Tiger Woods is still without a win in his comeback, but he is so close to back.
The 42-year-old electrified Bellerive Country Club Sunday at the PGA Championship, making eight birdies and moving within one multiple times in the final round after beginning the day four back.
That 15th major title felt tangible and the crowds were going nuts.
But Brooks Koepka proved too much, rolling off birdies late to snatch the PGA Championship for his third major. Woods also made two bogeys on the day, but his awesome 6-under 64 put him in at 14 under. That gave him a solo runner-up, his seventh second place in a major, as he finished two shots back of Koepka’s 16-under winning total.
So close, but this is Woods’ highest finish in his comeback and best finish in a major since placing runner-up to Y.E. Yang at the 2009 PGA Championship.
Tough to swallow with the 2019 major season now eight months away. But Woods contended on the back nine Sunday in the final two majors of the season a year after not playing competitive golf.
What a comeback this has been from him in 2018.
And even without a win Sunday, he produced quite the thrill.
Woods was all over the place on the front nine Sunday, and yet he somehow charged toward the lead.
He found a fairway bunker at the par-4 first but hit his approach 7 feet beyond the flag. He lipped out the putt, but Woods came right back at the next when he hit a wedge from the first cut of rough to 4 feet and rolled in the birdie.
It was even better at the par-3 third when Woods stuffed an approach to 2 feet. He tapped in for back-to-back birdies and at 10 under overall, he was suddenly two back.
Then, he produced some unreal scrambling.
Woods could not hit a fairway at all on the front nine – in fact he hit exactly zero – but somehow kept pushing forward. Woods spun a wedge from about 65 yards some 5 feet past the cup at the par-4 fourth and coaxed in the putt for a crucial par.
He again got up and down for par after a wild drive at the par-4 fifth. A 4-iron into a back bunker at the par-3 sixth finally led to bogey, but another missed fairway at the par-4 seventh saw Woods have to make a 5-footer for par – which he did.
Somehow, he had only dropped one shot, was 9 under overall and still within two. It would get even crazier.
Woods missed the fairway wild left at the par-5 eighth, got lucky and was able to hit a fairway wood up into the front right bunker. He blasted to a foot and made birdie to move back to 10 under and remain within two.
He then pulled an iron off the tee left at the par-4 ninth, close to out of bounds. After taking relief from a cart path, Woods had to play a huge draw from matted down rough and somehow roped a shot 11 feet right of the pin.
The putt then dropped for a stunning birdie. Woods gave it a spirited fist pump and was amazingly out in 3-under 32, one back and T-2 despite not hitting a single fairway.
His drives started to become better on the back nine, and Woods continued to charge on this electric Sunday. Even as Koepka birdied to get ahead, Woods birdied Nos. 12 and 13 to move to 13 under and back within one – sending out electric roars.
A sloppy bogey ensued at the 14th, but he lasered an approach to a foot at the par-4 15th. That moved him back to 13 under and within one of the lead.
But that would be the climax.
Woods would par the 16th when he had a 20-footer for birdie to tie the lead at 14 under – a putt that if it dropped would’ve truly made Bellerive’s crowds explode.
He then flailed his driver in a hazard right at the 17th. Luckily his ball didn’t find the water, but he ended up having to make a 10-footer for par on the par 5.
Meanwhile, Koepka birdied Nos. 15 and 16 to move to 16 under. Woods was three back and basically out of it.
He did roll in a 19-footer for birdie at the last, though, for that 64 – the lowest final round in a major in his career. That gave him a sliver of a chance, but he came up short when Koepka didn’t flinch with two closing pars.
That’s disappointing for Woods, but what a performance. This was Woods’ closest call with major No. 15 in his comeback as he took this one nearly to the wire and had that stunning final-round score.
That first major win in 10 years and first PGA Tour win in five is tantalizingly close. It’s tough to see it slip through, but Woods was just outplayed Sunday and did little wrong.
And remember, he did all of this despite starting the tournament bogey-double bogey. That means he played his final 70 holes in 17 under. Unreal fight.
So, so fun to watch from the 42-year-old even if it didn’t end in the trophy.
But Woods’ comeback has been a complete success. More than ever, major wins seems to be in his future again.