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The 150th Open

Tiger Woods


Uncertain future helps three-time Champion cherish 150th Open

Tiger Woods

If this is to be Tiger Woods’ final Open at St Andrews, then the three-time Champion will not be sad that it is over – just happy that he made it back.  

Woods, 46, acknowledges that The 150th Open could be his last at the famous Old Course, with the leg injury he sustained in a car crash last year leaving his career uncertain.

So far this week, he has played – and, more importantly, moved – freely, racking up 58 holes in practice across four days, including the Celebration of Champions on Monday afternoon.  

But Woods is still early in his recovery and, with Royal Liverpool, Royal Troon and Royal Portrush locked in to host for the next three years, he is unable to predict how his body will allow him to play at the highest level - and if he will still be able to play competitively when The Open next comes to the Old Course. 

However, you can only control the present, not the future - and Woods is determined to make the most of it. 

In a captivating scene, Woods walked 18 holes on Saturday night with a few dozen fans and a couple of dogs for company, while he was given perhaps the loudest cheer of all at the Celebration of Champions.  

He relished his role as captain of a fourball that contained Rory McIlroy, Lee Trevino and Georgia Hall and strolled back for an iconic photo with Jack Nicklaus on the Swilcan Bridge.  

Woods played his first Open here, won his first Claret Jug here and calls it his favourite course in the world.  

He is as determined as ever to win again but aware enough not to take his appearance here for granted.  

“I don't know how many Open Championships I have left here at St Andrews, but I wanted this one,” he said.  

“It started here for me in '95, and if it ends here in '22, it does. If it doesn't, it doesn't. If I get the chance to play one more, it would be great, but there's no guarantee.”  

Woods has previously spoken of how he will not play a full schedule again and will prioritise the majors.  

But in the limited amount we have seen him since his accident, he has shown a window into the challenges and frustrations he faces.  

At April’s Masters, he rolled back the years with a one-under 71 on Day 1, just six weeks after he began to put weight on his troublesome leg, but he withdrew from the PGA Championship five weeks on and then elected not to play at the US Open.  

“For the most part of my rehab I was just hoping that I could walk again, you know, walk normal and have a normal life and maybe play a little hit-and-giggle golf with my son or my friends at home,” he said.  

“But lo and behold, I've played Championship golf this year. And once I realised that I could possibly play at a high level, my focus was to get back here at St Andrews to play in this Championship. 

“It's the most historic one we've ever had. I just didn't want to miss this Open here at the home of golf.  

“This has meant so much to me. This is where I completed the career grand slam. At the time I had the record in scoring in all four major championships. So it meant a lot to me. This venue has meant a lot. 

"Just being here, I think this is my sixth Open Championship here, I think. Just to have that experience and have the ability to play here at the home of golf is always quite special. Then to have won it twice makes it that much more special." 

Woods has flashed his undoubted genius since returning at the Masters and with the Old Course kinder to navigate on foot, it leaves open the tantalising prospect of Woods being in contention on Sunday.  

Tiger Woods during Celebration of Champions

Rory McIlroy believes he can be: “It will be a game of chess and no-one plays chess better than Tiger Woods.”  

Does Woods?  

“My body certainly can get better, but realistically, not a whole lot. It's been through a lot, and at 46 you don't quite heal as well as you do at 26.  

“So it is what it is. We are lucky enough to, in our sport, to be able to play as long as we are able to play late into the 40s, especially on links golf courses like this, you can continue into your 50s. We saw Tom (Watson) have it on his putter to win late in his 50s.  

“So it can be done. It just takes a lot of knowledge and understanding of how to play this type of golf. And with the fairways being fast and firm, it allows players who are older to run the ball out there and have a chance.”  

Woods will tee off at 2.59pm on Thursday, with Matt Fitzpatrick and Max Homa for company – and by then he will have his game face on.  

He played nine holes on Tuesday in strong winds, all in a bid to be ready.  

“The only way you can truly get your mind right is actually get out here and experience it,” he added.  

“Today was good. It was good to play in this much wind because I know the forecast isn't for this much wind for the rest of the week, but it was good to get my mind opened up for these type of golf shots that potentially I'm going to have to play.”  

As ever at The Open, the weather is unpredictable. But so is Woods' future and that makes the present so much more important to cherish.