Rory: Tiger not as feared but still a major threat

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Missing is the intimidation factor until he wins again, and then wins some more.

"It felt great to be a part of the mix and build my way into the championship".

"For a while, I thought Tiger was going to win". He came on strong in the final round, holding the lead at one point. He was too busy catching up. It was a familiar scene that reminded observers of his unlikely bogey at Royal Birkdale's 13 hole a year ago.

When he was at his peak, no one could touch Woods.

"It wasn't the birdie, it was actually when he was walking from the 13th green to the 14th tee", McIlroy said.

The "where I was" referred to the years of debilitating back pain that was finally solved by a spinal fusion last April, allowing him to resume his career after four years of severely-curtailed appearances. "It's incredible to do something like this and I'm very proud of what I've done". The only way a shot would do that is if it hit something hard with velocity - something like bone or a cell phone.

Kisner blinked first, playing his first three holes in 3 over par; followed by Spieth whose poor 3-wood bounded into a gorse bush at the sixth hole and led to an unplayable lie. Spieth wanted to avoid looking at leaderboards, and he slipped on No. 8. "I figured no-one's going to run away, I can pick up some strokes and I did that to get back in the lead".

Rocca can't remember the first time he met the Molinari brothers but recalls an exhibition match from long ago.

The dream, though, ended for Woods on his return after a two-year hiatus to a major he has won three times when he double-bogeyed the 11th and then dropped another shot on the following hole. Spieth was starting his sophomore year at Texas. He said Finau played the course mainly with a 3-iron, and Justin Thomas hit only seven drivers over 72 holes during the French Open. The respect is there.

But at this stage in his career, Woods has peers inside the ropes.

Thomas Bjørn, the European captain who was at Carnoustie as a TV analyst, took great encouragement not only from Molinari's bogey-free weekend for the Italian's astonishing third tournament win in six, with two runners-up places for good measure, but also the mood it helped create. This is the same player who, after a particularly soggy British Open round at Royal St. George's in 2011, said he was "not a fan of golf tournaments that the outcome is predicted so much by the weather".

"It will be interesting to see going forward", McIlroy said. It might not happen at next month's PGA Championship, and it might not happen next year at two of his cherished arenas, the Masters at Augusta National, and the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, but ESPN thinks it will eventually happen.

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