Nine-time major winner Gary Player does not believe Tiger Woods will win one of golf’s premier events again – even if he is playing at St Andrews, his favourite venue, this week.
The 46-year-old raised expectations after his horrific car accident 18 months ago in which he almost lost a leg by making the cut at the Masters in April, eventually finishing 23 shots behind winner Scottie Scheffler.
After withdrawing from the US PGA ahead of his final round due to the physical demands which had been placed on his body, he opted not to participate in last month’s US Open.
Woods spent almost six hours playing a practice round on Sunday at St Andrews, a venue where he won two of his 15 majors in 2000 and 2005 – and one which is more forgiving on his body – but Player does not think that will make much difference.
“I was very pleased to see Tiger Woods come back. He is an example of handling adversity and coming back much quicker than people thought he would,” he told the PA news agency.
“What he did, coming back and making the cut [at two majors this year] was outstanding [but] he won’t come back as the Tiger Woods he was because you can’t beat youth.
“Do I think he will win another major? No, I don’t think so. Will he win another tour title? Conceivably, yes. I’d love to see him win on the tour again, it would be the most wonderful thing for golf, but I don’t think so.
“When you have the injuries he has had, he’s limping, and it is hard to win when you are not physically fit.
“If anyone deserves to win it is Tiger Woods but for him to win it’s going to not be easy – although you are talking about Tiger Woods.
“He loves St Andrews and he could do well there. It’s very encouraging as he is the draw card of the world.
“It’s a very good golf course for him, he likes the golf course. He’s not hitting the ball as straight as he was and St Andrews is very wide and the greens are very big.”
Player, who in the build-up to this week has been touring the United Kingdom and Ireland with the Claret Jug in association with HSBC, does believe, however, the Home of Golf may be the place Rory McIlroy finally ends his major drought.
The Northern Irishman won four of golf’s top events between 2011 and 2014 but has not been able to add to his tally since.
But three top-eight finishes in majors this year, plus visible signs the 33-year-old’s game is getting back to where it once was, has raised hopes he could lift a second Claret Jug.
“The man who has the most ability in the world today and the best swing is Rory McIlroy,” said Player.
“No one has a swing and the ability to play golf that Rory McIlroy does. He still has to find that little something, I don’t know what it is, but when he finds it watch out.
“I think he’s going to win the Open.”
Gary Player was supporting The 150th Open Championship Claret Jug Tour, in partnership with HSBC UK. Fans can now enter the ticket ballot for The 151st Open at Royal Liverpool