CARNOUSTIE, Scotland — Tiger Woods flinched when it mattered most Sunday, the nerves of a 42-year-old on display for all to see.

Just when he took the lead and everyone’s imagination began to swirl about what might be, he kicked away his best chance of breaking a decade-long drought in major championships.

Even a long hug from his two children afterward wasn’t enough to ease the sting.

“A little ticked off at myself, for sure,” Woods said. “I had a chance starting that back nine to do something and I didn’t do it.”

Woods had the tournament in his hands after hitting a brilliant fairway bunker shot to make par on No. 10. He walked to the next tee with a one-shot lead.

Then his tee shot went right and his second shot veered way left. Woods got a break by hitting someone in the gallery, but then left his pitch hanging precariously on the side of a pot bunker.

When he missed an 8-footer to make double bogey he was out of the lead. Another bogey on the next hole and he was basically out of the tournament.

It used to be that Woods was steely and superhuman, and no one dared get in his way. Now he’s more of a nostalgia act teasing fans with sparks of his past greatness.

“He wouldn’t tell you, but he’s human,” Jordan Spieth said. “That kind of pressure that he would have felt leading the Open on a Sunday is no different than anybody else, especially having not experienced it for so long.”

EDDIE PEPPERELL shot the low round on the final day and held the clubhouse lead until a fellow Englishman, Justin Rose, swiped it.

Not one to look back, Pepperell said he didn’t waste time wondering what might have been.

“I was a little hung over. I won’t lie. I had too much to drink last night,” he said after shooting 67 and finishing in a three-way tie for sixth. “I was so frustrated yesterday (after shooting 71) that today was really, I wouldn’t say a write-off, but I didn’t feel I was in the golf tournament.

“Whether I shot 69 or 73 today, it wouldn’t have been heartbreaking. But as it happens, I shot 67. So you know,” he added, “It’s a funny game.”

PADRAIG HARRINGTON’S 2007 victory at Carnoustie marked the last time the British Open champion made double-bogey in the final round and recovered in time to hoist the claret jug.

Doubles waylaid a handful of contenders Sunday, including Kevin Kisner and Xander Schauffele, who shared the lead with Jordan Spieth at 9 under to start the day.

Schauffele got back on track with a birdie at No. 14 to pull into a tie with eventual winner Francesco Molinari on the 16th tee, but fell away by making bogey on the next hole. Kisner and Kevin Chappell both had makeable birdie putts to catch Molinari on the 16th, but both missed and wound up tied for second and sixth place.

EDOARDO MOLINARI, who plays on the European Tour, hardly knew what to say after the tournament.

“I can’t find the words right now, but one picture would do it…” he tweeted in both English and Italian, attaching a picture of his little brother, Francesco, pumping his fist after winning the British Open.

“You’re extraordinary … The example for all of us,” countryman Matteo Mannassero tweeted, adding the Italian flag icon. “Thank you.”

For all that, Francesco Molinari wasn’t sure he’d top the newspapers and broadcasts back home.

“It depends,” he laughed, noting that the Formula One race at Hockenheim, Germany, would be bigger news if the Ferrari racing team finished on top. “If they won, they’ll probably get the headlines.”


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