Golf-Masters showdown begins as Woods’s comeback comes to thundering end

By Steve Keating

AUGUSTA, Ga. (Reuters) -Scottie Scheffler and Cameron Smith set off in what is expected to be a final round Green Jacket showdown at the Masters on Sunday, while Tiger Woods’s comeback following a car crash that threatened his career ended with a thundering ovation far away from the leaderboard.

The year’s first major was poised for a thrilling finish as the planet’s two hottest golfers in Scheffler, winner of three of his last five PGA Tour starts and Australian Smith, winner of golf’s unofficial fifth major the Players Championship in March, headed out in the final pairing.

World number one Scheffler started with a three shot advantage on Smith but it was quickly down to one when the Australian birdied the opening two holes.

As Scheffler and Smith were teeing off at the first, Woods was making his way to the 18th as he wrapped up a remarkable comeback that had captivated the sporting world.

Wearing his trademark Sunday red, Woods, usually all business on the course, was more engaged with the massive gallery that surrounded him at every turn acknowledging their support.

“It was an unbelievable feeling to have the patrons support out there,” said Woods. “I wasn’t exactly playing my best out there but just to have the support and the appreciation from all the fans I don’t think words can really describe that given where I was a little over a year ago and what my prospects were at that time.”

After two impressive rounds to make the cut, the toll from four gruelling rounds on the undulating layout became clear as Woods noticeably limped around Augusta National and often used his club like a cane.

Woods drained a tap-in birdie at the par-five second but that would be the only bright spot on another day of struggles. He carded a six over 78 for the second consecutive day, matching his worst ever score at Augusta.

But on this day the score did not matter, even to the fiery competitor Woods. The 46-year-old was already a winner for simply competing at the Masters just 14 months after doctors had considered amputating his mangled leg.

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Augusta, Editing by Ed Osmond and Pritha Sarkar)

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