Brooks Koepka's Open challenge faded at Royal Portrush but the American still became just the fifth man to secure a top-five finish at every major in a single season.

After finishing tied for second at the Masters, winning the US PGA Championship and claiming second outright at the U.S. Open, Koepka had to settle for a share of fourth on six under par in Northern Ireland, nine shots adrift of runaway winner Shane Lowry.

A closing 74 spoiled his weekend, after rounds of 68, 69 and 67 put the 29-year-old in the hunt for the Claret Jug.

Before Koepka's feat, Jordan Spieth was the last man to achieve the full house of top-five finishes when he won the Masters and U.S. Open in 2015 as well as enjoying strong runs at the Open and US PGA.

Rickie Fowler, still yet to win a major, was a model of consistency in 2014, with two second places, a third and a fifth.

Tiger Woods had three major wins in his 2000 season, plus a fifth place at the Masters, and in 2005 he triumphed at the Masters and Open Championship, while coming second at the U.S. Open and tying for fourth at the US PGA.

Jack Nicklaus won the US PGA in 1971 and 1973, and in both seasons also bagged top-five finishes at the other majors.

Despite joining such an elite club, Koepka was not impressed with his efforts at Portrush.

"I don't see much positive out of it," he said after his final round. "If you don't play good you're not going to win. So it's very simple. It's disappointing, yes. I didn't play the way I wanted to. And I've got to live with that."

Jordan Spieth says the conditions he played in growing up are why he enjoys playing links golf so much as he left himself well in contention after his second round at the Open Championship.

The 2017 champion went around Royal Portrush in 67 on Friday and is five under for the tournament, which was four back of the leading score.

Spieth also tied fourth in 2015 and was co-leading heading into the final round at Carnoustie a year ago before falling away and finishing in a tie for ninth. 

"It's pretty much the style of golf," Spieth replied when asked about his performances in The Open. 

"I always get pumped up for major championships, clearly I try to peak for majors and then this style of golf I've always found to fit my game pretty well.

"I just grew up in the wind, having to play a lot of different shots and using imagination around the greens on the course I grew up at. 

"So, it's different but it feeds well into this style of golf and then we don't see it very often. I wish we were able to see it more. I love links golf."

Spieth's American compatriot Brooks Koepka – who has gone 2-1-2 in the majors in 2019 – also made it back to the clubhouse at five under.

The four-time major winner feels he would be higher on the leaderboard had he been hotter with the putter over the opening two days.

"I didn't make a putt all week. I just need to figure that out. If I can make some putts I could very easily be 10 under and really maybe more," he said.

"I haven't made anything. On the front nine I didn't hit it as good as I'd like. I didn't pitch it as good. It's tough to really score if you're going to do that.

"It's frustrating. You've just got to stay patient and just wait your turn, just like I did on 12 and 13 [where he made back-to-back birdies]. I haven't really hit anything too close yet, either.

"I feel like some of my good shots have just been a little too far away from the hole. So, if I can just clean it up just the slightest little bit I could be off and running."

Tommy Fleetwood posted the clubhouse target in round two of the Open Championship, as Brooks Koepka, Cameron Smith and Jordan Spieth also applied the pressure to overnight leader J.B. Holmes.

Englishman Fleetwood, donning a snazzy black and white patterned polo, signed for a fine 67 at Royal Portrush, where lower winds and clear skies were making for favourable morning scoring, and he was leader in the clubhouse at seven under.

Holmes, the overnight leader, was two shots clear of that score with five to play having made back-to-back birdies at 12 and 13. The American played the opening three holes at three under before dropping a shot at the ninth.

Australian Cameron Smith was enjoying a stellar round. Six birdies on his card meant he was six under with three holes remaining.

Four-time major winner Koepka made it back to the clubhouse at five under, the same score Spieth was on with two holes still to play.

Further down the leaderboard, Tiger Woods' chances of reaching the weekend were looking increasingly bleak. The Masters champion was two under for the round through 10, but still five over for the tournament.

Jordan Spieth hit a hot streak on the front nine to move to within one shot of the Open Championship lead.

The 2017 Champion Golfer of the Year, who signed for a modest 70 in Thursday's opening round, found his best form early on Friday to go six under for the tournament.

An eagle three at the seventh courtesy of a mammoth putt from off the green was the highlight of the American's scorecard as he played the first eight holes in 27.

