The comeback is complete.
Tiger Woods shot an 1-over-par 71 on Sunday to win the Tour Championship by two strokes and claim his first victory since 2013.
Woods finished at 11-under 269 to secure his 80th career PGA Tour victory. The 42-year-old won the Tour Championship for the third time.
Amid raucous scenes, with the massive gallery chanting his name as he played the final hole, he tapped in to move within two victories of Sam Snead’s all-time record of 82 titles.
“I was having a hard time not crying coming up the last hole,” Woods said in a greenside interview.
“It was just a ground out there. I loved every bit of it, the fight, the grind, the tough conditions.
“You just had to suck it up and hit shots.”
The victory capped off a season that started with questions over whether the 42-year-old would even be able to play a full schedule after undergoing spinal fusion surgery in April 2017.
“My body was a wreck,” recalled Woods, who hoped the surgery would alleviate debilitating back and leg pain.
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But the surgery proved successful beyond his wildest dreams.
“Beginning of the year, that was a tall order (expecting to win) but as the year progressed I proved I could play,” he said.
“I found a swing, put the pieces together and knew I could do it again.”
Justin Rose, meanwhile, survived a final-round 73 to tie for fourth place and win the season-long FedEx Cup, which carries a $10 million bonus. Rose had to birdie the final hole at East Lake Golf Club to earn golf’s top prize, and he finished the job with a 2-inch tap-in.
Woods almost got enough help from the field to vault from No. 20 to No. 1 in the FedEx Cup points race. Woods needed seven players to play poorly enough to enable him to climb into first. Six of them obliged.
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Billy Horschel, the 2014 Tour Championship winner, closed with a 66 and moved into second place at 9 under. Dustin Johnson shot 67 and climbed up to third at 7 under.
Finishing tied for fourth at 6 under were Rose, Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, whose 65 matched Rickie Fowler for the low round of the day, and Webb Simpson, who shot 67.
The much-anticipated showdown between Woods and playing partner Rory McIlroy, who will both participate in next week’s Ryder Cup matches in France, never materialized. Woods began the day with a three-shot lead and stretched it to four strokes with a birdie on the opening hole. He led by five through five when McIlroy and Rose both took bogeys.
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McIlroy was plagued by an errant driver, which led to three bogeys and a double-bogey on the front nine. The Northern Irishman played the front nine in plus-4 and quickly dropped out of contention. He shot 74 and fell into a tie for seventh at 5 under.
Woods had three bogeys, one at the 10th hole when his tee shot found the trees and he was forced to punch out. He had back-to-back bogeys at Nos. 15 and 16, and he placed his tee shot on No. 17 in the rough but was able to get up and down from the collar to save par. He parred the final hole for the victory.
Woods has famously battled health and personal issues for the past five years. He has shown signs of breaking his slump for much of the year, finishing second at the PGA Championship and holding the lead in the back nine of the Open Championship.
© 2018 Reuters