That all changed at Carnoustie, though, with Woods briefly holding the outright lead Sunday before Francesco Molinari came through to take victory. Over the past two months, Molinari has won three times and been runner-up twice, and his first major win moves him to a career-best No. 6 in the world.
When Woods proclaimed that he had a shot to win The Open Championship after being within striking distance of the lead, it was a little bit tougher to buy in. That scenario used to signify that the tournament was over - drive carefully and arrive home safely.
The wind picked up considerably on Sunday for the first time all week.
Jordan Spieth started with the lead. Molinari has been a professional golfer since 2005 and a victor since 2006, but here at the age of 35, he's playing some of the best golf of his career.
With defending champion Jordan Spieth, Woods, English duo Rose and Tommy Fleetwood and McIlroy in the Sunday mix, the Molinari sub-plot was nearly overlooked as the leading groups went out. The 35-year-old then had to wait to see whether anyone could catch him.
"Playing with Tiger makes it even more special". I played so well today I don't feel like I should have shot four under'. "I've played with him before in Ryder Cups and in big occasions, so I knew what was coming and I was ready for it". And yet the stoic, monotone Molinari never blinked. "But there can only be one victor". The American topped the leaderboard until his hopes nosedived following a double-bogey at the 11th and another dropped stroke at the next hole.
With Rose and McIlroy in the clubhouse on six-under, Schauffele fought back from a 40-stroke outward nine to get to seven-under but Molinari was unflappable. "He chipped it beautifully". His ball settled just on the front edge of the green.
A miss-hit flop shot at the 11th ended cost him a double-bogey that stopped him in his tracks and although he birdied the 14th to stay in the hunt he fell just short, finishing in a tie for sixth on five-under.
This final round at Carnoustie lacked that kind of sudden drama because Molinari was so utterly clinical.
Woods stirred this remote Scottish town on a balmy afternoon, his name going to the top of the competitors in the 147th Open when he two-putted the 14th green for a birdie.
Molinari became the first player to win a major when playing on Sunday with Woods since Y.E. Yang at the 2009 PGA Championship. "Just like the ones I've practiced in my backyard, " he said. "I'm lost for words really".