Compatriot J.B. Holmes was the man to catch at the summit on seven under, with Englishman Tyrell Hatton at five under and four-time major winner Brooks Koepka headlining a huge chasing pack on three under.

Erik van Rooyen was another man to take advantage of the favourable conditions, climbing into contention on four under for the tournament alongside Tommy Fleetwood.

It was another glorious day at Royal Portush as preparations for the Open Championship continued on Tuesday.

Players aplenty faced the media - including a certain Tiger Woods - and there were a host of big names out on the course.

And they weren't the only ones strolling the stunning links track, with Omnisport's reporters also on the prowl.

Here's a sample of what they happened upon during their travels inside the media tent and beyond...

 

NO PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT?

Brooks Koepka's record is a peculiar thing.

The world number one has won four of the past 10 majors and placed second at the Masters and U.S. Open either side of defending the US PGA Championship in the first three major tournaments of 2019.

But he is only a twice a winner on the regular PGA Tour. So what's the difference?

"I just practice before the majors. Regular tournaments I don't practice. If you've seen me on TV, that's when I play golf," he said to laughter from the press pack.

Top marks for honesty there, Brooks.

PINT OF GUINNESS, TIGER?

Tiger Woods was in a jovial mood during his media conference, which as ever was the best attended of them all.

When asked if he'd had chance to have a sip of Guinness, the three-time Open winner offered this assessment of one of the more popular Irish delicacies.

"This week? No, not this week. In the past...hmm," he joked.

 

LOST IN THE ROUGH

One of the joys of covering an Open Championship is heading out on the course to take in the sights and catch a bit of golf.

On practice days, with reduced crowds, it's an opportunity to follow some of the big names without having to contend with the masses that follow the action during the tournament.

But the plans of one Omnisport reporter, who set out to watch Brooks Koepka, were thwarted by some poor navigation and, in fairness, a little bit of bad luck.

If you take a wrong turn on this course and get stuck the wrong side of one of the boundary ropes that funnel spectators down certain pathways, you can end up a long way from where you want to be.

And so it proved for this lost reporter, who never did track down Koepka and was left instead to watch Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who has won four fewer majors than the American.

It's been 68 years since Royal Portrush last hosted The Open Championship and excitement is building ahead of the start of the 148th edition of the tournament.

Sunday was the first official practice day and several players took to the course a day later to get familiar with a venue most in the field will never have played.

And there was plenty going on around the course as the build-up kicks into gear.

Below, Omnisport's team on the ground round up some of the best goings on in Northern Ireland.

 

TIGER'S TEE TROUBLES

Nothing can make your own golf abilities feel quite so inadequate as watching the pros tee it up at The Open.

But, rest assured, even the greatest of greats can encounter a few woes out on the course, even 15-time major winners like Tiger Woods!

While preparing to hit off at the 11th, Woods needed a few attempts to get his ball to stay on the tee, much to the amusement of the watching patrons and the party involved with his playing group that included Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler.

"God damn it!" Tiger exclaimed. "My short little tees just don't work."


WATER GOOD IDEA BY THE OPEN

We all want to do our bit to help protect the environment, right?

Well the good folks here at The Open do as well and this year the tournament has removed all single-use plastic bottles.

In their place, players (and indeed members of the media) have been provided with special edition refillable bottles, with water stations placed all around the course.

Good on you, folks.

GOODBYE, AT LEAST FOR NOW, MY FRIEND

None of us here at Omnisport have ever triumphed in a major golf tournament, nor do we expect any of us ever will…

But it's easy to imagine that the toughest part of winning a Claret Jug is handing it back a year later.

That's exactly what defending champion Francesco Molinari had to do on Monday and the Italian had to ensure the famous trophy was kept in some safe places…

"I was very, very careful with it, especially the first few weeks," he said.

"We've had a couple of drinks out of it. Nothing out of the ordinary. I've got small kids at home so I had to keep it out of reach most of the time to avoid disaster!"

 

CLARET CHUG?

Jordan Spieth is a man who knows how to win a Claret Jug, having triumphed in a day of high drama at Royal Birkdale a couple of years back.

And to start his latest tilt for a second Open Championship, Spieth partook in an American pastime of chugging down a can…

Although we're not entirely sure what was in inside.

While Royal Portrush will be uncharted territory for the majority of the field at the 148th Open Championship, there is a strong sense of familiarity for Rory McIlroy.

The four-time major champion set a course-record 61 at one of the toughest links venues – which has not held The Open since 1951 – as a 16-year-old in 2005.

