Tiger Woods has capped one of the most remarkable comebacks in sporting history with a victory at the Tour Championship, his 80th PGA Tour title – and his first win in 1876 days.
The 14-time major champion and overnight leader closed with a one-over-par 71 and at 11 under he finished two shots ahead of runner-up Billy Horschel (66).
It is the first victory for Woods since the 2013 WGC-Bridgestone, and it puts him just two titles shy of Sam Snead’s all-time list record of 82.
Dustin Johnson (67) finished third at seven under, while world No.1 Justin Rose (73) won the $US10 million ($13.7 million) FedExCup bonus with a share of fourth.
The Brit two-putted the last hole to secure the season-long points race.
Having sat on the sidelines for 10 months last year while recovering from spinal fusion surgery and facing the possibility of never playing golf again, former world No.1 Woods’ ranking plummeted to 1199 in November.
Just last month, Woods – a 14-time major winner who averaged six tour titles a year from 1999 to 2007 – said he viewed this season as one of the finest of his career. As 2018 began, “I didn’t know what I was going to do, I just didn’t have a clue”, he said.
The moment Tiger Woods won. CHILLS.
— SB Nation (@SBNation) September 23, 2018
On Sunday, the 42-year-old entered the final round of the Tour Championship with a three-stroke lead over his nearest challengers – and a perfect 23-0 record when entering the final round leading by at least three strokes.
Then he tapped in for par at the par-5 18th at East Lake Golf Club, earning a storybook win that will propel him eight spots to world No.13.
Woods marched up the 72nd hole with rock concert scenes unfolding behind him as thousands of fans ignored security and police officers to walk the fairway and soak up the occasion.
“It was just a grind out there but I loved every minute of it,” Woods said.
“As this year progressed, I proved I could play, I found a swing, put the pieces together and knew I could do it again.
“I had a hard time not crying on the last hole; I still had shots to play so I had to suck it up.
“But once I got the ball on the green I gave [caddie] Joey [LaCava] a high five because it was done.”
After walking off the 18th green, Woods was surrounded and hugged by golfing’s elite, including Justin Rose, winner of the FedEx Cup playoffs, and Rickie Fowler, who was paired with Woods in the first round of this tournament.
“It’s been tough,” an emotional Woods told The New York Times after his victory. “It’s been not so easy the past couple years.
“Some of the players I saw after, over there on the 18th green, knew what I was struggling with and it was really special to see them there.”
Having started the day with a three-shot lead, Woods at one stage increased that to five before the wheels seemed to fall off on the back nine.
He bogeyed the 10th before responding with a birdie three holes later. But two consecutive bogeys from the 15th had fans nervous.
When he piped his drive 348 yards down the fairway on the last, it was a coronation – despite Woods hitting his second in the green-side bunker and missing the ensuing birdie putt.
Meanwhile, the Australian contingent finished well back on the final day.
Jason Day closed with a two-under 68 to finish at two under, while fellow Queenslander Cameron Smith finished with an even-par score.
Marc Leishman (71) rounded out the Australian tilt and he finished at one over.