ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — The roars ultimately ebbed when Tiger Woods reached his ball, if only because everyone knew the clamor could start again soon enough.
Woods was, perhaps for the last time as a British Open competitor, on No. 18 on the Old Course at St. Andrews. He had sealed two triumphs here, accomplished the profession Grand Slam here, dreamed for years of being here.
And now, following a tee shot beneath a familiarly granite Scottish sky, Woods knew it is likely to be over, for good, in minutes.
The cheers rumbled down from the grandstands, and never just those along No. 18, as ferociously as they did when Woods tipped his cap on the Swilcan Bridge just a few minutes past 3 p.m. He had rubbed his eyes on the walk, tipped his cap some more, after which, ultimately, the spectators and even the ocean gulls fell silent.
It might take him three more strokes to complete the outlet at par, almost — and only almost — as if he wanted just another moment at St. Andrews as an alternative of another birdie. The roars began again, as if he had won a fourth Open.
But he had not. At nine over par after two rounds, 17 months after the automobile wreck in California that almost claimed his right leg, he missed the cut. His ritual Sunday-round red outfit would stay packed away this time, and possibly ceaselessly, from St. Andrews.
“I don’t know if I’ll be physically in a position to play one other British Open here at St. Andrews,” Woods said afterward. “I definitely feel that I’ll find a way to play more British Opens, but I don’t know if I’ll be around when it comes back around here. So the heat and the ovation at 18, it got to me.”
He had seen and heard Open careers in twilight at St. Andrews. In 1995, when he was 19, headed toward the practice range and lacking any of the 15 majors he would go on to win, he saw Arnold Palmer hit a tee shot. A decade later, the noise that followed Jack Nicklaus pealed across the relatively flat confines of the world’s oldest course.
It isn’t any certainty that Friday was Woods’s final Open at St. Andrews, but it’s going to be years before it returns to the Old Course, and Woods, broken down and rebuilt so again and again over the many years, is 46. He has not committed to any tournaments for next yr and said again that he had craved being at this particular Open, the a hundred and fiftieth and the most recent at St. Andrews, his favorite course.
He could return, perhaps together with his son, for a round on the Old Course. (“I’m in a position to get a tee time,” he said with a smile.) But all week long, the prospects of a Woods retirement seemed higher than a Woods vow, or just an audible aspiration, to be back in a St. Andrews field.
So a fair larger thicket of spectators, probably 20-deep or more in some pockets, than usual trailed him since his start on Friday morning.
“That counts as watching Tiger take a shot,” one man said as Woods merely walked past him on the sixteenth fairway.
“Tiger, you’d higher make this,” one woman said before a putt on that hole.
“Oh, my God,” she piped up again after he missed.
“St. Andrews loves you, Tiger!” shouted another person.
The spectators did, even when Woods’s final rating suggested otherwise.
His outing on Friday, a three-over-par 75, was higher than Thursday’s, when he finished at six over and 14 shots off the lead. Over the 2 days of competition, he never quite connected with the St. Andrews greens, those vast expanses he had so dominated, with one putt after the subsequent slowing down after which stopping too short. On Thursday, he began with a tee shot right into a divot.
And so, by the point Woods entered the tee box at No. 18, the primary in his group to reach, any aspirations of one other claret jug, even one other made cut, had evaporated. Yet he was not, he would say later, fascinated about anything beyond club selection: 3-wood or 5-wood.
He opted for chipping with the previous. He left the tee and sensed that Matt Fitzpatrick, who later confessed to goose bumps, and Max Homa had paused. He wondered where his caddie, Joe LaCava, was but soon saw he trailed behind.
“That’s after I began fascinated about, the subsequent time it comes around here I won’t be around,” Woods said. The tears didn’t come immediately, but there was Rory McIlroy tipping his cap, the players at the primary tee fated to see Woods in his own twilight, possibly, at St. Andrews.
Eventually, the boys in Game No. 46, including a P.G.A. Championship winner and an Open victor, walked on because they’d to.
They kept looking back, though. Woods peered ahead, looking, no less than one last time, for the 18th cup.