Gusty winds ruffled the roof of the supermarket-sized media tent on Tuesday, creating an intermittent thunder effect as Tiger Woods spoke about his sixth – and perhaps most significant – Open Championship on this sacred ground.
He knows how tough this course can be when the weather changes.
“You get winds like today, it’s a hell of a test,” said Woods, who won two of his three Claret Jugs here in 2000 and 2005. “On the 10th, I hit a six-iron from 120 yards, it was blowing so hard . Nowhere else do you have the opportunity to hit such blows. On the other hand, if you’re having a quiet day on this golf course, you can see that the players probably have four to five eagle putts.”
Woods, 46, has weathered more than his share of personal storms, most recently the 2021 rollover accident on a steep section of Hawthorne Boulevard in the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
First, he regained his ability to walk. Then, amazingly, to compete. He has competed in two tournaments this year, finished 47th at the Masters and retired after the third round of the PGA Championship at Southern Hills after struggling with foot and leg pain.
Now he’s back on his favorite course and feels as good as after the accident. He admits, “My body can certainly improve, but realistically not by much.”
“For most of my rehab I was just hoping I could walk, you know, walk normally and live a normal life and maybe play a little golf with my son or friends at home,” he said.
“But lo and behold, I played championship golf this year. And when I realized that I could potentially play at a high level, my focus was on getting back here to St Andrews to compete in this championship. [it] to be the most historic we’ve ever had. I just didn’t want to miss this Open here in the home of golf.”
Woods said the Old Course is noticeably different from when he first played here as an amateur.
“They’ve grown a few holes since I first played here in 1995,” he said, noting the changes to the number 8, the only par 3 on the outside nine, a hole played 13 yards longer than at the Open 2015 was here.
“When I realized I could potentially play at a high level, my focus was on getting back here to St Andrews to compete in this championship.”
– Tiger Woods
“I think each pot bunker has gotten a little bit deeper. It’s kinda funny looking back at some of the historical videos where the guys played from the road hole bunker and it really wasn’t that deep. Now you can’t see the grandstands when you get in there. All you see is clear blue sky.”
Blue skies may be in short supply this week and sporadic rain is a possibility for the next few days. The forecast calls for drier, warmer weather from Saturday, but bad weather can come through at any time.
“I remember coming around here on my very first practice lap,” he said. “I couldn’t believe how stupidly hard this course is because I played every hole against the wind. “Where are you driving that par 4? That’s not what people say.’ Suddenly that changes and I see, no, these bunkers are in play.
“It is an amazing ingenuity that they had back then that this golf course has stood the test of time for the best players. And as long as we’ve grown together as a field, this golf course will still be a challenge.”
Woods has a photo in his office from that first round of practice, where he crosses the legendary Swilcan Bridge on the 18th fairway. Virtually everyone who plays St Andrews gets a shot like this, and it was at this stone crossing of the Swilcan Burn that the legendary Jack Nicklaus bid his farewell to professional golf in 2005.
“I mean, the history and the people who walked that bridge,” Woods said. “I’ll tell you what, honestly, now I have to be a little more careful with spikes on this bridge. I no longer have the agility I used to have. I almost ate it today.”
On Monday, Woods played a four-hole show with Nicklaus, Lee Trevino and Rory McIlroy, and the foursomes posed for photos on the bridge.
“Having Lee, Rory and Jack and just standing there with them, that’s history,” he said. “These guys are… I watched them play that Open Championship and when I woke up the TV show would be on the west coast at 5am. To get a chance to see them play and see them hit the shots…”
Traditionally, the Open is played in St Andrews every five years. No surprise, but Woods said this could be his last on the Old Course.
“I will never play a full schedule again,” he said. “My body just doesn’t allow me to do that. I don’t know how many Open Championships I have left here at St Andrews, but I wanted this one.”
https://www.latimes.com/sports/story/2022-07-12/tiger-woods-returns-to-british-open-at-the-old-course-claret-jug Tiger Woods delighted to return to British Open at Old Course