The 147th Open | 2018 Carnoustie

Tiger thrills once again as Molinari claims glory

The 147th Open heralded the true return of Tiger Woods after years of injury woes.

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Rolling back the years, the three-time Champion Golfer had Carnoustie rocking during a magical weekend that saw him record his first top-ten finish at a Major since The 2013 Open.

Woods had not competed for the Claret Jug since failing to make the cut at St Andrews in 2015, missing the 2016 and 2017 Opens due to back problems that forced him to withdraw from both.

But he was back fit and firing for The Open's return to Carnoustie - renowned as one of the toughest challenges in world golf - where Woods had previously enjoyed a good record.  

His first visit to the venue in 1999 saw him end up tied seventh in truly treacherous conditions, while eight years later it was a tie for 12th at The 136th Open won by Padraig Harrington.

And Woods certainly came close to taming Carnoustie in 2018, finishing with three even-par rounds and a stunning 66 on Saturday to post five-under - a score bettered by just five men.

Woods even had the sole lead of The Open by one stroke as he stood on the 11th tee on Sunday, only for a six followed by a bogey on the 12th to ultimately scupper his chances of victory.

Tiger Woods in a share of the lead at Carnoustie during the final round of The 147th Open

In fact, it was the back nine that proved costly for Woods all week. He opened his challenge with two early birdies on the Thursday, but three bogeys after the turn resulted in a level-par 71.

Another even-par round followed for Woods on Friday as American Kevin Kisner - the day-one leader - was joined at the top of the standings by compatriot Zach Johnson on six under.

Kisner continued to lead after 'Moving Day', with Xander Schauffele and Jordan Spieth matching him on nine under, but the big story on Saturday was the charge from Woods.

Having started the round six behind, Woods made three straight birdies around the turn and briefly tied for the lead courtesy of another birdie on 14, before finishing with a five-under 66.

Expectations were high going into the final round and, after making two birdies on the front nine, the stage appeared to be set for a dream finale as Woods stormed into the solo lead.

However, that double bogey on the 11th, followed by another dropped shot on the 12th, left him too much to do.

Although he bounced back with a birdie on the 14th to finish with another even-par 71, it was Woods' playing partner for the final round who emerged victorious, Francesco Molinari securing his first Major with a flawless bogey-free round of 69.

Becoming the first Italian to hold the Claret Jug, the Turin native wrestled the headlines away from Woods as he overcame a three-shot deficit on the final day to be crowned Champion Golfer.

Tiger Woods congratulates Francesco Molinari on winning The Open

Molinari, who did not make a bogey in his last 37 holes, began his closing round with 13 straight pars before birdies at the 14th and 18th saw him finish on eight under for the tournament.

His masterful display saw him win by two shots from a group of four players, with overnight leaders Kisner and Schauffele joined by Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose in a tie for second.

Yet as good as Molinari was on Sunday, one of the abiding memories for players and the record-breaking 172,000 fans in attendance at Carnoustie that week was Tiger's renaissance.

"It was great, just to be a part of it and hear the roars, Tiger being back in the mix," said McIlroy. "For a while, I thought Tiger was going to win. My mindset was 'go and spoil the party'. It was cool."

Even the man himself admitted that it felt like the good old days once again.

Woods said: "It didn't feel any different to be next to the lead and knowing what I need to do. I've done it so many different ways. It didn't feel any different. It felt great to be a part of the mix."

It ultimately wasn't to be Woods' year but his charge at The Open proved he was well and truly back - and he went on to win his 15th Major at The Masters the following year.