July 22, 2018

Woods Finishes Exciting Final Round At The Open Tied For 6th

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Now they know.

Moments after completing the 147th Open Championship on Sunday evening, Tiger Woods held a long embrace with his daughter, Sam (11) and son, Charlie (9). Woods didn’t capture his fourth Claret Jug, but in their eyes, it didn’t matter.

They were too young to fully appreciate his dominance and greatness earlier in his career. When Woods won his last major, the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, Sam was 1 and Charlie hadn’t been born.

“To me, it’s just so special to have them aware, because I’ve won a lot of golf tournaments in my career, but they don’t remember any of them,” said Woods, 42. The only thing they’ve seen is my struggles and the pain I was going through.”

They followed him at Carnoustie Golf Links, finally witnessing why many consider him the best to ever play. After four back surgeries — the most recent 459 days ago, Woods turned back the clock and performed like he was 25, taking the outright lead after 11 holes.

Last September, Woods wasn’t sure if he could play competitive golf again.

“I need to keep it in perspective,” he said, after closing with an even-par 71 and tying for sixth at 5-under 279, three strokes behind Franceso Molinari (69) of Italy. “At the beginning of the year, if they’d said you’re playing The Open Championship, I would have said I’d be very lucky to do that.”

Woods did more than play. He contended until the end, racking up his fourth top 10 showing in 12 PGA Tour starts this season.

“I had a great opportunity,” Woods said of winning. “Just need to play some cleaner golf, and who knows?”

Starting the windy final round four shots off the pace, he toured the front nine in 2-under 34, drawing the attention of golf fans and non-fans around the world.

Woods has always transcended the game and was intent on producing one of the greatest comeback stories in sports. Playing his first Open since 2015, when he missed the cut at St. Andrews, and only his ninth major in four years, Woods made gritty up-and-down par saves from greenside bunkers at the eighth and ninth holes and found himself tied for the lead.

“It didn’t feel any different,” said Woods. “It didn’t feel any different to be next to the lead and knowing what I needed to do. I’ve done it so many different ways. It felt great to be part of the mix and work my way into the championship.”

At the par-4 10th, he tugged his drive into a fairway bunker. The practical play was to gouge a sand wedge back into the fairway.

Not for Woods. Staring at the lip, he muscled a towering pitching wedge straight at the flag from 150 yards, recoiling violently. The ball carried to the front of the putting surface, sending the massive and awestruck gallery into a frenzy.

His kids got a live version of Tiger Mania, something they had only read about or seen in videos or on TV.

Woods displayed heart, talent, mental toughness and competitiveness, springboards to his 79 PGA Tour victories and 14 major titles, both second all-time. Wearing his traditional red shirt and black pants, and sporting a goatee, he was poised and patient, letting others implode.

Woods just missed his birdie attempt at 10, but when he arrived at the 11th tee, he owned sole possession of first at 7-under. That last happened on Sunday at the 2011 Masters.

Two holes derailed him.

Woods missed the 11th and 12th fairways with 3-irons, resulting in his first double-bogey of the tournament and a bogey.

“I made a few mistakes,” he said. “The grass grabbed the shaft (on his second shots) on both of them.”

It was it uphill from there. Playing in the third to last group with Molinari, Woods needed to make a run on what many consider golf’s most demanding finishing holes.

Woods toured the last six holes in 1-under, drilling a 25-foot must-have birdie putt at the par-5 14th. But it wasn’t enough to catch his steady playing partner, who secured a two-shot win with a short birdie at the final hole to become the first Italian to hoist the Claret Jug.

“The way Francesco played today was beautiful,” said Woods. “His short game was on point.”

Woods fought gamely until to the end, making a clutch par save at 17 and gave himself a short birdie opportunity at 18 but couldn’t convert.

“I’m a little ticked at myself for sure,” Woods said. “I had a chance starting the back nine to do something, and I didn’t do it.”

He kept his driver in play at 18 despite a heckler yelling in his back swing, Woods finishing with one hand on the club.

“Unfortunately, that’s part of what we have to deal with in today’s game,” he said. “People are trying to yell out things to be on TV or be in social media or whatever it might be.”

That said, Woods had nothing but praise for the fans.

“Their support all week was amazing,” Woods said. “They made my return to links golf something I will never forget.”

It was his best showing at a major since tying for 17th at the 2015 Masters. The last time he posted par or better in every round of a major was at the 2006 Masters, which he won.

Woods will likely hear from pal Serena Williams. He watched her compete for her 24th Grand Slam title last week from her box at Wimbledon. This, not long after a difficult childbirth.

“She’ll probably talk to me about it because you’ve got to put things in perspective,” said Woods. “I know that’s it’s going to sting a little bit here, but given where I was to where I am now, I’m blessed.”

Woods had no regrets about his strategy. He topped the field in driving accuracy the first three rounds and his putting was solid, Woods using a week-low 28 Sunday.

“I did everything the way I thought I needed to do it to win the championship,” Woods said. “This entire week, I felt I needed to keep building. I knew it was going to be 10, 12 guys with a chance to win it on Sunday.”

As it turned out, seven players held or shared the lead, six on the back nine.

Woods climbed to No. 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking. The last time he reached that mark was Jan. 25, 2015.

Woods also qualified for the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club in two weeks, where he has won eight times. Still to come are the PGA Championship and FedExCup Playoffs.

As well as Woods played, as much as he wanted to win, he will never forget seeing his kids behind the 18th green.

“I told them I tried, and I said, ‘Hopefully you’re proud of your Pops for trying as hard as I did.’ It’s pretty emotional because they gave me some pretty significant hugs there and squeezed. I know that they know how much this championship means to me, and how much it feels good to be back playing again.”