With the possible exception of Sergio Garcia, Tiger Woods had come to Carnoustie as the hottest player in the game. He had won three of his last four starts and tied for third in the other, the U.S. Open. During that stretch he had also wrested the No. 1 ranking from David Duval, who had supplanted Woods as top dog this spring. At the end of the week, Woods was still No. 1 and still searching for what is becoming an elusive second major to go with the Masters title he won in 1997.
Same as at Pinehurst in June, Woods was in contention all week at Carnoustie. This time he ground out rounds of 74-72-74-74 to tie for seventh at 10 over par, four shots out of the playoff. It was Woods's fifth top 10 finish in the 10 majors he has played since winning the Masters.
For Woods the good news was that he, unlike many of the other big hitters, ratcheted down his game and played the kind of small ball that Carnoustie demanded. With a lone exception, he also kept a lid on his emotions during what was clearly a trying week. Adhering to a strict game plan, Woods used his driver only twice in the first three rounds and just four more times during the desperate final hours on Sunday. For the week, he hit 39 of 60 fairways—fourth best in the field—and made more pars (52) than any other player.
The flip side was that Woods made only six birdies, a pittance for someone who averages more than 17 per tournament on the Tour. Putting was again the difference. Woods, who missed a pair of critical short putts down the stretch at Pinehurst, couldn't get anything to go down on the weekend at Carnoustie and made only one birdie over the final 40 holes.
Woods, 23, chalked up the British Open as another learning experience, saying, "I'm not down, because my education improves every time I come over here," and for the most part he was a picture of calm amid the carnage at Carnoustie. His one flash of temper, though, was a beaut.
After pushing his drive into the rough on the 17th hole on Saturday, he slammed his club on the ground, causing a spectator to scold, "You're a poor sport."
"F- - -you!" Woods shot back loud enough to cause an uneasy silence in the gallery.
"Up yours!" volleyed the man behind the ropes.
"Come on out here then," Woods said. The man didn't, and the moment passed, but Woods made a double bogey on the hole, which dropped him seven shots behind the leader, Jean Van de Velde, going into the final round. "Other than the deal on 17," Woods said, "I'd grade myself an A for composure. I have a lot of growing up to do, and I've grown up a lot."