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The 150th Open

Tiger Woods


Legend basks in St Andrews limelight for one last time

Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods has experienced plenty in life but even he has surely not seen anything quite like what unfolded on St Andrews’ final hole on this barmy Friday afternoon. 

With the sun shining and the galleries packed, he smacked his tee shot down the middle of the fairway, stepped across the Swilcan Bridge and was hit by an emotional freight train the likes of which the Old Course has rarely witnessed. 

After rounds of 78-75, the cut was a distant dream, and so this was Woods’ St Andrews farewell - the end of a love affair that started 27 years ago and delivered two Claret Jugs. 

Those here were hardly going to let the moment slide and tears filled the three-time Champion Golfer’s eyes as he was cheered, clapped and whooped for nearly five full minutes from the grandstand, the road and even the R&A Clubhouse

The home of golf is so often a fitting final act for a golfing great and, though Woods intends to play on, this was a final goodbye from the game’s birthplace to perhaps its greatest son.

“I'm not retiring from the game,” he said.  

“But I don't know if I will be physically able to play back here again when it comes back around. I'll be able to play future Opens, yes, but next time here, I doubt if I'll be competitive at this level.” 

The evidence of the last two days suggests he is probably right.

For 36 holes, Woods hacked his way around the Old Course, struggling for any kind of rhythm, and looking every inch like a player with his right leg held together by metal and who had only played three times since a near-fatal car crash 18 months ago. 

He has already circled The 151st Open at Royal Liverpool in his diary but, with the next venues for The Open only announced up to 2025, it is unknown when the Claret Jug will next be contested on the Old Course.

Never say never with Woods, but neither he or the spectators were willing to bet on a St Andrews encore and thousands of fans lined the 18th fairway and packed into the grandstand hours before he even teed off, waiting to get a glimpse of the I-was-there moment. 

It came just after 3pm, at the end of another round in which he toiled.  

Woods pinged his tee shot just shy of the 18th green and, just as he started to cross the Swilcan Bridge, moving gingerly over the uneven stone, they stood to celebrate a champion who has mastered this course like no other. 

Woods at his pomp was certainly a sight to be behold, especially at St Andrews. In 2000, he managed to stay out of all 112 bunkers on all four days and won by eight strokes to complete the career Grand Slam, while five years on, he was as equally majestic and won by five. 

He also won at Royal Liverpool in 2006, while his most recent near-miss came at Carnoustie in 2018, when he took the lead on both Saturday and Sunday, generating an atmosphere unlike anything ever seen at an Open.  

Tiger Woods wins his second Open and his second at the Home of Golf

But Woods is a rockstar and St Andrews is his Glastonbury. Dozens called out as he passed, mostly messages of thanks for the memories and the magic. Several others even wiped away tears. 

Three people followed him all the way round dressed in tiger onesies, while one father held his eight-year-old aloft, imploring him to look at "the GOAT" and take it all in.

Across on the first tee box, Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas – two players Woods counts as close friends – tipped their cap to him as they passed and that was too much for him to take. 

In his pre-Championship press conference, McIlroy said Woods has softened in middle age and is more willing to slacken his game face to the world. Three days on, there he was removing his cap to reveal eyes filled with tears as he took in the ovation. 

“I'm not one who gets very teary-eyed very often about anything,” he said.  

“But when it comes to the game and the transition, I get it. 

“I was lucky enough in '95 to watch Arnold [Palmer] hit his first tee shot in the second round as I was going to the range and I could hear Jack playing his last one in 2005 -- I was probably about four holes behind him. 

“The ovations were getting louder and louder and louder. I felt that as I was coming in.”  

Woods could have stood for hours taking in the applause, soaking it all in, but there was still a putt to be made. As soon as he addressed his ball, the spectators fell silent, leaving just the squawking seagulls overhead but, unlike Jack Nicklaus in 2005, there was no final hurrah. He missed his birdie putt on 18, instead settling for a par. 

That miss largely summed up his week. From his very first hole on Thursday, Woods struggled, his approach shots too often missed the green, his putts too often pulling up short. 

“I made my share of mistakes,” he said. 

“I struggled again today to get the feel of the greens. I left a lot of putts short again. Same as yesterday. And I had hit a couple of poor shots, end up in bad spots. And, again, I just never got anything going.” 

In the end, it did not matter. After his well-documented build-up, just to see him at all was enough. 

Woods could have lost his life and almost lost his leg last February but he never lost hope that he would make it to The 150th.  

And while this is almost certainly his last competitive round on the Old Course, he’s not shutting the door altogether. 

“I'm sure my son will probably want me to come back here and play,” he said.  

“I was fortunate enough to have got an honorary membership to The R&A.  

“I have my locker here right when you walk into the left. That's pretty neat. And because of that I'm able to get a tee time!” 

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