A lot has changed in the 14 years since but McIlroy's knowledge of Portrush, coupled with the fervent backing of a partisan home crowd in Northern Ireland, should aid his cause.

But there is a star-studded cast – led by world number one and four-time major victor Brooks Koepka – who will all be desperate to deny McIlroy a dream home coming.

Here, three Omnisport writers pick out their players to watch in the battle for the Claret Jug.

 

PETER HANSON

Favourite: Brooks Koepka

Koepka's phenomenal record in major tournaments includes a couple of top-10 placings at The Open. A year ago, Koepka was a distant 39th at Carnoustie, but that was sandwiched by triumphs at the U.S. Open and US PGA Championship. He secured another PGA title in May, and only a wonderful four days from Gary Woodland denied him a third consecutive U.S. success. Koepka often feels he does not receive the acclaim he deserves but the fact the attention will be focused on McIlroy should play into his hands at Portrush.

Likely challengers: Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele and Tommy Fleetwood

Rahm's three attempts to win The Open have hardly been a success story – a tie for 44th two years ago his best result. But the passionate Spaniard has two top-10 major finishes in 2019 and won the Irish Open this month, so will be feeling confident at Portrush. For a while now it has appeared a matter of when not if Schauffele becomes a major champion. Respective finishes of second and third at the Masters and U.S. Open further enhanced his major pedigree and he proved his ability to contend on tricky Open courses when ending as runner-up at Carnoustie a year ago. Fleetwood's form in recent months has been patchy, but the amiable Englishman has the sort of clutch-scoring ability that should suit Portrush.

Outside bet: Graeme McDowell

The halcyon days of winning the U.S. Open in 2010 may seem like a distant memory for the former world number four, who last year was ranked as low as 239. But 'G Mac' has shown signs of improvements this year, recording top-10 finishes at the Texas Open and Canadian Open, while he flirted with contention at last month's U.S. Open before finishing 16th. And do not discount the power of local knowledge. While the majority of the focus will undoubtedly fall McIlroy's way, Portrush native McDowell will be desperate to impress in front of home support.

RUSSELL GREAVES

My favourite: Francesco Molinari

When Molinari lifted the Claret Jug in 2018, he did so to little fanfare. On that Sunday at Carnoustie, his name was not the most illustrious of the contenders. Rory McIlroy was up there, as was Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose and, of course, Tiger Woods. What separated this quiet, unassuming Italian from that star-studded field was his immense calmness under pressure. He went bogey-free in a two-under par 69 in tricky conditions that will likely be replicated at Portrush. When the going gets tough, this guy will get going.

Likely challengers: Koepka, Spieth and Fleetwood

Because since when does Koepka not challenge at a major? It is what he does. Time and time again. How Spieth would yearn for that kind of consistency now, but he did make a decent fist of retaining his title last year and it can never be declared a surprise to see him in the mix. Fleetwood was the focus of much of the pre-tournament attention when Spieth triumphed, with Royal Birkdale his home course. He may not have the same intimate knowledge of this track, but how poetic it would be to see the Claret Jug passed from one half of the Ryder Cup 'Moliwood' partnership to the other.

Outside bet: Matt Kuchar

Kuchar came mighty close to glory two years ago, but Spieth's stunning revival from his 13th-hole woes kept his compatriot at arm's length. Back then, Spieth said Kuchar would win a major one day. This could be his year.

JON FISHER

My favourite: Fleetwood

Fleetwood is without a win in 2019 but has recorded four top-10 finishes. He is likely to enjoy the conditions at Portrush. The links course on the upper tip of Northern Ireland is defended primarily by the wind which could play into the hands of a man brought up on the blowy north west coast of England. Fleetwood is overdue a major breakthrough and will enjoy considerable support.

Likely challengers: McIlroy, Koepka and Spieth

No real surprises here. McIlroy holds the course record at Portrush. Expectation could be an issue in his home country but he has the tools to dominate. Spieth won the Open in 2017 and was tied for the 54-hole lead 12 months ago before falling away. He hasn't won since his Birkdale triumph but seems to thrive in UK conditions. And Koepka because, well, it's Koepka.

Outside bet: Adam Scott

Scott, like Spieth, is very much at home at the Open. Four consecutive top-10 finishes from 2012-2015 - he should have claimed the Claret Jug in 2012 but bogeyed the last four holes to finish second to Ernie Els by a shot - show a pedigree on this type of layout. The swing has never been a problem and his putting is, very belatedly, not proving a hindrance.

