Woods led The Open at Carnoustie on Sunday, carnage occurring all around him, his two early birdies and some deft par saves putting him in position for a 15th major championship.
For four-time major victor Rory McIlroy, who finished tied for second, two shots off Molinari, it is a different Woods to the years of his pomp. From Jordan Spieth's blown lead, to Tiger Woods's comeback, Justin Rose's climb from almost missing the cut into a tie for second, and Rory McIlroy's brilliant display on the back nine on Sunday, this 2018 Open Championship was nothing less than spectacular.
The first to congratulate him was Woods.
But a double-bogey at the par-four 11th, where he failed to pull off a delicate flop shot from beyond the green, proved the undoing of the 14-times major champion.
It capped off the best stretch of golf in his career.
While Spieth, Schauffele and Kisner endured a rollercoaster ride across the sun-blasted links, as if spooked by the presence of a resurgent Woods, Molinari cranked out 13 consecutive pars before making his move.
Then something wonderful by today's standards happened: Woods teed off and started putting together a great final round, and others started falling off. Improbably, Woods found himself someplace he hadn't for quite some time. Schauffele chopped up the next hole for double bogey.
Woods was at 7 under, in control of his game and hitting shots that only he can.
"He hit a lot of little lovely pitches too to basically kick-ins", said Woods. He sent his second shot into the gallery, with the ball rebounding out into the rough. "I had a chance starting the back nine to do something, and I didn't do it".
A Brit named Eddie Pepperell shot 67 with a hangover to end up tied with him.
Asked what his first major title meant for his career, Molinari said: "We will have to see".
Scott and Day both finished the tournament at two-under par.
Asked if Woods's brief lead gave him any appreciation, McIlroy had all but a wink when he said, "Yeah, maybe if I was at home with a broken ankle like a few years ago, it might have been cool, but when you're the one trying to beat him, no, no appreciation there".
"Hopefully, they will get as inspired as I was at the time". Another bogey on the next hole, and he was basically out of the tournament. I backed him at [20.0] after the opening round, safe in the knowledge that he'd get the better of the conditions in round two.
Woods had not played The Open since missing the cut at St. Andrews in 2015.
For McIlroy, the only regret was that he started his charge too late.
Lucas Herbert, in his first Open too, dropped three shots on the punishing last two holes for a 77 and four-over 72-hole total, leaving the 22-year-old with a creditable share of 51st spot. He did all this somehow despite playing amid a Woodsian crowd of which Molinari said, "Clearly in my group the attention wasn't really on me, let's put it that way", and on a course on which he had "got beaten up" previously.
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