Rory McIlroy's Open flaw comes back to haunt him as Molinari wins the jug 2 years ago

Rory McIlroy's Open flaw comes back to haunt him as Molinari wins the jug

The world was gripped by Tiger's quest for 15.

In the end, it was a nerveless 35-year-old from Turin, Italy that got the job done.

Francesco Molinari was 14 when Tiger Woods won his first Major.

On Sunday, at Carnoustie, the Italian teed off with the American shortly after 2pm and out-performed him to claim The Open championship.

The final round enthralled golf fans and drew in millions of others as the likes of Spieth, Woods and McIlroy swapped and shared the lead. Coming down the stretch, though, Molinari shone while others faltered. He carded 13 pars in a row but birdies on 14 and 18 saw him finish on -8 to claim the famous Claret Jug.

Woods, Spieth, McIlroy and a handful of other contenders were left to rue their missed chances as Molinari grasped his.

The wait goes on

Between 1997 and 2008, Eldrick Tiger Woods won 14 Majors and looked bloody unstoppable.

And then... life got in the way.

Woods was well on course to surpass Jack Nicklaus 18 Majors when, in 2008, he hounded poor Rocco Mediate to win the US Open on a sudden death playoff. A mixture of a serious knee injury, personal strife and debilitating back issues combined to halt his charge.

Woods ended up needing four operations on his back, including fusion surgery, and missed months upon months of action. His longest spell on the sidelines was 15 months, between summer 2015 and autumn 2016. As he prepared to return at the Hero Challenge, he said:

"I'm playing again after 15 months of not competing. It was that period of a month of two I just couldn't get out of bed. I needed help. It was a tough time."

He came back before that back flared up again and operation number four was booked in. He dropped to world number 1,199 and looked on as a generation of players that grew up idolising him won the Majors that he still craved.

As recently as September 2017, Woods told reporters:

"I don't know what my future holds for me."

Behind the scenes, though, the 40-year-old was at work on his game and finding his body freeing up by the day. 2018 was back on the table and so were the Majors.

There were signs of progress at The Masters and even in the difficult settings of the US Open but Woods thrilled us all at Carnoustie. He went from five shots back to co-leader and the standalone leader (at -7) but three dropped shots in two holes on the closing nine spoiled the party.

The Californian finished back on -5 but gave us glimpses of his best and hope that Major No.15 could be out there yet.

Rory's close but not close enough

While others made early charges, McIlroy was dropping back. He fell to five shots behind after an early bogey but started to get his game together around the turn.

Out of nowhere - well, from 55 feet away - the Holywood native sank a massive eagle putt to go into a share of the lead. We briefly, excitably believed.

McIlroy's Carnoustie nemesis was that closing stretch of four holes. In four rounds - 16 holes - he managed one birdie, three bogeys and 12 pars. He could not get the better of it on Thursday, Friday and cursed it on Saturday.

On Sunday afternoon, needing a shot to set a clubhouse target, he was cursing it again.

Joint second for the 29-year-old. He will wish Molinari, his old Ryder Cup partner, well but he'll know this one could have been his.