Victoria’s hefty investment in Tiger Woods has returned a healthy dividend in the form of the 2009 JBWere Australian Masters title, the AUSD270,000 (€169,000) first prize and the champion’s yellow jacket, all safely secured by the world number one at Kingston Heath today.
Woods, the joint leader after 54 holes with Australians Greg Chalmers and James Nitties, fired a final round 68 at the historic 6455-metre, par-72 layout in Melbourne’s renowned sandbelt to prevail by two shots from Chalmers (70) in outright second.
Francois Delamontagne of France elevated himself from amongst the also-rans with weekend rounds of 68 and 69 for a share of third place on 10-under with Jason Dufner (70) of the USA, while Nitties (73) rounded out the top five at minus-nine.
Clad in his customary Sunday red, Woods constructed a copybook birdie at the first to signal that Saturday’s misadventures, when he carded a frustrating and unsatisfactory 72, were well and truly behind him.
In fine, warm conditions, the 14-time major winner made his move with successive birdies at five and six.
First, he offered his huge gallery the thrills they were craving with a long iron to the pin for a gimme at the 351-metre par-four fifth for the outright lead, followed by a pitching wedge to inches at the next for a tap-in to extend it.
Woods’ most telling shot of the day was at the par-five 12th when he smashed a fairway wood from 268 metres to within four metres of the flag, setting up another birdie for a three-shot break on his rivals.
A furious Woods blamed an over-enthusiastic photographer for his wayward approach which was to cost him a shot at 13 – his one blemish for the round - and a par at the par-five 14th was an opportunity lost.
But when he holed a three-metre birdie putt at the 142-metre par-three 15th, the door was effectively slammed shut on his rivals.
The champion was kept honest by Chalmers who managed a couple of early birdies and remained thereabouts despite a dropped shot at the 173-metre par-three eighth.
What really hurt the 36-year-old, however, was his failure to convert two gilt-edged birdie opportunities when he most needed to on the back nine at 14 and 16.
Woods’ victory was warmly welcomed by Victorian premier John Brumby whose state government attracted criticism for agreeing to underwrite Woods’ AUSD3m (€1.9m) appearance fee which was double the prize pool for the event.
Adam Bland’s 67 was the best of Sunday’s rounds while two former Masters champions, Craig Spence, the 1999 winner and Aaron Baddeley (2007) both matched Woods’ 68.
Defending title-holder Rod Pampling fired a final-round 73 to finish equal-14th at minus-four overall.