Spieth's title defense at British Open ends without a bang

Francesco Molinari British Open winner golf majors

Francesco Molinari British Open winner golf majors

The defending Open champion is tied for the lead.

On a dramatic final day on which the lead changed hands many times, a birdie at the final hole gave Molinari an 8-under-par total of 276, making him the first Italian ever to win a major.

He recovered from a bogey at the first hole with five birdies and no more dropped shots after that as he again flourishes at the one major held outside his home country.

The 35-year-old finished two shots ahead of Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Kevin Kisner and Xander Schauffele.

Woods underwent spinal fusion surgery in April previous year and was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence the following month when he was found asleep at the wheel of his auto.

Austin Cook (Jonesboro, Arkansas Razorbacks) is tied for 13th after a 67, leaving him five shots behind the leaders.

Rose, whose best finish at The Open remains his tied fourth as an amateur in 1998, said he had had nothing to lose when he set out early on Saturday nine shots off overnight leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, both from the United States.

Throwing caution aside after starting the day six strokes behind, Woods wielded his driver aggressively and was rewarded with six birdies in the first 14 holes. "It's one of my better rounds I've played".

"Jeez, under those conditions, I would have taken that score today going out", said the Northern Irishman. Spieth said. "I've played it out at Augusta in my head".

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I'm not saying that the Spurs staff isn't up to par, it's just that not everybody is a specialist in every area. I wanted to continue to play regardless and I felt that pressure that we needed to win.

"I can certainly draw on the all major championship experiences, good and bad that I've had".

Asked if Spieth felt he and his rivals would now be dealing with Woods's name hovering on leaderboards for a number of years to come, the three-times major victor replied: "I think so, yeah". He sent it bouncing and rolling along the firm turf, down a hill and onto the green to about 10 feet away for an eagle.

Coming to the 18th he was just two off the lead and luck seemed to favour him as his drive hit the bank of the Barry Burn, but instead of dropping into the water like Frenchman Jean Van de Velde on the final day in the 1999 Open, Woods' ball somehow bounced back into the rough. "The only good thing isn't there's not many players between me and the lead".

After 37 groups had finished their tournaments and returned to the clubhouse, just three were left out on the course.

"But it just came out like a high flop shot to the right", Kisner said.

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.

A long putt in the 14th (second and last par 5 of the day) took him to -7 and he saved par at 15, 16 and 17.

He shot a second straight even-par round of 71, but at least he will be here for the weekend, in contrast to world number one Dustin Johnson, who is six over par and misses the cut.

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