(CNN)It was never meant to happen. And yet, it did. It was the major victory many had long since accepted would never happen again — 3,955 days after his last major triumph.
Since Tiger Woods won the 2008 US Open at Torrey Pines, 31 different players have claimed golf’s big four. And as he holed the putt that brought to an unlikely end a drought that few had foreseen and even fewer foresaw being broken, the 15-time major winner crept one step closer to Jack Nicklaus’ unrivaled 18 titles. Fourteen years after his last Masters win, it represented the longest ever gap between victories at Augusta. At 43, Woods became the oldest champion since Nicklaus himself.It has been a most curious battle for golf’s ultimate statistical supremacy; when Woods won his 14th major as a 32-year-old — all of which had been collected within a 11-year golden streak — there seemed little doubt that Woods would not just surpass Nicklaus — The Golden Bear — but fly past his personal record in such a way that there would be no possible debate around the sport’s greatest player. As it is, though, Nicklaus remains the man in possession. Nobody has claimed more major wins and, until Francesco Molinari located the treacherous water on Augusta’s famed Golden Bell 12th hole, it seemed that his tally would remain unchallenged.READ: It feels like a lifetime since Tiger was last on top. Here’s how the world has changed since thenRead MoreBut now, who knows? Golf’s young stars have long stated of their desire for a battle with the ‘old Tiger,’ the man who dominated his sport with a stranglehold like few have ever held until personal problems and career-threatening back injuries took their toll. The winner of the Silver Medal, the award for the tournament’s top amateur, went to Viktor Hovland. The Norwegian was not even born when Woods first won at Augusta. Woods’ eyes will now surely turn to the PGA Championship — brought forward this year to May — at Bethpage and to June’s US Open at Pebble Beach. Woods has won at both courses.The bookmakers certainly think there’s a chance; Woods has been positioned as favorite for the year’s three remaining majors. Photos: Tiger Woods: From highs to lowsTiger Woods clinched his fifth Masters and 15th major title with victory at Augusta. Hide Caption 1 of 28 Photos: Tiger Woods: From highs to lowsThe 43-year-old former world No.1 had not won the Masters since 2005 and last won a major in 2008.Hide Caption 2 of 28 Photos: Tiger Woods: From highs to lowsWoods won the season-ending Tour Championship in Septewmber 2018 for his first title in five years following a succession of back injuries. Hide Caption 3 of 28 Photos: Tiger Woods: From highs to lowsSigns that Woods was back to his best were obvious at August’s PGA Championship, where he finished runner-up to Brooks Koepka. It followed an impressive showing at July’s British Open, where he briefly topped the leaderboard.Hide Caption 4 of 28 Photos: Tiger Woods: From highs to lowsWoods made an impressive return to competitive golf in 2018 after multiple back surgeries in recent years. He played his first Masters in three years in April 2018. Hide Caption 5 of 28 Photos: Tiger Woods: From highs to lowsThe four-time champion had back fusion surgery — his fourth procedure — in April 2017 and returned to the game pain-free in December. He finished tied 32nd at Augusta.Hide Caption 6 of 28 Photos: Tiger Woods: From highs to lowsWoods was touted as one of the favorites after impressing in his early-season events. He also set tongues wagging by playing a practice round with old rival Phil Mickelson (right). Hide Caption 7 of 28 Photos: Tiger Woods: From highs to lowsWoods finished tied second at the Valspar Championship in March and followed it up with a tie for fifth at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. The hype needle moved into overdrive.Hide Caption 8 of 28 Photos: Tiger Woods: From highs to lowsWoods set out on his legendary path by becoming the youngest winner of the Masters — at 21 — with a record 12-shot win in 1997. Hide Caption 9 of 28 Photos: Tiger Woods: From highs to lowsOne of his most remarkable feats was winning his first US Open by an unprecedented 15 shots at Pebble Beach, California, in 2000, sparking a streak never seen before or since.Hide Caption 10 of 28 Photos: Tiger Woods: From highs to lowsWoods’ victory in the 2001 Masters meant he held all four of golf’s major titles at the same time, dubbed the “Tiger Slam.” Hide Caption 11 of 28 Photos: Tiger Woods: From highs to lowsWoods’ win rate, his dedication to fitness training and his desire to succeed were changing golf. Prize money rocketed because of Woods. Off the course, he married girlfriend Elin Nordegren in 2004. Hide Caption 12 of 28 Photos: Tiger Woods: From highs to lowsWoods showed rare emotion when he broke down in tears on the shoulder of caddie Steve Williams following his win in the 2006 British Open at Hoylake, months after his father and mentor Earl passed away. Hide Caption 13 of 28 Photos: Tiger Woods: From highs to lowsDespite being visibly hampered and in pain from a knee injury, Woods won the US Open in breathtaking fashion at Torrey Pines, California, in 2008. It was his 14th major title to leave him only four behind the record of Jack Nicklaus. He was later diagnosed with knee ligament damage and two fractures of his left tibia. He missed the rest of