Zack Sucher is in position for his first PGA Tour win after taking solo possession of the lead at the Travelers Championship, while Jordan Spieth missed the cut.

Sucher, who turned professional in 2009, shot a five-under 65 in the second round on Friday and is now 11 under for the tournament with a two-stroke advantage over the rest of the field.

He managed to find a way out of the crowded leaderboard that had six golfers tied for the lead at the beginning of the day.

Sucher mixed an eagle with four birdies and a bogey to take control of the event.

Chez Reavie and Keegan Bradley are close behind in second place at nine under, with Bronson Burgoon and Ryan Moore also trailing in fourth at eight under.

Burgoon, another American chasing his first Tour win, had back-to-back birdies at the start of his round to get to just one stroke off the lead, but then fell back down the leaderboard after a double bogey before the turn and another bogey on his back nine.

Meanwhile, Spieth missed his third cut of the year despite carding a one-under 69, his opening 73 proving costly.

Moore had a low round of six-under 64 to jump up into contention but there was another golfer who went even lower.

Jason Day shot the best round of the day – a seven-under 63. He had four consecutive birdies on his first five holes, and was bogey-free on Friday – a nice improvement from Thursday when he carded a bogey and double bogey late in his round.

"I was very patient, especially after the start that I had," Day said.

"Shooting even par was a little bit disappointing yesterday. To get off to that start today, I just kind of settled into it, just kind of pick away at the golf course."

Day will enter the weekend in a seven-way tie for sixth place at seven under with the likes of Paul Casey, Robert Streb and Andrew Putnam.

The 2018 Travelers champion Bubba Watson will also play into the weekend. He is tied for 26th at five under.

Brooks Koepka's win at the U.S. Open two years ago triggered a period of dominance for both himself and American golfers at majors.

Gary Woodland secured his first major title at Pebble Beach on Sunday, winning the U.S. Open by three strokes from Koepka.

It continued what has been a wonderful run for Americans since Koepka's success at Erin Hills.

Men from the United States have now won nine of the past 10 majors and, if they can lift the Claret Jug at The Open next month, they will sweep all four in a year for the first time since 1982.

We take a look at the run that started in 2017.

 

2019 U.S. Open: Gary Woodland

Woodland impressively claimed his first major title, holding off a surge from Koepka in the fourth round. They were the only two players to shoot four rounds in the 60s and Woodland sealed his win with a 30-foot birdie putt at the last.

2019 US PGA Championship: Brooks Koepka

Koepka has dominated this period, winning four majors including back-to-back US PGA and U.S. Open titles. Rounds of 63 and 65 to open at Bethpage Black this year set up a wire-to-wire two-stroke win.

2019 Masters: Tiger Woods

Undoubtedly the most unforgettable win of this lot was Woods' 15th major title and first since 2008. Woods secured a one-shot victory, birdies at the 15th and 16th holes closing out a memorable win.

2018 US PGA Championship: Brooks Koepka

It was Woodland who led at the halfway mark at Bellerive despite Koepka's second-round seven-under 63. Not even Woods (64 in the final round) could deny Koepka, who fired back-to-back 66s on the weekend to secure the title.

2018 U.S. Open: Brooks Koepka

Koepka recovered from an opening 75 at Shinnecock Hills, where he went into the final round in a four-way tie for the lead. Tommy Fleetwood charged home with a 63, but Koepka's two-under 68 was enough for a one-shot win.

2018 Masters: Patrick Reed

Reed took control in the second round at Augusta and his only round in the 70s – a 71 on Sunday – was enough to hold off Rickie Fowler. Reed was fourth at the U.S. Open that followed, but has failed to finish in the top 25 in the five majors since.

2017 US PGA Championship: Justin Thomas

Thomas claimed his only major title so far at Quail Hollow almost two years ago. The American fired rounds of 69 and 68 on the weekend to edge out last year's Open champion Francesco Molinari, Louis Oosthuizen and Reed.

2017 Open Championship: Jordan Spieth

Spieth was in control early at Royal Birkdale on his way to a third major title. However, a three-shot overnight lead disappeared in the final round before he produced an incredible birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie run beginning at 14 to earn a three-shot win over Matt Kuchar.

2017 U.S. Open: Brooks Koepka

The start of Koepka's run was in Wisconsin. He tied the U.S. Open record by reaching 16 under, which was enough for a four-stroke victory over third-round leader Brian Harman and Hideki Matsuyama.

