Remembering the final round of the 2019 Masters
November 09, 2020
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Tiger Woods interview after Masters win
It’s hard to forget who won the 2019 Masters. Tiger Woods produced a storyline for the ages by claiming a fifth Masters title and 15th major championship. The triumph was incredible for many reasons, including the fact that it came after a major drought that lasted more than a decade. The win was not far removed from a fourth back surgery, either. There was a time that Woods thought he may never play golf again, let alone win a major.
It was the ultimate fairytale. The iconic image of his two arms raised in celebration, and the emotional embrace he shared with his kids afterward, were enough to make even the most cynical get misty-eyed.
“I never thought we’d see anything that could rival the hug with his father in 1997, but we just did,” Nantz said. “That hug with his children. If that doesn’t bring a tear to your eye, and you’re a parent… you’re not human.”
Three-time Masters champion Nick Faldo called it “the greatest scene in golf forever.”
It’s easy to remember the final result. But, after 19 months, some of the details from that final round may have faded from memory. That’s why, as we finally get ready for Woods to defend the title, we’ve had another look at the entire final round to see what we may have forgotten.
1. Weather concerns meant for the first time ever groups of three went from both tees in the very early A.M. on Sunday.
The threat of weekend storms had been touted for days in advance and on Saturday huge storms hit states to the west of Georgia. Tournament organizers took the unprecedented step of deciding to institute final-round threesomes off the first and 10th tees. The final group of Woods, Francesco Molinari and Tony Finau teed off at 9:20 a.m. Considering that was some five hours earlier than a final group would normally head out, it was a significant change.
Speculation suggested it would be a change that would not help Woods in his quest for victory. An earlier start meant colder weather and an early wake-up call so he could warm up his ailing back. And, it meant less time for his challengers to sit around and think about winning a first Masters. As it turned out, the storm held off until not long after Woods finished off his return to glory. It was a first major since 2008 and first Masters since 2005, as well as his 81st PGA TOUR win. It also was the first major win for Woods when starting behind in the final round.
2. Francesco Molinari was a few holes away from continuing an incredible 10-month run.
The Italian took a two-shot lead into the final round. He’d won his first major just a few months earlier at The Open Championship and was just a few weeks removed from a win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard that had vaulted him to seventh in the world ranking.
Early on, Molinari appeared pretty stoic even with a few wayward swings. While the patrons were willing on Woods, they couldn’t help but be impressed by Molinari. Until the par-4 seventh on Sunday, he’d made just one bogey for the week.
Molinari had been on a hot streak since winning the European Tour’s BMW PGA Championship in May 2018. He also won his first PGA TOUR title, at the Quicken Loans National, before hoisting the Claret Jug at Carnoustie.
He was T6 in the following major, the PGA Championship, then became the first European player to go 5-0 in a Ryder Cup.
“Molinari fended off Tiger at Carnoustie in Scotland. But this is America. The support for Tiger is monumental, the noise will be monumental. I'll be interested to see if he can be oblivious to all of that and just play his own game.” Faldo said as the final group prepared to start Sunday.
Impressive par-saving putts on Nos. 1, 5, 6 and 9 helped Molinari preserve a lead into the back nine. Woods had halved the deficit at the turn, but as the Italian walked off the 11th green he was once again ahead by two. Surely someone was going to have to do something special to catch him.
Turns out, the man who had played with machine-like precision and little emotion would prove human after all. His title push was sunk by water balls and double bogeys on the par-3 12th and the par-5 15th holes. The first wasn’t the killer – he still shared the lead with four to play and had just missed a great chance to take back the outright lead on the 14th. The second double was fatal though. From the left intermediate rough, Molinari tried to chip his way on to the 15th green only to see his ball clip a tree branch and fall into the water. From there, he became a close spectator to Woods’ glory. And as a sidenote, he hasn’t been the same since. His T5 finish remains the last top-10 he’s had anywhere in the world.
3. The iconic par-3 12th saw four water balls from the last five players.Francesco Molinari takes a drop after finding the water on the 12th hole during the 2019 Masters. (David Cannon/Getty Images)
Molinari wasn’t the only contender to find Raes Creek on the infamous 12th. While the expected big storms hadn’t arrived, there was a small squall right at this critical juncture. Winds whipped up to around 20 mph, making a swirling mess of uncertainty on Amen Corner.
“Amen Corner, where we have no earthly idea what’s going to happen,” were the prophetic words of announcer Frank Nobilo just moments before. Little did he know how right he was. Not since Jordan Spieth’s meltdown in 2016 at the same hole had we seen something this dramatic.
In the group ahead, Brooks Koepka took a swipe with his 9-iron, only to see it drift right, find the bank and roll back into the water. He was just two back before the swing. Ian Poulter then stepped up and followed his playing partner. His 8-iron didn’t have the legs to stay dry. Both made double bogey.
Molinari was aware of the carnage yet somehow made the same mistake.
“That was just so weak. Just that ball didn't even look like it was flying,” Faldo would say of the Italian’s shot.
“That door is flown open now, not just for Woods. … For everybody,” Nobilo added.
