An emotional Tiger Woods ended more than a five-year victory drought in winning the season-ending Tour Championshipby two shots in Atlanta.
Woods’ traditional last round red shirt looked the brightest it’s been with a first victory anywhere in 1,876 days after posting a closing day 71 for an 11-under par tally on the East Lake course.
World No 1 Justin Rose holed a three-inch birdie on his final hole to move back to a share of fourth place and assure himself the FedEx Cup title and a $10million prize windfall.
But it was a day that belonged to Woods who, after four back surgeries, produced the sporting comeback of the year and the Millennium.
Woods’ 80th PGA Tour triumph and also the 107th win of his career is a first success anywhere since August 2013 in capturing a record eighth WGC – Bridgestone Invitational victory.
There had been amazing scenes as Woods walked the near 100-yard distance from the East Lake clubhouse, and virtually through a winding mobile phone guard-of-honour, before finding his way to the first tee.
But then those scenes were nothing to compare to the thousands of fans who strode down the 72nd hole behind a triumphant Woods.
“To win it’s certainly up there with obviously all the major championships I’ve won, Players, World Golf Championships but then this is under different circumstances,” said Woods.
“I’ve explained throughout the year that I just didn’t know whether — when this would ever happen again. If I could somehow piece together a golf swing this year, I felt like I could do it. My hands are good enough, and I just didn’t know if I could piece together a golf swing.
“But somehow I’ve been able to do that, and here we are.”
Woods teed-up in his 346th PGA start with the inevitable record of having won 23 of 23 events when leading by three shots of less.
Woods moved four shots clear of playing partner, Rory McIlroy, and Rose in holing a 10-footer at the first to move to 13-under par and then was five shots clear of McIlroy when the Northern Irishman three-putted after first finding the left rough and then a greenside bunker at the fourth hole.
McIlroy was soon playing a supporting role after also bogeying the fifth hole and then after Rose, in the group ahead, also bogeyed five Woods was now a remarkable five shots clear.
Woods headed to the turn still five shots clear of Rose in second but with McIlroy continuing to save some of his worst for the last event of the year after having to take a penalty drop following a wild drive right off the seventh tee ahead of a second three-putt in his round.
In contrast, Woods looked content to take par and while he did bogey 10, he bounced back with a birdie on 13 only to give back the shot in just managing to carry the water at the par-3 15th and then chipping and two-putting for a second bogey.
Woods sent another shiver into a massive following when he also bogeyed 16 but steadied with a par at the 71st before his triumphant march down the 72nd hole.
And it was clearly a very emotional victory for Woods.
“I was having a hard time not crying on the last hole,” he said.
“There have been a few wins here and there, but nothing to compare to crowds at that win at Hoylake in that regard, losing dad and then — the circumstances are very different, okay.
“I’m not going to compare the two. But I was pretty emotional when Rory was tapping out, he was finishing out.
“I looked around, and it was — the tournament was over because I’d already put the bunker shot on the green, and I’d won 80. 80 is a big number. I’ve been sitting on 79 for about five years now, and to get 80 is a pretty damn good feeling.”
Waiting for Woods when he finished was many of his fellow USA Ryder Cup players and with the full 12-man team along Captain, Jim Furyk and his six vice-captains as well as the dozen caddies leaving Atlanta Sunday night local time on a special charter flight bound direct for Paris.
“Yeah we’re flying tonight with the guys, it’s going to be fun,” said Woods. “I think we’re going to — I think we’re all going to sleep well (smiling).”