AUGUSTA, GA—World No. 1-ranked golfer Tiger Woods, after appearing to struggle through the weekend—playing with uncharacteristic inconsistency, bogeying twice in the final rounds, and breaking clubs—shocked the crowd at Augusta by stripping off a carefully crafted mask and revealing that he had created the character of "Zach Johnson," played both Johnson's rounds and his own, and was in fact the winner of this year's Masters.
"Did you seriously think I was going to lose this weekend?" Woods said, holding his "Johnson" mask aloft just moments after sinking "Johnson's" final putt as the gallery, surprised and relieved to have witnessed the Tiger Woods triumph they came to see, redoubled their cheers. "No way. This tournament was mine from the beginning. My only regret was that I was so busy playing 'Johnson's' game and mine simultaneously that 'Tiger's' score suffered."
"But I did it to prove something to myself. They say in golf, the only person who can beat a true champion is himself," Woods said, peeling back the latex from his arms. "And that's exactly what happened here today."
The revelation is the ultimate twist to a story that began to unfold when "Johnson," by all accounts an unknown Iowan, began to pull away from the field in the final round. As the world watched what they thought was a scrappy underdog with an uncommonly cool head supposedly playing the game of his life, "Johnson" shot a three-under 69 in his final round and held off a late challenge from an unusually, almost suspiciously, harried Woods.
"As 'Zach,' I had an entirely different swing, which was part of the challenge of the whole persona," Woods said. "I also had to putt differently in order to make it look authentic, and some shots I'd normally hit well had to go into the trees to throw people off. It tested the limits of even my considerable talent."
As tension mounted, the heavily disguised Woods found his attention completely occupied with the strain of not only playing "Johnson's" game, but maintaining the soft-spoken character of his new persona by giving self-effacing interviews laced with Christian rhetoric, conferring with the actress hired to pose as his wife Kim, and holding the rubber doll that served as his baby.
"Naturally, in the end, I found my actual game suffered, and I tied for second with [Rory] Sabbatini and [Retief] Goosen," Woods said, while throwing his costume's amazingly lifelike latex arm-sheaths to the crowd. "Put on the Johnson costume, shoot his hole, take off the Johnson costume, shoot Tiger's hole. Tough day. I doubt anyone else could have done it and scored a combined four-over. I even came in second with all the strain, and I'm Tiger Woods."
"Still… When Johnson bogeyed 17 by missing a three-foot putt, then came back to save par on the last?" Woods continued. "Classic Tiger. I can't believe people didn't realize that Zach Johnson was in fact me right then and there. Who else could it be?"
"Although I have to say, I almost had me on the last few holes—bad driver, but if I'd sunk the birdie putt on 16, I close within a shot of myself with two holes left," Woods added. "And trust me—if any man alive can make a disguised Tiger Woods wilt under pressure, it's me."
Woods' announcement sent a wave of combined amazement and relief throughout the golf world.
"On a windy, cold day like this, for Tiger to fade the way he did? Unheard of. Practically unthinkable," said ESPN analyst Andy North. "And then for a no-name long shot from Iowa to come from literally nowhere to beat him and win it all? Unbelievable. Either story would have rocked the golf world. Together, they might have shattered it if they had come true."
"Luckily for us all, they didn't," North added. "Tiger's still Tiger, even when he's Zach Johnson."
Many are calling Woods the first golfer ever to finish a major in both first and second place, though golf historians have been quick to point out the 18-hole playoff in the 1942 Masters in which Ben Hogan defeated "Byron Nelson."