Tiger Woods at one moment looked like completing an astonishing fairytale comeback when he led the British Open in the final round on Sunday but ultimately came up short, posting a level par 71 to finish five-under for the tournament.
However, the 42-year-old 14-time major winner had his rivals rattled when he grabbed the lead thanks to two birdies on the front nine while they were dropping shots.
The dream, though, ended for Woods on his return after a two-year hiatus to a major he has won three times when he double-bogeyed the 11th and then dropped another shot on the following hole.
Woods, who was watched by his children and got adoring hugs as he left the final green, admitted he was “a little ticked off with himself” but said his close friend and tennis superstar Serena Williams — who lost in the Wimbledon singles final last weekend — would set him right.
“Serena will probably call me and talk to me about it because you’ve got to put things in perspective,” said Woods who eventually finished tied for sixth, three shots behind playing partner and champion Francesco Molinari.
“She just had a baby and lost the Wimbledon finals. Just keep it in perspective, and the same thing with me. I know that it’s going to sting for a little bit here, but given where I was to where I’m at now, blessed.”
Early on Sunday, that old familiar Tiger charge — missing for several years due to personal problems and back issues — seemed to be on the cards as the packed gallery appeared to energise him.
He was pumping his fist and even raised a two-fingered V for victory to the gallery at the fourth as he sank a longish birdie putt to move to three off the lead.
He secured another birdie on the par five seventh, holing an uphill putt — this time there was no fist pump just a determined look in his eyes as he strode off the green.
Woods then found himself in the lead in the middle of his round as the leaders shed shots all over the place but from that tantalising high his game began to falter visiting the sand on three successive holes from the eighth to the tenth.
– ‘Pretty significant hugs’ –
However, his run of luck came to an abrupt end at the 11th — as did his lead — finding the rough then hitting a spectator before rolling behind a bush and resulting in a double bogey with him exiting the green grim-faced.
Further trouble and another dropped shot was to follow at the next and it was with his head bowed deep in thought he strode down the par-three 13th where he managed to stem the haemorrhage with a par.
He got one back on the par five-14th but Molinari also birdied to take him two shots ahead of the American.
He vented his frustration when distracted by a shout from a spectator in the middle of his swing although the drive itself found the fairway.
He quickly set aside his anger and produced a sublime approach shot onto the green — Molinari congratulating him as the passed — taking the applause of the crowd with a wave of his cap.
However, in a reflection of his final nine holes, the birdie putt did not drop while Molinari’s did and it was the Italian who pumped his fist and Woods who patted his back in congratulations.
However, his disappointment was quickly counter-balanced by the warmth of the reception from his children.
“I told them I tried, and I said, “Hopefully you’re proud of your pops for trying as hard as I did.”,” said Woods.
“They gave me some — 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.”
Woods said it was extra special for him as all his two children had witnessed before were his fall from grace both personally — divorcing their mother Elin Nordgren because of serial infidelities — and professionally.
“The only thing they’ve seen is my struggles and the pain I was going through,” said Woods.
“Now they just want to go play soccer with me. So that’s — man, it’s just such a great feeling.”