An emotional Tiger Woods struggled to comprehend how he had pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in sport with victory in the season-ending Tour Championship amid amazing scenes in Atlanta.
Chasing a first win since 2013 and the 80th PGA Tour title of his career, Woods took a three-shot lead over Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy into the last day at East Lake and carded a closing 71 to finish 11 under par, two shots ahead of fellow American Billy Horschel.
And only a birdie on the 72nd hole from Rose prevented Woods from claiming the overall FedEx Cup title as well, Rose two-putting from 25 feet on the par-five 18th to claim the £7.6million bonus in nerve-racking fashion.
It was a day that many thought might never happen again after Woods underwent spinal fusion surgery in April last year and was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence the following month when he was found asleep at the wheel of his car.
Thousands of his delirious fans spilled onto the 18th fairway to follow their idol to the green after his approach found a greenside bunker, chants of “U-S-A” and “Tiger, Tiger” breaking out before playing partner McIlroy could attempt his eagle putt.
McIlroy wisely then tapped in for his birdie in a hugely disappointing 74 to leave the stage clear for Woods, who was annoyed at missing his own birdie attempt but holed out for par before holding his arms aloft in celebration of a brilliant win just days before the Ryder Cup gets under way in Paris.
“I was having a hard time not crying on that last hole,” Woods said. “After Rory tapped in I started tearing up a little bit. I just can’t believe I’ve pulled this off. It’s been tough.
“I’ve had it not so easy the last couple of years and worked my way back and couldn’t have done it without the help of everyone around me. Some of the players I saw after on the 18th green knew what I was struggling with and it was really special to see them there.
“It’s just hard to believe I’ve won the Tour Championship.”
It was also hard to believe Rose could birdie the last to scramble into the tie for fourth which was enough to win the FedEx Cup after he had dropped three shots in the space of six holes on the back nine.
“I guess it all boiled down to the 18th and I had the swing of the week off the tee there,” Rose told Sky Sports. “I had a jumpy 7-iron lie and it caught a break, killed it in the top of the bunker and bobbled on to the green. I was waiting for a break all day and to get it on the last was great timing.
“I felt more pressure as I was throwing it away, but when I got back to
knowing what I had to do I clicked into gear in the nick of time.
“We’re all delighted for Tiger, this is crazy scenes and I’m sure I’m not the
most popular guy for making birdie on the last but, hey, he’s got enough money.”