ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – And now he’s going to rest.
Tiger Woods, 15-time major champion and three-time champion golfer of the year, played 58 holes in practice rounds and exposure before Thursday’s start of the 150e Open Championship at St. Andrews. In his only two other starts this year — the Masters and the PGA Championship — Woods has played 27 practice holes at each event.
But with the Old Course being his favorite track in the world, Woods emptied his tank despite having his right leg, ankle and foot surgically repaired, all three not nearly 100% and needing constant attention.
Woods chipped, putted and hit a few corners on 18 holes Saturday night with Justin Thomas. He played 18 holes on Sunday with Justin Thomas, 9 more holes on Monday and 9 more on Tuesday. He also played in the four-hole Celebration of Champions exhibition on Monday.
“So that was going to be it for me,” Woods said Tuesday after his practice round. “I will take my leave tomorrow. I will train, keep my feelings. But I wanted to get a good idea of how the golf course was going to go, but also conserve my energy, which is why I’m taking the day off tomorrow.
His first-round tee time is at 3 p.m. (local time) alongside Max Homa and US Open champion Matthew Fitzpatrick.
Woods’ first encounter with the Old Course came at the 1995 Open Championship, when he tied for 68e as a hobbyist. He won his first Claret Jug in 2000 on the Old Course, completing the Grand Slam of his career, added another in 2005 at the Home of Golf and his third at Hoylake the following year.
“That’s where it all started for me as an amateur. My first chance to play in the Open Championship was here. I will never forget that I played with Ernie Els and Peter Jacobsen the first two days,” he said. “We had the chance to play with some great players in the practice rounds – Freddie (Couples), Raymond (Floyd), (Jose Maria Olazabal), Bernhard (Langer). I had a great time as a young child, and they showed me how to play this golf course and how many different options there were, it was eye-opening how this golf course can be played as easily as it can be played and as difficult that he can play just by the changing wind.
“It’s my sixth Open Championship here. Just to have that experience and the opportunity to play here at the Home of Golf is always pretty special.
So he had a little more adrenaline to push him.
“I’m just trying to get used to the speed of the fairways and getting used to hitting the ball and giving the shots more room, allowing for more drift on the wind,” Woods said. “The ball is just eaten here when you play link courses and seaside courses. The air is heavier, and you just have to give it more room. And sometimes it’s just hard to see and hard to understand. You have to give it a little over 30 yards because obviously it’s going to bounce, it’s going to roll and then it’s going to roll another 40 yards once it lands. And that’s just with a 7 iron in the hand.
“So I try to reason with myself for this, I tried to do it, but the only way to really do it is to get out here and experience it.”
As for her body, it’s good enough to try.
“Well, my body can definitely improve, but realistically not much,” he said. “It’s been through a lot, and at 46 you don’t heal as well as you did at 26. So that’s what it is. Just lucky enough to, in our sport, be able to play as long as we are able to play late 40s, especially on golf courses like this, you can continue into your 50s.
“It just takes a lot of knowledge and understanding of how to play this type of golf. And with the fast, firm fairways, it allows older players to kick the ball in and have a chance.