Tiger Woods completed his astonishing return from severe leg injuries with more struggles in Sunday’s final round of the Masters while leader Scottie Scheffler teed off chasing his first major title.
Woods fired a second-straight six-over par 78 — his highest-ever rounds at Augusta National — to finish on 13-over 301, his highest 72-hole total at the famed course by eight strokes.
The 15-time major champion was 47th, set to be his worst Masters finish other than a missed cut as an amateur, and stood 22 strokes behind Scheffler.
But the fact Woods was able to walk the course and play at all was nothing short of incredible given the 46-year-old medical marvel was in a car crash 14 months ago and feared amputation of his right leg.
“Even a month ago, I didn’t know if I could pull this off,” Woods said. “I think it’s a positive. I’ve got some work to do. Looking forward to it.”
Thousands of cheering supporters lined the holes to watch his amazing efforts, which stole the spotlight at Augusta National ahead of an expected back-nine battle for the green jacket.
Playing 18 holes on four consecutive days for the first time since the accident, Woods struggled Sunday.
Woods birdied the par-5 second but his missed greens in regulation led to bogeys at the fourth through seventh holes and he missed an eight-foot birdie putt at the par-5 eighth.
Another missed green led to a bogey at the 11th and at the par-5 13th, Woods put his second in the azaleas before a left-handed, backwards-club pop-out shot to the green helped him save par.
Woods made a 37-foot bogey putt at 14 after missing a 27-foot par putt, found pine straw left at 17 on the way to a double bogey then closed with a par as fans gave him a standing ovation. Woods smiled and tipped his cap in appreciation.
“It was an unbelievable feeling to have the patrons’ support out there,” Woods said. “I wasn’t playing my best but to have their support out there, I don’t think words can describe it.”
Woods arrived at Augusta chasing a record-tying sixth Masters crown despite not having played a top event in 17 months and departed knowing he had the fortitude to play majors again.
After weeks hospitalized and months unable to walk, Woods rehabilitated his battered body and returned to top-flight competition on the same course where he won his first major title 25 years ago — despite his right leg being held together with metal rods, pins, plates and screws.
– Scheffler in command –
Meanwhile, world number one Scheffler put himself in position to capture the green jacket and a $2.7 million top prize from a $15 million purse with a breakthrough major triumph.
The 25-year-old American won his first US PGA title at February’s Phoenix Open, added another last month at Bay Hill and overtook Spain’s Jon Rahm for the ranking summit by capturing the WGC Match Play crown two weeks ago.
Scheffler began on nine-under 207, three strokes ahead of Australia’s Cameron Smith, last month’s Players Championship winner.
The sport’s hottest players teed off side by side in the final pairing on an iconic stage, Smith sinking a 13-foot birdie to pull within two of the lead while Scheffler went into pine straw and over the green but chipped to three feet and rescued par.
Smith was a 2020 Masters runner-up when he became the first player to fire four rounds in the 60s at Augusta National in the same year.
He could become only the second player to win the Masters and Players in the same year after Woods in 2001.
Australian Min-Woo Lee eagled the second and reeled off four straight birdies to play the front nine in a record-tying 30, but faded nine off the lead with two bogeys to start the back nine.
Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy, needing a victory to complete a career Grand Slam, birdied the first and third holes to reach 1-under and share sixth.
The greatest last-round comeback in Masters history was an eight-stroke fightback by Jack Burke in 1956.