Tiger Woods says his Masters triumph is “right up there” with his greatest achievements, having faced “serious doubts” he would ever contend again.
Woods, 43, won a fifth Green Jacket at Augusta National on Sunday, his first major win in 11 years and a first since having four operations on his back.
The 15-time major winner said he “could barely walk” before surgery and his children had seen golf cause “pain”.
“We’re creating new memories for them and it’s just very special,” he said.
“I was very lucky to be given another chance to do something that I love to do. I had serious doubts after what transpired a couple of years ago.
“I couldn’t lay down, I couldn’t do much of anything. I had the procedure which gave me a chance of having a normal life.
“All of a sudden I realised I could swing a club again. I felt if I could somehow piece this together I still had the hands to do it. The body is not the same but I still had good hands.
“To have the opportunity to come back like this, you know it’s probably one of the biggest wins I’ve ever had for sure. It’s got to be right up there, with all the things I’ve battled through.”
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‘A full-circle victory’
Woods one-stroke win from fellow Americans Dustin Johnson, Xander Schauffele and Brooks Koepka will take him to number six in the world – he was as low as 1,199 in November 2017.
Since his last major win, he had taken an “indefinite break” from golf in 2009 after admissions of infidelity and the breakdown of his marriage. In 2017, he was in the spotlight again when he was found asleep at the wheel of his car, later pleading guilty to reckless driving.
Those controversies, not to mention his being limited to just 24 tournament starts in four years from 2014, saw him written off by some observers and he told 18-time major winner Jack Nicklaus he “was done” at the Masters Champions Dinner in 2017.
Instead, when he tapped in to confirm victory on Sunday, he moved to within three major wins of Nicklaus’ record.
“I think the kids are starting to understand how much the game means to me,” Woods added.
“Prior to the comeback they only knew golf caused me a lot of pain. If I tried to swing a club I’d be on the ground in pain, so that’s basically all they remember.
“To come back here and play as well as I did has meant so much to me and my family – this tournament, and to have everyone here is something I’ll never forget.
“It’s overwhelming because of what has transpired. Last year I was just lucky to be playing again, the previous dinner I was really struggling, missed a couple of years of this great tournament and to now be the champion… it’s unreal for me to experience this.
“I couldn’t be more happy and excited, I’m kind of at a loss for words. To have my kids there, it’s come full circle. My dad was here in ’97 and now I’m the dad with two kids there.”
Nicklaus ‘shaking’ over record mark
Players from across the sport offered congratulations to the champion on social media, including Nicklaus, who said the win was “fantastic for the game of golf”.
Nicklaus added: “I felt for a long time he was going to win again. And, you know, the next two majors are at Bethpage, where he’s won [2002 US Open], and Pebble Beach, where he’s won [2000 US Open].
“So, you know, he’s got me shaking in my boots, guys.”
Three-time Masters winner Nick Faldo said Sunday’s win provided “the greatest scene in golf forever”, while 1993 US PGA winner Paul Azinger told BBC Sport many of the game’s elite names would now get their wish to compete against Woods.
“These other guys kept saying they wanted to be against Tiger but you better be careful what you ask for as you’ll get a real dose of Tiger now,” said Azinger.
“The worst emotion anyone can feel is shame and he had a real dose of it. From elite athlete to the butt of the late-night TV joke. He’s turned it all around.”