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Tiger Woods set for ‘historic’ return to the Old Course at St. Andrews for the 150th Open Championship

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Officially, Tiger Woods’ prep work for next week’s 150th Open Championship is complete. Unofficially, much remains to be done.

Woods kicked off the two-round JP McManus Pro-Am at Adare Manor in Ireland by shooting 77-74 to finish T39 alongside 2022 US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick. It was an uninspiring performance that doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things either, especially with so much in store over the next two weeks.

Woods said Tuesday that he will stay in Europe for the next few days as he works to prepare for the Old Course at St. Andrews, but declined to say where he would play.

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“I don’t want everyone to come down and look at us,” Tiger joked.

Could he go play at Royal County Down in Northern Ireland, where he famously (and allegedly) failed to break 80 in 2000 en route to winning his first Claret Jug on the Old Course? Or perhaps somewhere even less remarkable like Tralee where Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler played last weekend before this week’s Scottish Open.

Whatever the case, it’s clear that Tiger doesn’t have his best material right now. He didn’t look too good at Adare Manor, which wasn’t necessarily unexpected. Woods made 10 bogeys and a double in two days in Ireland, countering them with just three birdies and an eagle. That eagle, however, was quite impressive.

The 14-major winner has played little in 2022. Four rounds at the Masters before, where he ended up limping to 47th, and a retirement after 54 holes at the PGA Championship made up the seven pro rounds he has put together this year. season. He missed the US Open at Brookline three weeks ago while continuing to rehab his leg.

“The plan was to play the US Open, but physically I couldn’t do it,” Woods said. “There’s no physical way I could have done that. I had some problems with my leg and it would have put this tournament in jeopardy, so there’s no reason to do that.”

This Open Championship is the most important of the last 20 years. It is the 150th edition of the world’s oldest major tournament played on the world’s premier golf course at a time when professional golf has never been in a more precarious position.

“This is a pretty historic Open that we’re going to play,” Woods said. “I am lucky to be part of the previous champions who have won there, and [I] I want to play there again, and I don’t know when they will play again while I can still play at a high level. I want to be able to give at least one more race at a high level.”

It’s sobering to think that this could be Woods’ last shot at St. Andrews for a major championship, but he’s almost certainly right. Given how limited his body looked at the first two Majors of the year, it’s hard to imagine him competing in an Open Championship at St. Andrews every time R&A returns again.

Although there is no date on the calendar for a future Open on the Old Course, but let’s say it goes back to 2027. Tiger will be 51 years old then. It’s not reasonable to believe that he will be remotely competitive, although it’s almost a guarantee that he will do everything in his power to be present.

“If you had asked me last year if I would play golf again, all my surgeons would have said ‘No,'” Woods said. “But here I am playing two big tournaments this year. I will always be able to play golf. Whether it is this leg or someone else’s leg or a fake leg or different body parts that have been put in place or fused together, I will always be able to play. Now, if You say ‘play at a championship level’, well that window is definitely not as long as I’d like it to be.”

No one knows if Tiger will be competitive at The Open next week, but it almost doesn’t matter. Just seeing him mentally wrestle once more with one of the great puzzles in sports will be a treat, one we may never see again.

If for some reason, by some miracle, it finds itself in the mix over the weekend at the Old Course, wow, one of the greatest majors of decades could become one of the greatest golf tournaments of all time.

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