Tiger Woods says he was trying to hold back tears and play like 'every weekend hacker' on the final hole of his first tournament win in 5 years

Tim Bradbury/Getty ImagesTiger Woods of the United States celebrates making a par on the 18th green to win the TOUR Championship at East Lake Golf Club on September 23, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia.
  • Tiger Woods won the Tour Championship on Sunday, his first win in five years and the 80th of his career.
  • As Woods approached the final hole with a lead, he said he played like “every weekend hacker,” just trying his best not to mess up.
  • With a huge crowd following him from hole to hole, Woods said he had to try not to cry as he completed the win.

Tiger Woods completed one of the greatest comebacks in sports history on Sunday, winning the Tour Championship to capture his 80th PGA tournament and first win since 2013.

Woods has openly said there were points in recent years where he wondered if he could ever live pain-free again, never mind return to the golf course or win a tournament. Four back surgeries, lingering pain and injuries, plus a DUI from over-medicating, left many, including Woods, wondering whether his reign as golf’s best player was over.

But over the course of 2018, Woods showed incremental progress, gaining steam as the year went on. After a few top-10 finishes and some promising moments at the majors, Woods put it all together at the Tour Championship, taking the lead on Saturday and never relinquishing it on Sunday.

After two bogeys on Holes 15 and 16 on Sunday, Woods’ win was no sure thing. On 17, Woods hit it from the just off the green, getting a slow-roller back toward the hole. He then finished off a putt to get par and hold a two-shot lead.

On the 18th hole, Woods simply had to not mess up.

“But the tournament wasn’t over yet,” Woods said afterward about how he felt heading to the 18th hole. “I still had a two-shot lead, but anything could still happen.”

It got dicey, as his approach went into the bunker. Woods explained to reporters that from there, he just wanted to play like “every weekend hacker” – not mess up. Getting out of the bunker was key.

“When I was hitting that bunker shot, just like every weekend hacker, just whatever you do, don’t blade this thing out of bounds,” he said. “Just went for a little chunk-and-run, and I didn’t try and play the lobber all the way back to the flag. Just a little chunk and run, and the tournament was over.”

Woods managed to get the ball onto the green, but short of the pin. From there, he just needed a little tap-in to secure the victory.

“Once I got the ball onto the green, then the tournament was over.”

Of course, over those final two holes, Woods had to maintain his composure, as a massive crowd followed his every move around the course. He almost didn’t.

“I had a hard time not crying on that last hole,” Woods said afterward.

He later told reporters that he could hear the crowd behind him, but wasn’t looking. What he missed was a sight, unlike anything we see in sports.

Woods said after the tournament that the crowd was different because fan behaviour is different today.

“This was different. I guess it’s different now because the art of clapping is gone, right? You can’t clap when you’ve got a cell phone in your hand. So people yell, and they were yelling – they’re going to be hoarse.”

Woods also reflected on his journey and how he’s changed over the years, saying this win means as much as any from beforehand.

“It means a lot more to me now in the sense because I didn’t know if I’d ever be out here again playing – doing this again,” Woods said. “I don’t know, 20 years ago, hell, I thought I was going to play for another 30 years … So yeah, I appreciate it a little bit more than I did because I don’t take it for granted that I’m going to have another decade, two decades in my future of playing golf at this level.”

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