Published April 08, 2007
Johnson pulled away from Woods and the rest of the pack with three birdies in a crucial four-hole stretch along the back nine of Augusta National, closing with a 69 for a two-shot victory and only the second of his career.
Johnson, 31, is the least accomplished Masters champion since Larry Mize chipped in to beat Greg Norman in a playoff 20 years ago, but this was no fluke. Even as some of the thrills returned in the final round, Johnson kept his calm.
And there wasn't anything Woods could do about it.
"This is very surreal — very, very surreal," said Johnson, who was on the Nationwide Tour four years ago and has not won in the big leagues since 2004 at the BellSouth Classic. "I didn't think it would be this year, but I had no idea."
Woods looked like a lock when he took the lead after a short birdie on the second hole, only this major didn't work out like so many others. Johnson and three other players came after him, and this time Woods was the one who backed off with sloppy mistakes — a broken club, shots that either found the water or the bunker and too many putts that stayed out of the cup.
It was the third time Woods lost a lead during the final round of a major, and the first time he ever failed to get it back.
Johnson finished at 1-over 289, matching a Masters record last set in 1956 for highest winning score. And it ended a streak of the winner coming out of the final group at Augusta National every year since 1991.
The week featured bone-dry conditions, more bogeys than birdies, frost coating the manicured lawn in the morning and one last peculiar sight — Woods walking up to the 18th green with no one left behind him on the course and no trophy waiting for him at the end.
He closed with a 72 and tied for second with Retief Goosen and Rory Sabbatini, who each shot 69 on a day when the course finally allowed something that resembled those fabled charges on the back nine.
Johnson did it the old-fashioned way.
So much for that theory that the Masters is only for the big boys. Johnson didn't try to reach any of the par 5s in two all week, yet he played them better than anyone with 11 birdies and no bogeys.
"I knew if I stayed in the present, I'd do well," he said. "I kept rolling that ball, and it was my day, I guess. Pretty lucky."
Defending champion Phil Mickelson presented him the green jacket. It was six years ago when Johnson first showed up at Augusta National with a ticket and followed Lefty around as he tried to stop Woods from a fourth consecutive major.
Now, Johnson can come back to play in the Masters as long as he wants as one of the most unlikely champions.
Woods walked away bitter again, not so much at his play on Sunday but for the way he finished in previous rounds. A bogey-bogey finish on Saturday that ultimately cost him the lead, and a bogey-bogey finish on Thursday that set the tone for his week.
Even so, he didn't help himself in the final round.
Two shots behind making the turn, Woods found a bunker on the 10th and failed to save par. His tee shot stopped next to a Georgia pine on the next hole, and Woods' 4-iron collided with the tree immediately after he hit the ball, bending the shaft almost in two.
He still made one spirited charge with a second shot into the par-5 13th that paused on the top shelf and slowly trickled to the bottom of the green, 3 feet (0.91 meters) from the cup for an eagle.
Johnson, who laid up short of the 15th green, was walking to his third shot when he saw Woods' eagle posted on the large leaderboard behind the green, knowing that the four-time Masters champion was only two shots behind.
He made par from just off the green, then holed a 12-foot (3.66-meter) birdie putt on the 16th to complete his run of birdies and put Woods in position of needing a charge of his own.