Carnoustie – Tiger Woods at one moment looked like completing an astonishing fairytale comeback when he led The 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.
Early on, though, 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.
This took him to within one shot of the lead.
Woods found the sand on the par three eighth but got it to puttable range and parred it and again on the ninth he found sand but repeated the escape act with a par and found himself alone in the lead.
Again on the 10th he found sand with his tee shot, grimacing at the realisation but once more he produced a stunning shot from the bunker to get the ball to the edge of the green before parring again.
However, his run of luck came to an abrupt end at the next – 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 his playing partner – and eventual champion – Francesco Molinari also birdied to take him two shots ahead of the American.
Holes were running out and the par-three 16th which had withstood all the preceding golfers during the round also refused to yield to him.
Woods parred the 17th but still stood two shots off Molinari as they went to the final hole.
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.