How The 147th Open will be remembered
In its return to The Open Championship rota after an 11-year absence, Carnoustie delivered up an absolute treat of a golfing spectacle across four enthralling days.
The storylines came thick and fast on the slither of coastline between Dundee and Montrose as arguably the toughest Open course claimed its fair share of casualties.
Ultimately, Francesco Molinari sealed his status as the hottest player on the planet by hoisting the Claret Jug aloft to become the first Italian to win a major.
But while he took the headlines, there were plenty of other reasons why The 147th Open will last long in the memory – and we’ve picked out the best ones below.
Woods back in contention
There was a moment, albeit a fleeting one, when three-time Champion Golfer of the Year Tiger Woods was back at the top of a leaderboard on the final day of a major.
Starting four back from the lead, he birdied the fourth and the sixth – the latter prompting a huge roar - to make significant ground on the leaders as they floundered in the wind.
When he stood on the tenth tee in his familiar red shirt, Woods suddenly found himself leading the field and looked set to claim a historic 15th major title – a decade after his last triumph.
But a double-bogey at the 11th and a bogey on 12 derailed his challenge and despite his birdie on 14 offering a glimmer of hope, his playing partner Molinari surged to victory instead.
Nevertheless, Woods is back and while he will be disappointed not to finish the job on Sunday as he has done so many times before, it was his first top-ten finish at a major for five years.
We could well look back on Carnoustie as the birthplace of his resurgence, but even if that doesn’t prove to be the case, it was thrilling to see Woods roll back the years in Angus.
The fans’ support today, and all week, was amazing. Thanks for making my return to links golf something I’ll never forget. pic.twitter.com/Om5evUtWFS— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) July 22, 2018
Spieth's valiant defence
Earlier in the week, before Sandy Lyle got The 147th Open underway, last year’s Champion Golfer of the Year Jordan Spieth revealed how he reluctantly returned the Claret Jug.
“I thought maybe somebody would meet me in the parking lot and I’d just give them the case back and we’d move on,” he said. “But it was a ceremony, and because of that, it actually hit me harder.”
From then on, Spieth was on a mission to retain the trophy that means more to him than any other – and he looked as good as his word going into the final round.
The 24-year-old was tied for the overnight lead and favourite going into Sunday’s play after shooting a brilliant bogey-free 65 on Saturday, but his game let him down when it mattered most.
He reached the turn in three over and added two more blemishes to his card on the way home to finish with a five-over 76, which left him in a tie for ninth on the leaderboard.
Unlike his win at Royal Birkdale, there was to be no miraculous recovery for Spieth, but the Texan certainly didn’t give up the Claret Jug without a fight.
Rose recovers to best finish
Justin Rose’s hopes of making the cut – let alone along winning a maiden Open Championship – appeared dead and buried as he teed his ball up on the 18th on Friday.
The Englishman had toiled over the first two days and arrived on the formidable 499-yard par-four final hole on four over par with the cutline at plus three.
But the world number three nailed a perfect tee shot, struck his second to 15 feet and holed the clutch birdie putt to secure his passage through to the weekend by the skin of his teeth.
That electric finish only seemed to spur Rose on as he returned on Saturday to shoot his best-ever score at The Open, with his seven-under 64 propelling him up the leaderboard.
The reigning Olympic champion then recorded a two-under 69 in the final round – including an eagle at 14 and a fourth consecutive birdie at 18 – to become the new leader in the clubhouse.
His six-under total proved just short of the winning mark, but he still secured his best finish at the Championship – eclipsing the tie for fourth on his debut as an amateur in 1998.
Molinari keeps his cool
No fewer than ten players were in contention to be crowned Champion Golfer of the Year on Sunday, but only Molinari held his nerve to claim the ultimate prize in golf.
Molinari went into The Open as the most in-form player in the world, having won on both sides of the Atlantic at the BMW PGA Championship and the Quicken Loans National.
Before the Italian came to the fore at Carnoustie, though, it was hard to know in which direction to look as challenges came from several different protagonists.
Eddie Pepperell shook off a hangover to set the clubhouse lead at five under earlier on Sunday, before Rose improved it to six under having completed his remarkable turnaround.
Rory McIlroy, the winner of The 143rd Open, bounced back from a poor start to also finish on six under as he ran out of holes, while Woods briefly flirted with the lead before fading away.
The American challenge also faltered as Spieth, along with compatriots Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, all struggled in the win to leave Molinari as the last man standing.
Not only did Molinari cope admirably with the hullabaloo, he played faultless golf, making 16 pars and two birdies to claim his maiden major title. His birdie on the last was a fitting way to conclude the magnificent, engrossing drama at Carnoustie.
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On my way to some deserved 🏖, with one extra piece of hand luggage 🤭— Francesco Molinari (@F_Molinari) July 24, 2018
I have received too many tweets to thank everyone individually. I am so proud of the messages of colleagues, friends and some real legends of the game and sport in general.
Thanks to every single one of you!