Tiger Woods endured a torrid return to St. Andrews, missing the latter rounds of The British Open for only the fourth time in his career. Twice champion here in 2000 and 2005, known as the ‘Home of Golf’, the American maestro bade an emotional farewell to the Old Course after his early exit. After two poor rounds- following yesterday’s 78 with a marginally better 75- Woods finished nine over par in what is likely to be his final appearance at St. Andrews.
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Unlike the old masters’ Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson, the 46-year-old did not pause for photographs at the iconic Swilcan Bridge. But he still found it hard to keep the tear glands dry. As applause broke out for Woods as he glid across the fairway, the 15-time Majors winner doffed his cap to acknowledge the ovation. Holding back tears, he made sure to soak in the occasion.
“It’s very emotional for me. I’ve been coming here since 1995 and I don’t know when the next one comes around if I will be physically able to play by then,” Woods would admit later.
“So to me it felt like this might have been my last British Open here at St Andrews and the ovation and the warmth was an unbelievable feeling. I feel like I will be able to play future British Opens, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to play that long enough that when it comes back around here. Will I still be playing?,” added Woods.
In a reflective mood, Tiger recognized the value of the moment, grasping why such occasions trigger such strong emotions:
“I understand what Jack and Arnold had gone through in the past. I was kind of feeling that way there at the end…Just the amount of understanding and respect from all the people that are involved in this event, that come out in support of the players, the nods I was getting as the players were going out. I looked over and Rory gave me a tip of the cap. JT (Justin Thomas in the group behind McIlroy) did the same. There’s something to it that’s just different,” concluded Woods.
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While he still plans to return to The Open, given the tradition of hosting the Major at St. Andrews every five years, it is unlikely to return to the Old Course before 2027.