A massive putt on the penultimate hole saw Tiger Woods come close to winning his first US PGA Tour event in almost five years, before he finished one stroke off forcing a play-off in Palm Harbor, Florida.
Woods, who has not scored a tournament victory since August 2013, drained a 44-foot putt on the 17th hole and needed a birdie on the par-four 18th to finish level with eventual winner Paul Casey.
The 14-time major winner, who has struggled with a series of injuries since his most recent victory, laid well back off the 18th tee and hit his approach from 185 yards to just inside 40 feet.
The birdie chance to force a play-off, however, was two feet short and he finished with a 1-under-par 70 to be tied for second with fellow American Patrick Reed on 9-under for the tournament.
Sports Illustrated tweets: *This* close to a playoff, as Tiger finishes tied for second behind Paul Casey.
The former world number one and his massive following went dormant after an opening birdie to briefly share the lead.
He went 15 holes without a birdie until he brought the Innisbrook course gallery to life with his birdie putt that died into the cup at the par-four 17th, leaving him one shot behind with one hole to play.
It is his highest finish in an official tournament since he tied for second at The Barclays in 2013.
Woods looked closer than ever to winning in his remarkable return from fusion surgery on his lower back last April.
He had been a factor on the final day in his previous two tournaments and a gallery in Florida that stood 10-deep around just about every green could sense a victory was possible.
“I didn’t feel that sharp with my iron game,” Woods said.
“I played conservatively into the green because I wasn’t as sharp as yesterday. It was one of those days I kept getting half-clubs.”
Woods’ last win came in Akron, Ohio and his near miss in Florida leaves the 42-year-old on 79 US PGA Tour triumphs.
Tiger Woods tees off on the first hole during the final round in Florida. (Reuters: Jasen Vinlove)
Casey, who started the final round five shots off the pace, ran off three straight birdies early on the back nine to take the lead, and he closed with four par saves to post a 6-under 65 for a 10-under 274 total.
The victory gave Englishman Casey his first US PGA Tour victory since the 2009 Houston Open.
Reed had squandered a chance to set up a play-off when a long birdie putt rolled 45 feet back to his feet and he three-putted for bogey.
Australia’s Adam Scott was tied for 16th place on 3-under.
Next up for Woods is the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill next week, which he has not played since winning five years ago.
He is an eight-time winner at Bay Hill, and the euphoria over his return is sure to reach even higher decibels.
“I keep getting a little bit better,” Woods said.
“I had a good shot at winning this golf tournament. A couple putts here and there, it could have been a different story.”