Tiger Woods added a fourth green jacket to his Masters Tournament collection Sunday, but this one didn't come easy. Chris DiMarco made sure of that.
Woods had to work overtime before proving a revamped swing could carry him to his ninth major championship - his first in nearly three years.
Woods, who won his previous titles at Augusta National by 12, two and three shots, stumbled down the stretch, then birdied the first hole of sudden death to beat DiMarco.
Woods, 29, who regained his No. 1 ranking with the victory, rolled in a 15-footer on the 18th hole to win for the 43rd time on the PGA Tour and the third time this season.
"Even though I was kind of throwing up on the last couple of holes, I kind of snuck one out in the playoff," said Woods, who bogeyed the final two holes of regulation but improved his all-time playoff record to 7-1.
DiMarco, 36, a three-time winner on the tour, is 1-2 in playoffs.
Retief Goosen (67), who finished second the last time Woods won the Masters, tied for third this time with Luke Donald (69). They were seven shots behind Woods and DiMarco.
Woods had not won a major since the 2002 U.S. Open and was coming off his worst finish as a pro in the Masters (tie for 22nd) last year.
"It is special," said Woods, who is halfway to Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 professional major titles.
"There's a long way to go," Woods said.
Woods' only regret was that his father, Earl, was unable to attend the tournament because of failing health.
The victory moved Woods into a tie for second place with Arnold Palmer for most Masters victories; Nicklaus has six.
The final round was a two-man show between Woods and DiMarco, who were paired in the final group of the day, and made it 15 years in a row that the winner emerged from the final pairing. Woods, who led by three shots over DiMarco going into the final round, closed with 1-under-par 71 while DiMarco had 68. They finished at 12-under 276, the lowest winning score since Woods' 274 in 2001.
"Twelve under is usually good enough to win, but I was playing against Tiger Woods," DiMarco said.
Woods won $1,260,000, which moved him into second place on the tour money list this year with $3,686,090. Defending champion Phil Mickelson, who finished 10th (74 on Sunday) and won $189,000, is the leader with $3,732.456.
A 40-foot chip-in for birdie on No. 16 gave Woods a seemingly comfortable two-shot cushion, but his bogeys on the final two holes gave DiMarco a second chance with a playoff.
For the first time in Masters history, the playoff started on No. 18 - a change that was instituted after Mike Weir beat Len Mattiace in 2003.
Both men drove in the fairway. DiMarco hit first and watched his approach land on the front of the green and roll back to the fringe. Woods knocked his approach within 15 feet of the hole. Facing a similar chip to the one he nearly holed in regulation, DiMarco knocked his chip within a foot of the hole and tapped it in for par.
It was then Woods' turn. The man who seldom misses a putt under pressure rolled it in for the birdie and victory.
"I was trying to make birdie," DiMarco said of his chip. "I felt like we needed to make birdie to beat him. I said, 'We're going to have to make a putt for birdie to win. It's not going to be given to us with a par.'"
"This was one fun victory, but I've got to say it was a lot of work because I was playing against one heckuva competitor out there in Chris DiMarco," Woods said. "We all know this as players, but he has no backoff in him. He'll come right at you, tooth and nail. He's a fighter, what else can you say?"
One of the turning points in regulation came on No. 16, where DiMarco faced a makeable birdie putt while Woods was off the back of the green.
"If Chris makes his putt and I make bogey, I'm one down," Woods said.
The chip shot on No. 16 - Woods hit the ball into the slope of the green and let it use the break to track to the hole - "was one of my most creative shots," Woods said. "I wasn't thinking about chipping it in. Under the circumstances, it was one of the best shots I've hit."
The chip stopped on the lip for a few seconds before dropping.
"Somehow an earthquake happened and it fell in the hole," Woods said.
Woods called the victory "a validation" of his decision to rework his swing in the past year with instructor Hank Haney.
"I never had any doubt he'd win more majors," said Tom Lehman, who closed with 69 to finish tied for 13th place.
"It's the kind of thing, 'What's wrong with Tiger?' Now he's won, the talk will be of how many green jackets is he going to win," Lehman said. "He's going to win eight? Is he going to win 10? It's a very fickle thing, the perception of the media and the fans. He'd already proven to me when he won at (the Buick Invitational) this year when he was less than at his best; he's the best competitor out here."
"Everybody's talking about a resurgence, but I think he's been fine," said Nick O'Hern, who beat Woods in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship this year. "It was just a matter of time before things started clicking, and obviously they have."
Earlier in Woods' career, Nicklaus said he would win more green jackets than Nicklaus and Palmer combined (at least 11).
Asked about that comment Sunday, Woods said, "I just wonder what he was smoking. I had the length then but I didn't have the understanding of my golf swing. It was just mind-boggling for him to make a comment like that."
Woods had trouble getting started this week. He opened with 74 to fall seven shots off the lead and into uncharted territory. In his 40 previous stroke play victories on the PGA Tour, Woods had never won after opening with a round over par.
But he followed the 74 with middle rounds of 66-65, setting the tournament record for birdies in consecutive rounds with 16.
By the time the leaders got to the back nine of the final round, Woods still led by three shots over DiMarco after both men went out in 2-under-par 34.
Woods and DiMarco were in the lead roles. At the time, Trevor Immelman, Mickelson and Mike Weir were the closest pursuers, and they were seven shots behind Woods.
Things got interesting in the final group starting on No. 10. Woods hit a bad drive and made bogey, while DiMarco saved par after missing the green. That cut the lead to two shots.
DiMarco moved to within one shot when he rolled in a long birdie on No. 11, but Woods' lead went back to two shots when DiMarco made bogey on No. 12.
DiMarco moved back to within one shot with a birdie on No. 14. Both men birdied No. 15, setting up the drama on Nos. 16, 17 and 18 and the playoff hole.
DiMarco used some of his recent disappointments - a 76 in the final round here last year, a playoff loss in the PGA Championship in August, the U.S. Ryder Cup loss in September and a 41 on the Sunday morning completion of his third round - as motivation in the final round.
Before the 41, DiMarco led Woods by four shots. Then he trailed him by three entering the final round.
"The way I went out and played this morning ... I felt like it was a time for me to do something," DiMarco said. "It wasn't a time to for me to go out and shoot a 72 and do whatever. It was a time for me to go out and have a chance to win a tournament, be aggressive and do something.
"You know, I did," DiMarco said. "I went out and shot 68 around here on Sunday, which is a very good round."
Woods started to pull away from the field during Sunday morning's completion of the third round.
Starting at 8 a.m., Woods birdied the first four holes of the nine he had left to play for 65.
Woods has won all four majors in the year Nicklaus announced his retirement from them.
That's not the only Woods-Nicklaus connection. Woods' latest victory came on the 40th anniversary of Nicklaus' 271, a tournament record that stood until Woods shot 270 in 1997.
Details from sudden-death playoff on 18th hole to decide the Masters:
- Drove in left-center of fairway.
- Hit 8-iron approach over pin, about 12 feet from pin.
- Sank birdie putt of about 15 feet for fourth Masters win.
- Drove in right side of fairway.
- Approach hit green but spun back into fairway.
- Chipped to one foot from hole.