Feeding off the “energy” from the huge swathes of fans lining the fairways in St Louis, Woods fired a superb six-under 64 – the lowest final-day score of his major career – but that was not enough to deny Brooks Koepka winning his second major of the year.
Woods was just one off the lead down the stretch after holing his seventh birdie putt of the round at the 15th, but he was unable to make the birdie he needed at the long 17th to stay within striking distance of Koepka, who jumped clear of Adam Scott and Woods with crucial putts at 15 and 16.
The 42-year-old managed to scramble a par at the penultimate hole after carving his drive into the hazard on the right, although he did finish in style as he rattled in a 20-footer for birdie on the final green to close on 14 under par.
His grandstand finish was enough to secure outright second when Scott bogeyed the 72nd, but he was two strokes adrift of the in-form Koepka before reflecting on two straight near-misses to claim his first major title in over 10 years.
“I was pretty ticked at the British Open, but I had the lead there and this one I never quite got to the lead,” said Woods, who needed a victory in the final major of the year to snatch the final automatic qualifying place in the US Ryder Cup team.
“I was always trailing, and it was a golf course on which I couldn’t sit still and make pars and be okay with it. I had to keep making birdies. The golf course was soft, it was gettable, I had to go get it and I tried hard.
“Making that putt at least gave me a chance, but Brooksy is tough to beat when the guy hits it 340 down the middle, that’s tough. What he did at Shinnecock, just bombing it, and then he’s done same thing here and made a bunch of birdies.
“I played with him in a practice round and he was literally hitting it 340, 350 yards in the air. And when a guy’s doing that and hitting it straight and as good a putter as he is, it’s tough to beat.
“But that’s the new game. Dustin’s done it, Rory’s doing it, now Brooksy does it, and you get on a golf course like this, this soft, and you can just bomb it away. Those guys, if they’re driving it well, they have such a huge advantage because of the carry.
“So Brooks put it all together, he didn’t just have the driving, he had the iron game, he had the putting and made some key up-and-downs the last couple rounds to keep himself in the tournament and then end up winning the tournament.”
But Woods was delighted with his overall performance in the four majors this season having started 2018 in “uncharted territory”, not knowing how his form or his body would hold up on his return to the PGA Tour following spinal fusion surgery last year.
“I didn’t know what my schedule would be, how many tournaments I would play this year or if I would even play, so each tournament brought about its own challenges,” he added.
“And so at the beginning of the year, if you said I would have a legitimate chance to win the last two major championships? I didn’t have a swing at the time, I had no speed and my short game wasn’t quite there yet. My putting was okay, but I hadn’t played in two years. So it’s been a hell of a process for sure.
“I was in contention in the last two majors and would never have foreseen that a year ago, so I’m just so thankful to be here. I’m just very pleased at what I’ve done so far and now to be part of the Ryder Cup conversation, going from where I’ve come from to now in the last year, it’s been pretty cool.”