The sporting outcome was to be expected after the first round of the British Open 2022. Tiger Woods fails to make the cut. But he had probably not expected the elemental force with which he was met by the love of the fans as he walked down the final fairway. Riotous cheers from the tee to the green. Standing ovations on the grandstand at the last hole. Even the 46-year-old, who won the British Open here in 2000 and 2005, had to shed a few tears.
“And I don’t know if I’ll be physically able to play another British Open here at St Andrews”. The next Open on the Old Course at St. Andrews is not scheduled for another eight years, in 2030, due to the chaos caused by the Corona pandemic. It’s actually the “Home of Golf’s” turn to host golf’s oldest major tournament every five years.
Tiger Woods: “You could feel the warmth”
That might be too long for Woods, who remains very limited in his walking. And so the walk down the final fairway amounted to a farewell tour. Everyone present seemed aware of the significance of the moment. And even though Woods still talks about wanting to continue working hard to play tournaments, it’s quite possible that this could never again be the case on his self-declared favorite course.
The closer he got to the 18 green, Woods explained, the more emotional it became. He said he saw Rory McIlroy, who had just started on one, coming toward him. “As I walked further along the fairway, I saw Rory right there. He gave me the tip of the cap. It was a pretty cool — the nods I was getting from guys as they were going out and I was coming in, just the respect, that was pretty neat. And from a players’ fraternity level, it’s neat to see that and feel that. And then as I got into the shot — or closer to the green, more into the hole, the ovation got louder and got — you could feel the warmth and you could feel the people from both sides. Felt like the whole tournament was right there.”
And it felt like a very special moment for the spectators, too. Something big was in the air, a big goodbye. At the very least, a big uncertainty. Tiger was probably not the only one who had “a few tears” in his eyes. But Woods made one thing clear right away during the subsequent media talk: “I’m not retiring from the game. I will continue to play British Opens in the future.”