British Open 2018: Tiger Woods thrills with lead but fades late Sunday at Carnoustie
It felt for a while as if Big Cat was going to notch his 15th major championship victory
For much of the day at the 2018 Open Championship, it felt like Tiger Woods was going to grab his first win in five years. At this tournament, in this field of all places, Woods flirted with and even briefly held the lead after going out with a bogey-free 34, but two holes unwound his work on the back nine, and he faded to an even-par 71 on Sunday.
Woods took 279 strokes to play this event and finished at 5 under overall. That's good for his first top 10 at a major since the 2013 Open, but it wasn't enough for what would have been the most improbable major win of his career.
After a flawless front nine -- Woods played that side in 2 under while the rest of the final few pairings played it in 17 over -- two shots got him into trouble early on the backside. That's how it goes at Carnoustie. You can hit three dozen of the greatest irons and drivers of your life, but one block or pull-hook can spell disaster. The margins at the very top are so thin.
For Woods, it was a pushed drive at the par-4 11th that led to a horrendous approach, which ultimately led to double bogey. At the time, Woods was leading at 7 under; the deflation following the hole was palpable. His troubles continued at the par-4 12th hole when a mediocre iron off the tee led to two more poor shots and a bogey. Woods went from 7 under and leading to 4 under and not leading in a hurry. Though he had some holes left to play, anyone watching knew it was over. The damage had already been done.
"I made a few mistakes there. I drove in the rough with two 3 irorns there at 11 and 12. The grass grabbed the shaft on both of them," Woods told NBC after his round. "I made a couple mistakes on 11 around the green. I figured today was, starting off the day, that nine was probably going to be the number. ... I figured I'd have to go get that number. Didn't do it."
Woods played the rest of his round in 1 under, finishing three back of playing partner and eventual champion Francesco Molinari.
"The way Francesco played today was beautiful," Woods told NBC. "He hit a couple off shots here and there, but his short game was on point. He hit some beautiful pitches up there, too."
For Woods, the back nine was certainly not what he hoped it would be. In a previous life, back-nine leads at majors always ended with Tiger hoisting some sort of trophy.
This is not the same Woods, nor is he playing against the same field. A couple of leaky swings led to a frustrating finish for Big Cat, but he has to be pleased with the body of work overall this week. Everything seemed to (finally) come together for one week, at an Open Championship of all places.
"It's not easy. It takes every facet of the game working. On top of that, you got to get a couple good bounces," Woods told NBC. "This links golf is something else, you know? You better get some quirky bounces and hope they go your way for the week.
We had a lot of questions for Woods that were answered this week with his performance, and now the future -- for someone headed into his mid 40s -- looks a lot brighter than it did at the start of the year.
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