TIGER Woods could never have imagined he would still be here, teeing off on Saturday, not after the way he had started. After that first round he had confessed that only worsening weather would give him any chance of waking up at the weekend still involved in the 144th Open. It turns out he was right.
But it wasn’t, as he had been hoping, a revelation in his play that allowed him to tame the conditions while others crumbled. He hadn’t even beaten the cut. The 14-times major winner was only around because the weather refused to let him end the misery and close out his second round.
It seemed cruel but he had not thought twice about humiliating this grand old lady in past excursions to the Fife coast, wrapping up titles here in 2000 and 2005 with scores of -19 and -14 respectively, so perhaps this was a case of revenge being served up cold and wet and windy.
“I only made three birdies in two days. That’s not very good. The golf course wasn’t playing that hard, I just didn’t get much out of either of the two rounds,” he said, after carding a 7-over total of 151 for the two rounds. It surprised him because he had been under the impression his game was in good enough shape to actually win the Claret Jug for the fourth time.
He admits he is frustrated that he won’t get the chance to do that over the next two days, but as he walked up the 18th he was soothed by the goodwill of the crowd, who would love to see him recapture old form.
“I’ve won here a couple times. I wasn’t that great in 2010. Obviously a little bit worse here in ’15. Next time, hopefully I play a little bit better. That kind of a warm reception is awfully special. It’s one of the things I was talking about with Jason [Day]. I said, it’s the greatest walk in golf.”
Aside from the weather, this week at St Andrews has thus far been all about saying goodbye.
But if the farewells to Nick Faldo and Tom Watson had been nostalgic, sentimental affairs, comforted by the acceptance that their time had come, Tiger Woods missing the Open cut for the first time in his 18 appearances and cuts at back to back majors for the first time in his career, was greeted with mixed emotions. The big screens beamed footage of past Old Course heroics and featuring prominently was the man who used to navigate it in his slippers, with a pipe and paper in hand, such was his class and ease around the undulating surfaces.
It was the scene of his Open debut, in 1995 when he finished tied 68th, having seen out all four rounds. It was also the place he finished third just five years ago. But it is the two wins here which hold a special place in his heart.
The man who tackled the course and the elements this week and was pulverised in the process, who forlornly chased pars and – yesterday morning – his scorecard across windswept fairways, looked like the man on the screens and he had the same name but his game came from a different bag.
Before the competition started he had shot down the suggestion that usurping Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors is now a dream too far.
“No, not at all. I’m still young. I’m not 40 yet. I know some of you guys think I’m buried and done, but I’m still right here in front of you. I love playing these events.”
One wonders how quickly that will be uttered in the past tense because this past week he has never looked like a player who was enjoying himself and he never, ever looked like one who could win this.
At 6pm yesterday he finally headed out again to complete the formalities. He says he will be back. “I’ll probably have less hair then but hopefully a better game!” While he may not be ready to accept it, most doubt the old Tiger will ever return.
But he wasn’t the only former champion or fan favourite to miss the cut. Scots Stephen Gallacher and Russell Knox realised their fate when they finished their second rounds on totals of two-over, while Sandy Lyle was a shot further back. Among the former winners to bow out were John Daly, Tom Lehman, Todd Hamilton and Mark Calcavecchia, who racked up a painful 11-over. Cowd pleasers Bubba Watson (+3), Miguel Angel Jimenez (+4) and Ian Poulter (+3) fell short, as did Englishman Daniel Brooks (+5), despite a hole in one at the 11th. Countryman Gary Boyd finished bottom of the pile with a combined total of 13 over. But Victor Dubuisson, Shane Lowry and Tommy Fleetwood, one of Thursday’s top performers with a first round 69, will be stung by their near miss. They were among those who finished one over, with only even par good enough for progress.