Augusta, Ga. • As if Tom Brady’s epic Super Bowl win in February wasn’t impressive enough from an aging icon, Tiger Woods gave the sports world an unforgettable moment Sunday to cap off an unlikely comeback in winning his fifteenth major championship Sunday at The Masters, and his first major title since the 2008 U.S. Open.
The 43-year-old superstar, during that Open at Torrey Pines, shared the moment with his then-wife Elin Nordegren and infant daughter Sam.
So how poignant the images were Sunday as he lovingly grabbed his family in separate bear hugs, reminiscent of his embrace with his father Earl Woods in nearly the very spot after his first major win in the 1997 Masters.
“It's special to me,” Woods said in his winner’s press conference. “It's special to my friends and family, and I think that everyone out here who was here got a chance to witness something that was amazing.”
Utah’s Tony Finau played in the final group with Woods and gave himself a realistic opportunity to win the green jacket much of the day, but ultimately fell two shots short posting an even par 72 that was good for a fifth place tie.
Finau opened the front nine with an even-par 36, five shots higher than Saturday’s sizzling 30. Yet many of the players through nine were stuck in neutral, including Woods who turned in 1-under 35, only one shot ahead of Finau.
But Finau’s realistic chances of winning took a sharp turn south on the the par 3 12th.
The seemingly unflappable tournament leader at that moment, Francesco Molinari found the water with his tee shot, Woods cautiously put his in the middle of the green, then Finau found the water short and right with his crucial tee shot.
“Twelve was the turning point,” Finau said. “[Tiger] hit the green and I hit it in the water when Francesco had hit it in the water.”
And the image of the veteran of twenty-two Masters, Tiger Woods, walking over the famous Hogan Bridge as Finau and Molinari went to the drop area right of the bridge was telling.
It wasn’t as if Woods won this Masters with long, epic eagle putts down the stretch, the seasoned veteran did so with a workman-like 2-under 70.
“I know I was grinding hard trying to chase Francesco [Sunday],” Woods said, “and then all of a sudden the leaderboard flipped [on twelve] and there were a bunch of guys up there who had a chance to win. “
Finau fought back with a birdie on the very next hole and got within three shots with two to play, and ended up tying his career-best finish in a major.
Though Finau said Sunday was “not the ending I wanted,” he still found some silver lining in defeat.
“For me it was fun being a part of the action, and it's a lot of fun to be in that type of atmosphere,” Finau said. “It's what I practice for, what I play for, what I train for. My time is coming, I know it is. And I've just got to keep riding the storm.”
After walking the round with Finau during the biggest 18 holes of the Utahn’s life, the 29-year-old’s caddie Greg Bodine had this takeaway:
“I think that Tony can win major championships,” Bodine said. “He didn’t have much momentum coming into this week at the Masters this year and so we’ll use this as a kick start to the year.”
Garrett Johnston has covered 25 major championships. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnstonGarrett