
683 – weeks he has spent at world number one during his career, a record.
281 – consecutive weeks spent as the world’s best golfer, which is also a record.
48 – His score for nine holes at the age of three on the Navy golf course in Los Alamitos.
15 – career major wins, second only to Jack Nicklaus’ 18.
14 – years between Woods’ fourth and fifth victories in the Masters.
5 – Woods is one of five players to have won all four major titles.
4 – number of back operations since March 2014.
1 – Woods is the only player to hold all four major titles at the same time, winning the US Open, Open Championship and US PGA in 2000 and the 2001 Masters