Woods played it safely into the middle of the green while Finau followed by incredibly also finding the water. Four water balls. Four double bogeys. Yet only Poulter would be without the chance to contend over the last six holes. It was the first time Woods found himself part of the lead when he converted a two-putt par.
4. There were 10 players who either had a piece of the lead or were within one of the lead at some point on Sunday.
The drama on the 12th helped open up the chance of victory to a raft of hopefuls. Prior to it, Molinari had led outright throughout Sunday.
Jon Rahm birdied the par-3 16th to pull within one of the lead at 10 under, but he failed to get any deeper.
Bubba Watson, chasing a third Masters title, went birdie-birdie-eagle on 13-15 to also hit 10 under and be one back. But bogeys on 17 and 18 sent him packing.
Rickie Fowler birdied the 13th, 14th and 15th holes and lipped out another close chance on the 16th. When he birdied the 17th he was just one back at 11 under, knowing he likely needed at least one more birdie to have a chance. Instead, he dropped a shot on the last.
Jason Day, who was a 36-hole co-leader, but was the only contender to shoot over par in the third round, tried to fight back. He missed a short birdie chance on the 16th but birdied the last to take the clubhouse lead at 11 under, one off the lead at the time.
Patrick Cantlay made the cut on the number at two over. He shot 64 on Saturday and then went lights out on Sunday again. As the carnage happened back on 12, Cantlay eagled the 15th hole and catapulted to the lead at 12 under. As he walked to the par-3 16th, he saw his position on the leaderboard. It seemingly spooked the former amateur standout. Much like Day had done in 2013 when leading on the same tee, Cantlay nervously bogeyed the 16th and 17th to drop back out of the running.
Dustin Johnson rarely goes unnoticed but he had on this Sunday. After four holes, he was six back so it wasn’t until he birdied the 16th hole that he was featured on the coverage. That moved him within one. Birdie on the 17th saw him join the lead at 12 under. Facing a mid-range birdie putt up the hill on 18, Johnson left it short. He didn’t know at the time but had he made the putt he would have posted 13 under, the same final score for Woods.
Xander Schauffele had birdies on 13 and 14 to reach 12 under and the lead. He stayed there when he was unable to birdie 15 or 16. By the time he made par on 17 he’d dropped from the top to two back as Woods surged. On 18, he drove it into a bunker from which he produced a fat approach shot and ultimately a T2 finish.
Brooks Koepka, who had won two of the previous three majors, was within one on the front nine after a birdie on the eighth hole but seemed to end his chances with his water-ball double on the 12th. Instead, he bounced back immediately with an eagle on 13 to be one back, and his birdie on 15 saw him join the lead. While Woods fired his shots and earned roars behind him, Koepka pressed ahead. He had a 12-foot birdie look on 17 that stayed high and after a huge drive down 18 he hit his approach to 6 feet. Incredibly, having been beyond clutch in major moments to that point, Koepka pulled the putt left and had to settle for par and T2.
Woods first got within one of the lead with a birdie on the third hole but followed that with two bogeys. He pulled within one again at the seventh before finally getting a piece of the lead at the 12th. Birdie on 13 kept him up top but another on 15 gave him the top spot alone. His next swing turned out to be the clincher though. Which brings us to our final point…
5. The par-3 16th produced more excitement and another iconic Tiger moment.Fans cheer as Tiger Woods makes birdie on the 16th green during the 2019 Masters. (Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Not a Masters goes by without multiple replays of Woods chipping in for birdie on the 16th in 2005 as he fought towards victory over Chris DiMarco. It’s a sensational highlight but we almost had one better.
Using his decades of experience Woods struck a sublime 8-iron to the peak of the slope just right and beyond the traditional Sunday pin. The ball reached the crest, turned and started its move back down the slope with eyes for the cup. With a huge gallery willing it on, the ball threatened to dive in for an ace before dribbling past the edge and stopping at kick-in distance. The subsequent birdie set up a two-shot lead that would only halve when he played the 18th conservatively to secure a famous win.
It was clear Woods sensed the moment, having just wrestled the lead for himself on the 15th. He knew he could go a long way towards securing the title with one more good swing and he executed it with near perfection, much to the delight of Olympic legend Michael Phelps who stood out in the background behind the tee box.
“The Tiger has hunted them down and now he’s going for the kill,” Faldo said.
While Woods missed out on his hole-in-one, Bryson DeChambeau and Justin Thomas proved it was possible as both had earlier sent roars through the pines with aces.
When DeChambeau’s ball disappeared, some of the pain of falling out of contention after taking the first-round lead drifted away as it was his first career ace. In the excitement he spun around and bear hugged a bemused Takumi Kanaya, the up-and-coming Japanese star who was an amateur in the field.
“Swelling with pride,” Verne Lundquist said as DeChambeau retrieved the ball. Now as he returns, DeChambeau is swollen in muscle.
Thomas watched Rahm come within a couple of ball turns of an ace in his group before showing the Spaniard that the best way is not to come in from the front as Rahm had done, but to bring the ball back off the slope above the hole. His 8-iron never looked like missing once it started its roll.
Both aces brought loud roars, but the Tiger near ace, and the birdie conversion, were deafening. The type reserved for the greatest champions. The type of thing we should never forget.