Is Tiger Woods ready to checkmate again on the Old Course?

Rory McIlroy thinks there’s a bit of Viswanathan Anand to Tiger Woods, which is why he has a shot at winning the 150th Open Championship this week at the legendary Old Course in St Andrews.

Very famously, Woods had finished his Grand Slam career in the year 2000 on this same course, popularly called the “home of golf” and believed to have been designed by God himself.

For centuries the layout, terrain and natural elements have conspired to puzzle golfers. Now armed with modern equipment and a golf ball, humanity finally wins the battle. However, the slightest wind blowing in from the North Sea can help the Old Course bare its vicious fangs.

The Open Championship returns to St Andrews every five years. And given the state of his injury-ravaged body – Woods was forced to pull out of the PGA Championship at Tulsa in May when his body just couldn’t cope with the cold and hilly terrain – many believe that could be his last open championship on this course.

There really can’t be a better swansong than Woods conjuring up a bit of magic and trying to help the thousands of people who converge on this otherwise sleepy college town on Scotland’s Fife coast to live out their fantasy.

It’s not an unlikely scenario. With just the beach separating the sea and the golf course, you’d think the flat surface gives Woods the edge. He will be able to walk much better and not put unnecessary strain on his surgically reconstructed foot following the car accident last February.

But this is only a small part of the optimism. To borrow a line from golf television, Woods knows how to play the Old Course “better than most.” It is a place where the brain exceeds the muscles.

When he won the 2000 Open, the 15-time major champion didn’t step into a single bunker, one of the main defenses the golf course has. There are 112, deep and dangerous, lurking in every nook and cranny. Woods managed to avoid them all, not just for one round, but for all four days and 72 holes. In the end, he won by a whopping eight strokes.

Five years later, he wins by five strokes.

So when McIlroy was asked if he thought Woods could wrestle this year, he didn’t have to think or water down his answer.

“I think the way the golf course is and the conditions are, I could definitely see it,” said the Northern Irishman, who played a round with Woods at Ballybunion last week.

“It’s going to be a game of chess this week, and no one has been better at playing that kind of game of chess on a golf course than Tiger in the last 20 years.”

Woods himself isn’t sure this will be his last appearance at St Andrews, a golf course he has always called his “most favorite in the world”.

“Who knows? I don’t know if I will be able to physically compete at this level by then (next Open at St Andrews),” said Woods, the most successful player in PGA Tour history with 82 titles. alongside Sam Snead.

“I will never play a full program again. My body doesn’t allow me to do that. I don’t know how many Open Championships I have left here at St Andrews, but I wanted this one. It started here for me in 1995, and if it ends here in 22, it does. If it’s not, it’s not. If I get the chance to play one more that would be great, but there are no guarantees.

Woods said as soon as he could start walking, he desperately wanted to make it to the 150th Open Championship.

“For most of my rehabilitation, I was just hoping to be able to walk normally and have a normal life and maybe play golf with my son or my friends back home,” added Woods, who finished 47th. in the Masters, but pulled out after making the cut to the PGA Championship.

“But hey, I played championship golf this year. And once I realized I could possibly play at a high level, my goal was to come back here to St Andrews to play in what was the most historic league we’ve ever had. I just didn’t want to miss this Open here at the Home of Golf.

When asked how he felt physically before the tournament, the three-time Open champion said: “Well, my body can definitely improve, but realistically not much. It’s been through a lot and at 46 you don’t heal as well as you did at 26.

“So that’s how it is. Just the chance to be able to play as long as we can. On golf courses like this you can keep going until you’re 50. We’ve seen Tom (Watson) have it on his putter to win in his late 50s (age 59 at the 2009 Open at Turnberry).

“It can be done. It just takes a lot of knowledge and understanding of how to play this type of golf. And with the fast and firm fairways, it allows older players to throw the ball in and have a chance. .

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