Tiger is back - the story of Woods' week at Carnoustie
The 147th Open heralded the true return of Tiger Woods as 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.
All-time great that he is – the fact he didn’t walk away with a fourth Claret Jug, despite topping the leaderboard at one stage on Sunday afternoon, will sting.
But the positives in finishing tied sixth, three strokes behind his playing partner and eventual winner Francesco Molinari, are there for all to see. Tiger is back!
He’ll head into the final major of the season at next month's PGA Championship full of confidence, with his injury woes firmly behind him and will already be eyeing next year’s Open at Royal Portrush.
But before that, we’ve analysed the story of Woods’ week at Carnoustie.
Back nine woes
Three even-par rounds and a sparkling 66 on Saturday saw Woods end The Open at five-under par, a score bettered by only five men.
He certainly came close to taming Carnoustie but it was on the back nine where the cracks began to show, making at least one bogey in every single round.
Contrastingly, the 42-year-old played bogey-free golf on the front nine every day apart from Friday – when he dropped shots on the 2nd, 3rd and 9th – and nine birdies across the week saw him cumulatively card a healthy six-under-par on the way out.
However, on the back nine Woods was one-over – his seven birdies being negated by six bogeys and one all-important double bogey at the 11th on Sunday, ironically a hole he had birdied every other day.
He led The Open by one stroke before that par-four 11th but the six he took, followed by a bogey on the next, ultimately scuppered his chances.
If Tiger had found a way to finish off his rounds the way he started them, he would have left the Angus links as a four-time Champion Golfer.
Fairways hit and birdies made
“Stay out of the rough and the bunkers” was the advice floating around about how to succeed at Carnoustie this week and Woods took that to heart.
He hit 40 fairways – 67 per cent of those available – across the week, which ranked him fifth in the field.
And that number was even higher before Sunday, when he could only land the ball on the short stuff 40 per cent of the time, bringing his average down significantly.
You also have to take the shots Carnoustie gives you and Woods certainly did that, making 16 birdies in 72 holes – ranking him fourth and only one birdie behind Champion Golfer Molinari.
Six of those birdies came on his super Saturday and that’s what his charge up the leaderboard was predicated on. Unfortunately, he couldn’t quite finish the job on Sunday afternoon.
With Tiger’s extensive injury history – four back surgeries, four Achilles tendon injuries, a double stress fracture in his tibia, knee surgery, not to mention neck, shoulder and elbow woes – any potential flare-up is immediately jumped upon by the media.
So when he played his first round on Thursday with tape on the back of his neck, the inevitable question was asked.
“It was just helping me support my neck a little bit,” he explained. “Makes me feel a little bit more comfortable.
“My neck been bugging me for a while. Everyone acts like this is the first time I've been bandaged up but I've been doing this for years. Braces and bandages, just that this time it's actually visible.
“It affected my swing a little bit here and there, but it's alright. As I got warmed up on the range, I felt pretty good.”
But as is the way, what makes a story on Thursday can be forgotten by Sunday and by the week’s end, any bandaging became a non-issue as Tiger came oh so close to a 15th major title.
Carnoustie is renowned as one of the biggest challenges in world golf but the three times Tiger has roared into Angus for The Open, he’s left with a more than respectable finish.
His first visit in 1999 saw him end up tied seventh in truly treacherous conditions, while eight years later it was a tie for 12th at The 2007 Open won by Padraig Harrington.
Woods loves links golf and understands the course, all of which helped him better that this week but the quest for a first Claret Jug at Carnoustie continues.
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