Woods, 42, settled for a final-round 71 and finished three strokes behind Italy’s Francesco Molinari – with whom he played the final round – ending up in a tie for sixth. In so doing, the 35-year-old from Turin has become the first Italian to win a major championship.
A two-time European Ryder Cup player, he has been in fine form this season with a first PGA Tour win – and by eight shots – and victory in the European Tour’s flagship BMW PGA event at Wentworth.
The cut has drawn a lot of attention, with fellow golfer Kevin Kisner even asked for his thoughts on it during a press conference.
Australian Open champion Cameron Davis closed with an impressive 1-under 70 to finish in the top 40 on his major championship debut.
For Tiger, major victories were once inevitable. Given what happened last few years, I didn’t know if that would ever happen again, but here I am with a chance coming Sunday in a major championship. But after finding a fairway bunker, he made a tremendous pitching wedge shot to save par and remain just ahead of Francesco Molinari and Jordan Spieth at -7 for the tournament.
In his prime, Woods could never be called the most endearing champion. Molinari has been a professional golfer since 2005 and a victor since 2006, but here at the age of 35, he’s playing some of the best golf of his career. They only watched golf because of Tiger. For them, he is the sport. Only one more major can complete the Tiger Woods saga.
But golf rounds turn sour, fast. Like 11, he chose to go aggressive, attempting a high-risk flop shot over a bunker instead of playing safely past the pin and taking double bogey out of play.
Early on, though, that old familiar Tiger charge – missing for several years due to personal problems and back issues – seemed to be on the cards as the packed gallery appeared to energise him. Could golf’s three biggest names – Woods, Spieth, McIlroy – all wind up in a playoff? Nothing bothered Molinari. When Tiger ran to the top of the leaderboard he never blinked.
As the two 24-year-olds and all others made their occasional messes, as at No. 6, Molinari made none.
However, in a reflection of his final nine holes, the birdie putt did not drop while Molinari’s did and it was the Italian who pumped his fist and Woods who patted his back in congratulations. Then Molinari, all day a quiet killer, knocked his approach even closer – effectively knocking Woods out of the tournament. I know that it’s going to sting a little bit here, but given where I was” – untold injuries, 12 missed majors this decade, back surgery 15 months ago – “to where I’m at now?
The 66 was his first round in the 60s on the weekend of an Open in 11 years, when he shot a Saturday 69 at Carnoustie.
Donning his traditional blood-red shirt Sunday, Woods needed only six holes to erase his five-shot deficit. His game’s been clicking all year. “I knew I was coming in with some good golf but my record around here was bad”.