Gary Woodland earned a two-stroke lead after surging to the top of the U.S. Open summit at the halfway stage.

Woodland holed a monster 50-foot birdie on the final hole as the American signed off for a six-under-par 65 at Pebble Beach on Friday.

He went bogey-free while posting six birdies in total on day two to join Justin Rose (Thursday) and Tiger Woods (2000) as the only players to shoot 65 in a U.S. Open round at Pebble Beach.

Woodland's lone true scare of the second round came at the eighth hole (his 17th), where he put himself in bad position with his second shot off the right front of the green.

But Woodland got on with his third and made an extremely slippery putt down the hill to avoid dropping a shot and improve to nine under through 36 holes, ahead of Rose.

Rose – the 2013 champion – posted a second-round 70 to stay atop the leaderboard before Woodland's surge in California.

The Englishman's putting carried him to his superb first round, but his putter saved him from posting big numbers on Friday as Rose got up and down from several tough spots on the day.

South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen (70) ended the round three shots adrift of Woodland, with four-time major champion Rory McIlroy a stroke further back at five under.

McIlroy was on his way to a fantastic day as he was three under through 11, but a bogey and double bogey on back-to-back holes forced him to salvage what could have been a much better round.

The former world number one got it done though as he birdied two of the final four to finish with a two-under 69 to be level alongside Aaron Wise (71).

Two-time reigning champion and world number one Brooks Koepka carded back-to-back 69s to be a shot further back, tied with Chez Reavie (70), Chesson Hadley (70), Matt Kuchar (69) and Matt Wallace (68).

Dustin Johnson (69) is two under heading into the third round, while Jordan Spieth (69) climbed the leaderboard courtesy of a 69 to be eight strokes behind Woodland.

Masters champion Tiger Woods has ground to make up after back-to-back bogeys to end the day left the 15-time major winner seven shots off the pace.

Woods – seeking a fourth U.S. Open crown – dropped consecutive shots at the end of the day for a one-over-par 72.

Justin Rose held a two-shot lead and Tiger Woods was grinding it out in the second round of the U.S. Open on Friday.

Rose was aggressive with the putter at Pebble Beach, opening up a three-shot lead on two occasions, only to bogey the first and fourth holes to drop back to seven under through 13.

The 2013 champion hit the turn in 34 after starting on the back nine, making gains at 15 and 18.

Rose, who led by just a solitary stroke after the opening round, dropped back to seven under when a par putt circled the cup but failed to drop at the first before hitting straight back at the second with another gain to restore his three-shot advantage.

The Englishman's lead was reduced to two again when he was unable to sink another par putt at four.

Francesco Molinari and Henrik Stenson were well poised on five and four under respectively, while Woods was fighting out - as he vowed to - on two under 14 holes into his second round, the Masters champion making just the one birdie at 11.

Two-time defending champion Brooks Koepka was also within striking distance on four under through 16.

Rickie Fowler, Xander Schauffele and Louis Oosthuizen - level on five under with Molinari and Aaron Wise (71) - tee off later in the day.

Tiger Woods and overnight leader Justin Rose were the centre of attention early on day two of the U.S. Open, but the third member of their group, Jordan Spieth, enjoyed the best start.

Woods, who clawed his way to a one-under 70 in round one, picked up a shot on his second hole, the 11th, to reach two under for the tournament and sit four behind playing partner Rose.

Yet the 15-time major champion was soon joined on that score by Spieth, after the 2015 U.S. Open winner birdied the 10th, 11th and 13th.

Two-time defending champion Brooks Koepka was alongside Woods and Spieth at two under, having played six holes on Friday.

After equalling the lowest first-round score in a U.S. Open at Pebble Beach with an opening-day 65, matching the mark set by Woods in 2000, Rose began his second 18 with four pars to retain the lead.

The Englishman was briefly joined at six under by Aaron Wise, who offset a bogey at the second with back-to-back gains on the fifth and sixth, only to then double-bogey the par-three seventh.

Meanwhile, Chesson Hadley, starting on the back nine, birdied the 10th and 12th to get to five under.

According to Friday's forecast, breezes were again expected to be relatively tame, taking away one of Pebble Beach's main defences and making it a second consecutive day ripe for scoring.

Thirty-nine players were under par after the opening round, the second-most in U.S. Open history, after the 44 who broke par at Erin Hills in 2017.

The likes of Rickie Fowler, Xander Schauffele, Louis Oosthuizen (all five under after round one) and Rory McIlroy (three under) were among the day's later starters.

