Woods 'blessed' to have chance to win The Open
July 22, 2018
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
- Tiger Woods moved from 50th to 43rd in the FedExCup. (Getty Images)
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sam and Charlie Woods were waiting for their father behind Carnoustie’s 18th green. He wanted to give them a trophy. They wanted to give him a hug.
Only one got their wish.
Tiger Woods briefly was the solo leader on Sunday of The Open Championship, but he couldn’t hang on long enough to hand his children the Claret Jug.
“I told them I tried and I said, ‘Hopefully you’re proud of your pops for trying as hard as I did,’” Woods said. “It’s pretty emotional because they gave me some pretty significant hugs there and squeezed.”
He looked like the trophy-hoisting Tiger of old when he violently extricated a short-iron shot from a fairway bunker on the 10th. Then he struggled to find fairways and couldn’t keep pace with Francesco Molinari, the unflappable Italian with the tempo of a metronome.
Woods shot 71 on Sunday, including a back-nine 37, to finish in a three-way tie for sixth at 5-under 279 (71-71-66-71). He finished three shots behind Molinari and one back of the four players who tied for second: Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy, Kevin Kisner and Xander Schauffele.
Anything less than a victory used to be unacceptable to Woods, but spending so much time bedridden and unable to swing a club has a way of changing one’s perspective. After leaving Carnoustie, he anticipated a phone call from friend Serena Williams, who also had a close call after a recent return from a lengthy absence. The 23-time major winner finished runner-up last week at Wimbledon after giving birth to her first child late last year.
“I know that it’s going to sting for a little bit here but given where I was to where I’m at now, (I’m) blessed,” Woods said.
I know that it’s going to sting for a little bit here but given where I was to where I’m at now, (I’m) blessed.
A return to Akron, Ohio, is a consolation. Woods moved into the top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking, which qualified him for the final World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone. He has won the event eight times.
Woods also moved from 50th to 43rd in the FedExCup.
The most important number for Woods is ‘15’, though. There’s only so many years remaining for a 42-year-old with a surgically-repaired back. “Today was a day that I had a great opportunity,” Woods said.
He started Sunday four shots behind the trio of leaders, a deficit that offered no margin for error, but his inability to close it out still reminded us that winning majors is more difficult than he once made it seem. McIlroy said that even 14-time major winners need to re-learn how to win golf’s biggest trophies. It’s been five years since Woods’ last win and a decade since he won a major.
“The Tiger we have to face, he does things that maybe he didn’t do (before),” McIlroy said. “But it’s still great to have him back. It’s still great for golf. It will be interesting to see going forward, but this was his first taste of major championship drama for quite a while. Even though he’s won 14, you have to learn how to get back.”
Woods arrived at all three of this year’s majors with high hopes after promising finishes. There were the close calls in Florida before the Masters, but he couldn’t break par at Augusta National until Sunday. Then he flirted with contention at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide but missed the cut at Shinnecock Hills.
Woods played Sunday alongside a man who was flawless in his pursuit of the Claret Jug. A few weeks ago, Woods handed Molinari the trophy at the Quicken Loans National. Molinari won that event by eight shots as part of an incredible recent run. He has three wins and two runners-up in his past six worldwide starts. Molinari’s 69 was the only bogey-free round on the final day at Carnoustie.
But while Molinari was making nine pars on the front nine, Woods was making an early move. Carnoustie’s first few holes are supposed to offer a warm welcome before its brutal finish, but several of them played into the wind Sunday. Woods made two birdies and no bogeys over the first seven holes. The other nine players who teed off in Sunday’s final five groups were a combined 17 over par on that stretch.
Woods nearly reached the green in two on the par-5 sixth hole that still bears Ben Hogan’s name. He almost holed the eagle putt from across the green before making birdie. After Spieth doubled that same hole and Schauffele made a 6, Woods was tied for the lead.
Schauffele made a double on the next hole after getting tangled in the rough, and all of a sudden Woods was alone atop the leaderboard.
Sitting atop the leaderboard felt familiar, Woods said. He saved par from greenside bunkers on Nos. 8 and 9 to make the turn in 2-under 34. He struggled off the tee after the turn, though.
Missing the 10th fairway gave him the opportunity to execute an exciting shot that harkened back to his best days. With his ball sitting near the vertical sod face of a fairway bunker, Woods took a violent swing to lift the ball vertically, but with enough strength to advance it to the green.
“Either I hit that shot and it clears the burn, or I hit it right next to my feet,” he said. “I’ve got to try and pull it off.”
It was a stroke that made Woods look almost unbeatable, but his dreams quickly ended.
He made double-bogey on the 11th after needing four shots to reach the green. His approach from the fairway hit a fan left of the green, and his first pitch shot didn’t reach the putting surface. Another missed fairway led to bogey on the 12th hole.
He had to scramble to make birdie on the day’s easiest hole, the short par-5 14th hole, but his 20-foot birdie putt kept his chances alive. He parred the final three holes, missing a 6-foot putt on the final hole that would have given him his seventh runner-up in a major.
He said it felt like old times. For the game’s newest stars, it was their first opportunity to face in a major the man they saw in video games and highlight reels. The combined age of Schauffele and Jordan Spieth, the two players in Sunday’s final group, wasn’t much more than Woods’. Schauffele is 25. Spieth will celebrate his 25th birthday next week.
Woods, 42, was in Sunday’s third-to-last group. He thought he would have to reach 9 under par to have a chance, but the leaderboard bunched up as the leaders struggled. There was once a six-way tie for the lead. Schauffele called it “chaotic.”
The San Diego native who saw Woods’ last major win was now being chased by him in the game’s oldest championship. Schauffele was standing near Torrey Pines’ 18th green when Woods holed that 12-footer to force a playoff with Rocco Mediate.
“It was a little bit louder probably when he did that than today was,” Schauffele said.
But it was close.