Brooks Koepka seemed almost happy to miss out on winning the Masters to Tiger Woods after he claimed a share of second place.
Koepka finished on 12 under at Augusta National, one behind Woods as his boyhood hero completed his incredible comeback with his fifth Masters victory and his 15th major success in all.
“Absolutely incredible,” said Koepka, who closed with a two-under 70 after missing an eight-foot birdie putt at the 18th which would have forced a play-off after Woods bogeyed the last a few minutes later.
“You just look at the last five years and what he [Woods] has had to go through; to come back, get back playing and back to where he was, get his body back in shape. It’s one thing to do it on the range; one thing to do it when you’re practising, and then to be able to come back out here and have the Tiger of old back ‑ as a fan, I love it.
“I think it’s awesome. I’m glad he’s back. It’s probably one of the coolest things to be a part of it, even though you finished second place, you know, you’re a little bummed out.
“But I wouldn’t want it any other way. You know, you want to play against the best to ever play. You want to go toe‑to‑toe with them, and you know, I can leave saying I gave it my all.
“That was probably the coolest back nine in a major championship I’ve ever been a part of, or just in golf in general. What Tiger did down the stretch was impressive. We already knew he was back, but I think he put the exclamation point on it.”
Woods is now a step closer to Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major victories and Koepka, 28, has backed him to make further inroads in the near future.
“Eighteen is, I think, a lot closer than people think,” he said. “I would say that’s probably what all fans, what we’re thinking. That he’s definitely back and 18’s not far.”
Tony Finau, who played alongside Woods in the final group, could only manage a level-par 72 as he finished in a share of fifth place on 11 under.
“It was great,” said the 29-year-old. “Not the ending that I wanted. But to witness that, a handful of years ago I don’t know a lot of people believed that Tiger would win another major.
“From what I saw today obviously he’s not going anywhere anytime soon and congrats to him on his 15th major. You can’t say enough about Tiger and what he’s done for the game.
“For me it was fun being a part of the action and it’s a lot of fun to be in that type of atmosphere. It’s what I practise for, what I play for, what I train for.
“My time is coming, I know it is, and I’ve just got to keep riding the storm.”
Xander Schauffele, like Finau making his second Masters appearance, closed with a four-under 68 to share second place with Koepka and Dustin Johnson, but he was also in awe of Woods afterwards.
“It’s hard to really feel bad about how I played because I just witnessed history,” he said. “It was really cool coming down the stretch, all the historic holes, Amen Corner, 15, 16, Tiger making the roars.
“I was trying to push myself, but I feel like I got a very full, fully‑filled Masters experience here in my second year.
“I think this situation is very unique. I’m not one bit sad. I told my caddie on the last hole that we just proved to ourselves that we can win on this property
“With what we just witnessed with Tiger coming off 18, it was a throwback, seeing him in red in the mock turtleneck. It’s what I saw as a kid, and it was just really cool to know him a little bit now and congratulate him coming off 18.”