By Steve Keating
ST ANDREWS, Scotland (Reuters) – Missing the cut at The Open, Tiger Woods walked over the Swilcan Bridge, where so many legends have said farewell to the sport, took off his cap and tearfully acknowledging the crowd leaving a golfing cliff-hanger that is unlikely to be answered soon.
Was that Woods’ final competitive round on the Old Course, the layout on which he won two of his three Claret Jugs and which he calls his all-time favourite?
‘Wait and see’ was the 46-year-old American’s answer, a response that was more realistic than evasive.
“I’ve been coming here since 1995, and I don’t know when — I think the next one comes around in what, 2030 — and I don’t know if I will be physically able to play by then,” he said.
“So to me it felt like this might have been my last British Open here at St Andrews.
“I’m not retiring from the game. But I don’t know if I will be physically able to play back here again when it comes back around.”
If it was Woods’ last round at the Home of Golf, it came to a rousing finish as he walked up the a sun-bathed 18th with the massive gallery cheering and bagpipes crying in the distance.
The flashing on the grandstand read “Everything Has Led To This” and although the message was referring to The Open’s 150 anniversary it could have just as easily been put there for Woods.
A child prodigy who has gone onto become the greatest golfer of his generation winning 15 majors, Woods’ return to St Andrews may well be remembered as a pivotal moment in a remarkable career.
Grinding his way through a torturous comeback from a 2021 car crash that nearly resulted in the loss of his right leg, Woods’ return to competitive golf has been inspiring if only for his utter refusal to accept the limits of his injuries.
But a week on these ancient links exposed the reality of the road ahead.
After a spectacular return at April’s Masters, progress has been plodding.
Woods has played just three events and although he has twice made the cut, only twice has he broken par.
A golfer who had spent his entire career rewriting the record books is now setting unwanted milestones starting with his third round 78 at Augusta National, his worst ever at the Masters.
That was followed by a 79 at Southern Hills, his worst at the PGA Championships and Thursday’s opening round 78 his second-worst at an Open.
Woods has maintained, even during his comeback, that he only plays events he believes he can win but that bravado has begun to ring hollow.
After a horrific opening round 78 that included two double bogeys over his first seven holes, Woods began Friday 14 off the pace in a tie for 145th and only seven players below him on the leaderboard.
Woods, as ever, remained defiant but a three-over 75 was not nearly enough to repair the damage.
“My two-day play I made my share of mistakes,” conceded Woods. “Struggled again today to get the feel of the greens.
“I just never got anything going.
“I needed to shoot a low one today and I certainly did not do that and hence I won’t be around on the weekend.”
How much longer Woods will play competitive golf remains open to speculation.
He says he is not retiring, but at the same time has no plans.
“I have nothing, nothing planned. Zero,” said Woods. “Maybe something next year. I don’t know.
“But nothing in the near future. This is it.”
(Reporting by Steve Keating in St Andrews. Editing by Christian Radnedge)