Tiger Woods’ emotional walk down No. 18 at The Open
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Tiger Woods hustled over the Swilcan Bridge as fast as his repaired legs could muster, removing his hat and saluting the thousands in attendance at the Old Course who rose as one.
There was no pause. No moment of reflection. But as he came down from the cobblestones Rory McIlroy tipped his hat toward Woods. It was then that the moment hit Woods and the tears started to build. This might be the last hurrah, at least at the Old Course, where he’s won two Open Championships.
“It’s very emotional for me. I’ve been coming here since 1995. I think the next one comes around in 2030 so and I don’t know if I will be physically able to play by then. To me it felt like this might have been my last British Open here at St. Andrews,” Woods said after shooting 75 for a two-round total of 9-over 153.
The Old Course is Woods’ unrivaled favorite. He’s said it several times. Even before he dominated it in 2000 and 2005 for two of his three Claret Jugs. Its strategic principles, the way it requires players to plot their way around, its demand for shotmaking and its extensive history are all reasons he loves it.
As Woods continued down the 18th, the throngs of fans found full voice and Justin Thomas and others on the first tee delayed their rounds to show appreciation. Memories of his first trip as an amateur in 1995, when Arnold Palmer said goodbye, flashed through his mind. Then he remembered the roars reserved for Jack Nicklaus years later, which Woods heard from several holes away.
The fans, the ovation and the warmth, it was an unbelievable feeling. I understand what Jack and Arnold had gone through in the past. I was kind of feeling that way there at the end. …They understand what golf’s all about and what it takes to be an Open champion,” Woods added. “And I’ve been lucky enough and fortunate enough to have won this twice here. … I feel like I will be able to play future British Opens, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to play long enough that when it comes back around here.”
Woods drove just short of the 18th green and chipped close but his putt for one last birdie lipped out. Still, the intensity of the ovation and the respect from his peers made Woods emotional. He looked toward the ground and put his hands to his eyes as the tears welled up.
“As I got closer to the green, … the ovation got louder and you could feel the warmth and you could feel the people from both sides,” he said. “Felt like the whole tournament was right there and they all had appreciated what I’ve done here for the years I’ve played. … I felt like it just came to a head right there as I was walking to my golf ball.”
Woods has been adamant this week that he’s not retiring and that he hopes to compete in future Opens, but he also played just three times this year and said he has no other events on his schedule. The amount of time and effort it takes for him to compete will prevent him from playing more tournaments.
After making the cut at the Masters in April, Woods replicated the feat at the PGA Championship in May. But he struggled in the third round and had to withdraw. He skipped the U.S. Open just to make sure he could find his way to St. Andrews, which Woods said won’t host another Open for eight years.
“I’m not retiring from the game,” Woods added. “It’s a struggle just playing the three events I played this year. That in itself was something I’m very proud of. I was able to play these three events, considering what has transpired.”
As such, Woods said there were no events currently on his calendar.
“Maybe something next year,” he said. “It’s hard just to walk and play 18 holes. People have no idea what I have to go through and the hours of the work on the body, pre and post, each and every single day to do what I just did.”
Here’s a hole-by-hole breakdown of Woods’ second round at The 150th Open, as the three-time Open champion (twice at St. Andrews) made sure to understand, feel and embrace the moment.
Hole 18 (par 4, 343 yards): Stepping to the final tee box of his week at The 150th Open, Woods savored the moment before selecting a fairway metal. He hit a low runner up the left-hand side that bounded toward the green, stopping approximately 40 yards short, the famed Valley of Sin between his ball and the hole location.
The crowd roared as Woods crossed the Swilcan Bridge; he removed his cap and smiled in appreciation. He chose not to stop on the bridge, though, perhaps implying that he intends to make a future Open appearance at St. Andrews.
As he neared the green, his outward emotion built. Tears were shed as the roars grew. He smiled and nodded with affection, simultaneously beaming and crying. It marked quite a touching moment at the Home of Golf.
It was then time for Woods to collect himself and complete his round. He played a bump-and-run for his second shot, judging the speed perfectly as the ball rolled through the Valley of Sin, up and onto the green. It nestled to within 4 feet for birdie. The right-to-left putt broke just a tad too much, though, and the ball hit the left side of the hole before spinning out. He tapped in for his par, took off his hat and made a 360-degree spin in waving to all corners of the gallery. He shook hands with his playing partners, hugged caddie Joe LaCava and departed the surreal scene.