CARNOUSTIE,. Tiger Woods may have had to watch playing partner Francesco Molinari lift The Claret Jug after winning the British Open but all his rivals will have taken note of the American’s return to form.
The 42-year-old American legend — beset by personal problems and back issues for most of the last decade after once dominating the sport — threatened a shock victory at Carnoustie when, halfway through his final round, he led while most of his rivals were shedding shots.
However, it proved to be a false dawn as three dropped shots in two holes saw him fall behind and in the end the 14-time major winner was being consoled by his two children.
Despite his disappointment, Woods — without a win in five years and with his last victory in a major a decade ago — says he felt he can still be a force at the highest level.
“Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah,” said Woods, who finished the tournament finished tied for sixth, three shots behind playing partner Molinari.
“It did. It did. It didn’t feel any different to be next to the lead and knowing what I need to do.”
Woods had placed himself with a great chance after a fabulous 66 on Saturday, but still rued a missed opportunity.
“I’ve done it so many different ways. It didn’t feel any different,” said Woods.
“It felt great to be a part of the mix and build my way into the championship.”
Woods said he had enjoyed himself on the course with his round only slightly blighted by one spectator yelling out as he addressed his drive at the 18th.
“Oh, it was a blast,” said Woods, who was also delighted to have had his children see him perform well after years of watching him struggle.
“I was saying earlier that I need to try and keep it in perspective because, the beginning of the year, if they’d have said you’re playing The Open Championship, I would have said I’d be very lucky to do that.”
‘He’s right there’
For four-time major winner Rory McIlroy, who finished tied for second, two shots off Molinari, it is a different Woods to the years of his pomp.
“It is not Tiger that, you know, Phil (Mickelson) and Ernie (Els) and those guys had to deal with,” said McIlroy.
“It’s a different version. But he’s right there. He’s right there.
“He’s getting himself in the mix. He’s looked good here.
“He’s played a full schedule. He’s healthy. I wouldn’t say we’re worried about him, but he’s one of those guys that’s always in with a shot.”
But McIlroy believes the American doesn’t yet have that same aura of invincibility he once boasted.
“That’s what I thought,” said McIlroy. “With the Tiger we have to face, he’s — you know, he does things that maybe he didn’t do 10, 15 years ago.
“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 — of the drama, I guess, for quite a while (of the final round).”
McIlroy said Woods is in a similar situation to his in terms of trying to win more majors.
“Even though he’s won 14, you have to learn how to get back,” said McIlroy whose last major was in 2014.
“I’m relearning. I feel like I’ve won quite a few more recently than he has, but you still have to relearn to deal with it.
“Today was a good day for both of us with that, I guess.”