the season after surgery. It is still his last major title. Hide Caption 14 of 28 Photos: Tiger Woods: From highs to lowsIn December 2009, Woods crashed his car into a fire hydrant outside his home. As the big picture emerged it was discovered Woods had been conducting a series of extra martial affairs. He took three months away from the game to sort out his private life. Hide Caption 15 of 28 Photos: Tiger Woods: From highs to lowsIn February 2010 Woods addressed the world’s media to explain and apologise for his actions. His infidelity led to divorce and was the beginning of a downhill slide in Woods’ playing career. By October he lost the world No. 1 ranking, a position he had held for 281 consecutive weeksHide Caption 16 of 28 Photos: Tiger Woods: From highs to lowsBack in the fold, Woods earned his first win in two years at the Chevron World Challenge in December 2011, a charity tournament he hosts that does not count on the PGA Tour money list.Hide Caption 17 of 28 Photos: Tiger Woods: From highs to lowsWoods was back in the winner’s circle in 2013, lifting five titles, including the Arnold Palmer Invitational, to get back to the top of the rankings.Hide Caption 18 of 28 Photos: Tiger Woods: From highs to lowsIn March 2013, Woods and Lindsey Vonn announced they were dating on Facebook. In January that year, the champion skier had finalized her divorce from Thomas Vonn, after initializing proceedings in 2011. In May 2015, Woods and Vonn announced their breakup, with the golfer claiming he “hadn’t slept” in the days following. Hide Caption 19 of 28 Photos: Tiger Woods: From highs to lowsLater in 2013 there were signs all was not well as Woods was seen to be in pain as he picked the ball out of the hole at the Barclays tournament in August. He missed the Masters the following April for the first time since 1994 to undergo back surgery.Hide Caption 20 of 28 Photos: Tiger Woods: From highs to lowsWoods pulled out of the Farmers Insurance Open in February 2015, and struggled with injury and form for the rest of the season. Hide Caption 21 of 28 Photos: Tiger Woods: From highs to lowsWoods cut a dejected figure at that year’s US Open as he struggled with his game and carded rounds of 80 and 76 to miss the cut.Hide Caption 22 of 28 Photos: Tiger Woods: From highs to lowsIn August 2015 Woods made his last appearance for 15 months to undergo follow-up back surgeries. At one stage during his rehabilitation, Woods spoke of there being “no light at the end of the tunnel” — and with one eye on his fading career, he suggested “everything beyond this will be gravy.”Hide Caption 23 of 28 Photos: Tiger Woods: From highs to lowsWoods made a much-anticipated return to golf in December 2016, showing signs of promise with the highest number of birdies in the field — 24 — but he also made a number of costly errors to finish third from last in the 18-man event.Hide Caption 24 of 28 Photos: Tiger Woods: From highs to lowsHe missed the cut in his first event of 2017 in the US and pulled out after the first round of the Dubai Desert Classic in February, citing back spasms. He underwent a fourth back prodecure in April. Hide Caption 25 of 28 Photos: Tiger Woods: From highs to lowsThe golf legend was arrested Monday, May 29, on suspicion of driving under the influence. He was booked into a local jail in Florida and released a few hours later. He said in a statement he had “an unexpected reaction to prescribed medications.” Hide Caption 26 of 28 Photos: Tiger Woods: From highs to lowsIn August Woods entered a first-offender program and pleaded guilty to reckless driving on October 28. He will avoid jail unless he commits major violations of his probation. Hide Caption 27 of 28 Photos: Tiger Woods: From highs to lowsWoods returned to golf after 301 days at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas on November 30 2017. He carded a three-under first-round 69 and appeared pain-free and hungry to resume his career. Hide Caption 28 of 28If it feels like a far-fetched thought, then so did a fifth green jacket. Indeed, after the 2017 Masters, Woods — arguably the greatest player of all time — was the world’s 780th-ranked golfer.It was a staggering statistic at a difficult time for one of sport’s most significant icons. Even talk of this victory as one of sport’s finest ever comebacks feels somewhat out of place, given Woods’ place as, perhaps, golf’s ultimate player. But, in November 2017, Woods was ranked 1,199 in the golfing world — a low amid a period of lows. It was assumed, with some justification, that his powers had not just waned, but fallen away for good.His win at the 2018 Tour Championship was his first in any PGA Tour event since 2013. Rather than a sign of how far he had fallen, that win would prove a springboard. Woods entered the Masters as the world No.12 — the highest-ranked green jacket-holder in the entire draw. Visit CNN.com/Sport for more news, features and videoREAD: Tiger Woods on Masters victory: ‘It’s going to take a bit of time to sink in’READ: Tiger Woods set to build public golf course in ChicagoNone of those above him had tasted success at one of golf’s most feted venues. A week later, the same is still true; Woods has risen to No.6 in the world — the first time he has entered the top 10 since 2014.A story that defies logic both emotionally and statistically: Tiger Woods, the 2019 Masters champion.