Might we be witnessing the tip for Tiger Woods at St. Andrews this week, as he plays within the a hundred and fiftieth British Open on the fabled Old Course?
What is going to we (and Woods) be feeling when he walks over the Swilcan Bridge after teeing off on the 18th for the ultimate time of the week — whether that be Sunday or (heaven forbid) Friday?
Will Woods — at age 46 and with a body that has been broken down from surgeries numbering in double digits, and 17 months faraway from that horrific automobile crash that almost cost him his right leg — be overcome with emotion knowing it is likely to be his final time making that walk as a legitimate competitor for the Claret Jug?
Woods has done a number of things in his good, record-shattering profession: He has won 82 tournaments, including 15 major championships, and he has dramatically modified the competitive and financial landscape of the sport.
But one thing Woods hasn’t done is show a number of emotion publicly. Woods rarely allows the general public a peek into his soul. Perhaps the one true exception to that was 2006, when he won his third British Open at Hoylake just months after his father, Earl, died, and he collapsed into the arms of his then-caddie Steve Williams in tears.
Woods, though, is an astute historian of the sport. Legacy matters to him. He calls St. Andrews, where he won the 2000 and 2005 British Opens, his favorite course on the earth. His victory in 2005 on the Old Course got here two days after Jack Nicklaus made his final walk over the Swilcan Bridge as a competitor.
This stuff should not lost on Woods.
Tiger Woods waves to fans.Getty Images
Nicklaus, wearing a red sweater vest over a white shirt with dark pants and white golf shoes, stopping to pose on the bridge and wave his right arm to the adoring spectators and a phalanx of photographers to acknowledge the moment is one of the vital iconic images in the game.
Will Woods pause when he walks over the bridge for the ultimate time of the week?
Only he knows.
One thing that is definite is that there might be at the very least as many photographers when that happens as there have been in 2005 for Nicklaus.
Tiger Woods celebrates winning the 2005 British Open.AP
Make no mistake: Woods cherishes every certainly one of his 15 majors, three wanting Nicklaus’ record 18, but he cherishes his British Opens won at St. Andrews probably the most.
“As Jack says, your profession just isn’t complete unless you’ve won an Open Championship on the Home of Golf, and I feel like he’s correct in that regard,’’ Woods said. “It is a pretty historical Open we’re going to be playing. I’m lucky enough to be a part of the past champions who’ve won there and wish to play there again.
“I don’t know after they are ever going to return while I’m still capable of play at a high level, and I need to give you the option to offer it at the very least yet another run at a high level.”
That last phrase was a telling one:
Yet one more run at a high level.
Having watched Woods play the Masters in April and the PGA Championship in May, so clearly compromised physically from injuries resulting from the February 2021 automobile crash, the argument could also be made that he has yet to indicate true signs of playing at a “high level’’ — if “high level’’ is measured as a level ok to win.
Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus in 2005.AP
Tiger Woods on the JP McManus Pro-Am.Getty Images
Woods — who last played in that PGA Championship at Southern Hills, but was forced to withdraw after the third round because his body could handle no more — speaks like an important athlete who knows his end is near.
And that’s a bit sobering for those of us who’ve followed and chronicled his entire profession, since it was easy to get so lost within the amazing things he was accomplishing that it felt as in the event that they would go on without end.
“I do think he realizes that the tip is imminent and rather a lot closer than he would really like to confess, just reflecting on his performance over the past couple of majors,’’ said close friend Notah Begay, now an NBC on-course reporter.
“It might be easy to begin Tiger misty-eyed and wondering should you are ever going to get to see this again,’’ NBC broadcaster Paul Azinger said. “Historically, that is where the greats have taken their final walk. [But] generally, the greats haven’t been injured like this and had their leg look crooked.
“I’m undecided how sentimental it’s going to feel to look at Tiger play this go-round. I believe personally that he has more in him. I don’t wish to say it is a swan song just yet.’’