CARNOUSTIE, Scotland — Tiger Woods had figured it out. He told us as much. “And next thing, lo and behold,” Woods said, a bit downhearted, “I’m tied for the lead and then I’m leading it.”
He grabbed the lead at the 147th British Open with nine holes to play, bringing out the hoots and hollers that have followed Tiger across the years and across the oceans.
“It felt like old times,” he agreed.
But these are new times and Woods is old times at 43. He double-bogeyed 11 when he whacked his tee shot into the deep stuff from which he had trouble extricating the ball, then followed that on 12 with a bogey. Three shots dropped in two holes. Elation turned to disappointment.
Woods picked up birdie on 14, but it was too late. He would shoot par 71, for 5-under 279 and tie for sixth three shots back of the winner, Francesco Molinari, with whom he was paired in the final round.
“A little ticked off at myself for sure,” Woods said. “I had a chance starting the back nine to do something, and I didn’t do it.”
Woods began the round tied for sixth, four shots behind Kevin Kisner, Jordan Spieth and Xander Schauffele. A birdie at four, a birdie at six, and, there he was all alone at the top. He loved it.
So did his fans. So did the TV networks. “Today I did everything the way I thought I needed to do to win the championship.” Except hold the advantage, and still, even though he has won majors, the last the 2008 U.S. Open, he held or shared the lead in all of them entering the last round.
The two children, Sam Alexis, 11, and Charlie, 9, he had with former wife Elin Nordegren were at the Open, maybe they are aware of what it used to be like for their father.
“I told them I tried,” Woods said. “And I said, ‘Hopefully you’re proud of your pops for trying as I hard as I did.’ They gave me some hugs. It was pretty emotional.”
Woods did say just being there, leading, battling, where he hadn’t been for the longest time was, “a blast.”
“I did try and keep it in perspective,” he said. “The beginning of the year, if they’d have said you’re playing for the Open Championship, I would be very lucky to do that.”
Was it like when he was younger and successful?
“It did, it did,” he said. “It didn’t feel any different to be next to the lead and knowing what I had to do. I’ve done it so many times.”
But not this time.