Molinari, 35, certainly earned his Claret Jug, playing nearly flawless golf on a gusty day off the eastern Scottish coast. He had got away with his poor play earlier in the week, making par or holing a putt for birdie.
The 42-year-old's hopes of a remarkable comeback after a turbulent spell in his life - during which he has encountered off-course problems with the break-up of his marriage and a run-in with the law - were alive and well on the back nine. His second shot came into the green with no spin and kicked hard, racing well past the desired 14 hole and finishing closer to the 4 hole on the double-green complex, about 50 yards from the flag. Woods stuck his approach from there to about 6 feet.
In fact, there are dropped shots everywhere in the final round at Carnoustie, where the wind is playing havoc.
In the end, that wouldn't have mattered for the championship, as his playing partner Francesco Molinari made birdie to move to -8.
A consolation is moving to 50th in the world for the first time since January of 2015 and qualifying for the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in two weeks.
Jordan Spieth, tied for the lead in his bid to go back-to-back in the British Open, failed to make a single birdie and shot 76, his highest score Sunday in a major.
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.
Adam Scott and Jason Day will wonder what might have been after Australia's British Open title drought extended to 25 years with another unsuccessful tilt at Carnoustie.
Woods briefly held the championship lead but could not sustain his advantage
And the last two winners came from well back, Paul Lawrie starting the final round 10 shots behind in 1999 and Padraig Harrington being six off the lead in 2007, with both men eventually winning in a play-off.
Not one to look back, Pepperell said he didn't waste time wondering what might have been.
"It was the day to be aggressive", Molinari told reporters after winding up with a six-under three-round tally of 207 at Carnoustie. It felt like old times at the British Open, as familiar as his Sunday red shirt and the swarm of fans that cheered his every shot.
He regained some form in 2018, most crucially gaining regular play time without any injury concerns, and now at Carnoustie, Tiger Woods is the betting favourite to win his 15th Major.
Jordan Spieth was tied for the lead at Carnoustie as he tries to become the first repeat victor in 10 years at the British Open.
Woods trails Jordan Spieth, Xander Schauffele and Kisner by four shots. But Woods was behind a bunker, tried to cut it too close with a flop shot and missed the green.
At this time a year ago, Woods was only a few months removed from a Hail Mary fusion surgery; from a humiliating DUI arrest in which he was found slumped behind the wheel of his auto, with five drugs in his system; from a month-long stay in a rehab clinic to manage his sleep medications.
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