TIGER WOODS plays out of a bunker on the 10th hole during the final round for the 147th British Open Golf championships at Carnoustie, Scotland, on Sunday. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

TIGER WOODS plays out of a bunker on the 10th hole during the final round for the 147th British Open Golf championships at Carnoustie, Scotland, on Sunday. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland

All around him on a windy summer day on the links of Carnoustie, the leaders were imploding as Tiger Woods moved into the lead at the turn. It felt like old times at the British Open, as familiar as his Sunday red shirt and the swarm of fans that cheered his every shot.

Then Woods imploded, too, and there’s something that’s become increasingly familiar about that.

If this was the Woods of 15 years ago, he likely would be “the champion golfer of the year,” as they say over here, and have his name on the claret jug a fourth time. The fans felt this could be the culmination of the comeback. Twitter told laterising Americans to get to their screens, and fans at church services checked the scores from Scotland incredulously.

But what felt like old times for a brief moment ended up as just another collapse story, like the ones Woods’ fans have seen more recently.

Francesco Molinari, Woods’ partner on Sunday, won the tournament with no bogeys over the final 37 holes. Woods finished tied for sixth.

Woods flinched when it mattered most, 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.

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.

Woods is in a race against time — and that’s a race no one ever seems to win.

“It didn’t feel any different,” he insisted. “It didn’t feel any different to be next to the lead and knowing what I need to do. I’ve done it so many different ways.”

Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at [email protected]ap.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg

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