Chris Carlson, AP Photo

Tiger Woods roars to historic victory on rain-soaked final day at the Masters; Finau 5th

By Sean Walker, KSL.com | Updated - Apr 14th, 2019 @ 2:46pm | Posted - Apr 14th, 2019 @ 12:37pm


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AUGUSTA, Ga. — Tony Finau's first introduction to golf was watching Tiger Woods’ coronation as Masters champion in 1997.

With one round to go, Finau got a first-hand look at what the one-time best golfer in the world could do, up close and personal.

"It's an unbelievable thing for me, and something I've dreamed of for a long time," Finau said Saturday before Sunday’s early morning tee time.

He also got to see another Masters win from Tiger Woods.

Woods' 2-under-par 70 led to a four-day total of 13-under 275 to reclaim a green jacket, one shot over Dustin Johnson, Xander Schauffele and Brooks Koepka.

It’s Woods' fifth green jacket of his career, just one behind the legendary Jack Nicklaus.

Finau, who was tied with Woods in second to start the day, played in the final threesome with then-leader Francesco Molinari as storms loomed over Augusta National Golf Club, forcing earlier-than-expected tee times with groups departing on both the first and 10th tees.

But in the end, the Masters came down to four-time champion Woods and a late charge by Johnson, Schauffele, Koepka and even Paul Cantlay.

Finau, who struggled on the back nine but rebounded to shoot even-par 72 on the final day, finished tied for fifth with a four-day total of 277.

Tiger Woods reacts as he wins the Masters golf tournament Sunday, April 14, 2019, in Augusta, Ga. (Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez, AP)

Finau's name finished alongside Molinari, Jason Day and Webb Simpson, three names in themselves in the world of golf.

But none of them matched the name — or the title — of Eldrick.

Woods cruised up the leaderboard with three birdies on the back nine at Augusta, winning his first major title since the 2008 U.S. Open. Almost 22 years to the day since he rewrote the record book en route to a 12-stroke win in 1997, the 43-year-old was back in the winner’s circle — albeit this time by a much more reasonable one shot.

In Saturday’s moving day advance, Finau was at his best. He went 5-under on the par-5s to pace his furious charge to the top of the leaderboard that finished with an 8-under 64.

Finau won’t return to his Lehi home empty-handed after his second-straight Masters. He’ll bring back a crystal vase given to the low-round scorer every day, a feat he won for that 64 performance Saturday night.

"I'm going to put it in my trophy case," Finau said Saturday evening. "I was quite happy to be able to tap in eagle this week, and know that I’ve at least got one crystal this week."

But he struggled to find that same momentum in the final round when a double bogey on the par-5, 530-yard 12th hole pushed him to the back of the pack.

Molinari also made double bogey on No. 12 — and that is where everything changed, Woods admitted.

"It all flipped at 12," Woods told CBS' Jim Nantz when he got to the clubhouse. "We were a couple behind, Francesco made a mistake, and all these different scenarios started flying around.

"It was an amazing buzz to try to figure out what was going on — while still staying present and focused on what I was doing out there. I kind of liked it."

Tying him again to the Golden Bear, Woods became the oldest Masters champion since Nicklaus won in 1986. His 15 major titles are just three behind the all-time record set by Nicklaus, who retired in 2005.

Woods surged when others faltered, taking the lead midway through the back nine when Molinari double-bogeyed on the par-3 No. 12 and par-5 No. 15. And even as the rest of the leaderboard threatened, Tiger Woods never gave up his lead.

Tony Finau hits from the third tee during the final round for the Masters golf tournament Sunday, April 14, 2019, in Augusta, Ga. (Photo: David J. Phillip, AP)

With his children standing just beyond the ropes at No. 18 — the same place his late father stood when he won back in 1997 — Woods dropped the final putt for bogey with a two-shot lead and immediately hugged Finau as he roared with excitement.

For years, the question has been asked: is Tiger back?

For at least one day, on the same grounds where his legendary career began, Tiger was back.

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