Brooks Koepka made a hot start in his bid for a third straight U.S. Open title, while Tiger Woods was forced to battle in the early stages.

Koepka, bidding to become the first man since Willie Anderson in the early 1900s to win the major three consecutive times, was in impressive form in his opening round at Pebble Beach on Thursday.

The four-time major champion made 12 and 11-footers for birdies on the first and third holes before chipping in at the fifth to get to three under.

Koepka almost took full advantage of the par-five sixth, making another birdie after an eagle putt just missed, to move into four under.

He is just a stroke behind clubhouse leaders Rickie Fowler, Xander Schauffele and Louis Oosthuizen, who fired first-round 66s.

Norwegian amateur Viktor Hovland joined Koepka on four under through six holes to be tied for fourth.

After seeing a 24-footer for birdie stop just short, Woods – a three-time U.S. Open champion – salvaged pars on the second and third holes before a birdie at the fourth.

However, Woods dropped back to one over after a poor tee shot led to a double bogey at the par-three fifth.

Last year's Open champion Francesco Molinari (two under through six) and Jordan Spieth (one under through four) made decent starts.

Jordan Spieth says the success of Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy is a "driving factor" as he looks to match their haul of major wins at this week's U.S. Open.

The picturesque Pebble Beach Golf Links will play host to the year's third major, with two-time defending champion Koepka set to start as favourite after he won last month's US PGA Championship to claim his fourth major title inside two years.

McIlroy, who stormed to victory at the Canadian Open on Sunday courtesy of a final-round 61, also has four of golf's biggest stroke play prizes to his name while Spieth has three, having followed up Masters and U.S. Open triumphs in 2015 with a victory in the 2017 Open Championship.

Speaking ahead of this week's tournament, Spieth told reporters: "To be honest, when I look at what I'm doing, it's hard to compare that to a different generation. And say like Tiger [Woods, a 15-time major champion], I don't compare myself to him. But it's a little easier to compare yourself to people within five or six years on either side of yourself.

"Because it's almost unrealistic to compare yourself to Jack [Nicklaus, who has 18 majors] or Tiger. Obviously that's the end goal. But it's very difficult to look at the short term with just how incredible their achievements have been.

"So watching Brooks and Rory, these guys who have four major championships prior to being 30 years old and looking like they're just going to continue to do so, it's certainly a driving factor for me.

"There's also a number of under-30 guys who are going to win a number of majors over the coming years, [that] is certainly what it looks like.

"So there's plenty of inspiration to be the one that's trying to win these championships. And I have no trouble, personally, finding that inspiration, nor would I even if the 30 to 40 year olds are winning. This is our Super Bowl.

"At the beginning of the year this is what we look at and we pinpoint and we try and peak at. "[There is] no need for any extra inspiration. I think there's plenty there."

Patrick Cantlay won the Memorial Tournament by two strokes, while Masters champion Tiger Woods finished in the top 10.

After two consecutive third-place finishes, Cantlay finally topped the leaderboard following his eight-under-par 64 on Friday.

Cantlay was bogey-free in his final round and fired off eight birdies to capture his second PGA Tour title.

"It feels great," he said. "It's been a while since I've won, almost a year and a half, and being able to win on this golf course, a golf course that I really like and in front of Jack [Nicklaus] and making that putt on the last hole, I can't tell you how good it feels.

"It validates my confidence that I can play with the best players in the world. Beating a field like this on a big golf course like this, this is very similar to a major championship set up."

Cantlay finished 19 under overall, two shots clear of Australian Adam Scott, who closed the tournament with a four-under-par 68.

Scott nearly caught up to Cantlay after three consecutive birdies on the 14th through to the 16th hole put him two strokes off the lead.

Former world number one Scott was close to a birdie putt on the par-four 17th but the ball skirted just past the hole. He saved par but was unable to eagle 18.

Martin Kaymer, who was the 54-hole leader, finished fifth at 12 under following his 69, a stroke ahead of Hideki Matsuyama (72).

Three-time major champion Jordan Spieth (73) and Jason Dufner (69) tied for seventh place at 10 under.

American superstar Woods (67) was a stroke further back as he highlighted the four-way tie for ninth position.

Woods opened the day with five birdies on the front nine, including back-to-back birdies on the second and third holes and again right before the turn on the seventh and eighth.

The 15-time major winner carded two more birdies on the back nine and a pair of bogeys to end the event.

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