TIGER Woods has said he was “shocked” by the condition of the Old Course at St Andrews as he arrived in Scotland to prepare for the 144th Open Championship.
Former world No 1 Woods, who won the 2000 Open at St Andrews by eight shots and the 2005 Open at the same venue by five strokes, said: “I had seen photos of it a month ago. It was bone dry. It looked like it was going to be one of those dust bowls again; hard, fast, like the years I’ve played St Andrews. It’s changed.
He’s doing the right thing, taking care of his body first before he gets back out hereTiger Woods on Rory McIlroy
“They got big rain and a lot of sun. It’s totally changed.
“We made ball marks on the greens. I don’t ever remember making ball marks around this place. I was shocked.
“I’m going to have to do a little bit of feel around the greens, my putting. I wasn’t expecting the firmness to be that soft.”
Woods is currently ranked 226th in the world after a nightmare season which has featured career-worst scores on the PGA Tour and in the US Open and a best finish of tied 17th in the Masters. However, the 14-time major winner did card three sub-par rounds to finish joint 32nd in the Greenbrier Classic in his last start, including a bogey-free closing 67.
“I feel good,” the 39-year-old added. “Sunday at Greenbrier is probably the best I hit it in two years. That was fun. It sounds crazy when I told everyone at Greenbrier that I felt close, after the scores I shot at the Memorial  and the US Open .
“I put it together at Greenbrier and hit it really good. [Instructor] Chris Como told me it was the first time I led the field in proximity to the hole with my iron game.”
Woods also revealed that he had his brain picked by Rory McIlroy over the ankle injury which has prevented him defending his Open Championship title.
McIlroy suffered a ruptured ankle ligament while playing football with friends last Saturday and told Woods about it the same day, although the world No 1 waited until Monday until he announced the news on Instagram.
“He sent me a photo the day he did it,” Woods told ESPN.com after practising at the Old Course on Saturday. “We talked about it for a little bit. He said, ‘You’ve been through a lot of injuries over the years’. So he picked my brain a little bit. We had a good talk.
“He’s doing the right thing, taking care of his body first before he gets back out here. No doubt he’s frustrated that he’s not going to be able to play in the Open Championship, especially here at St Andrews, and how well he’s been playing of late. This golf course really does set up well for him, too.
“That’s the way it goes. We all get injured at one point in time. Sometimes it’s through the sport or sometimes it’s through fun activities. You just never know.”
Woods admitted he would never risk playing tennis or a proper game of basketball during the week of a tournament, but would practise shooting hoops.
“You can’t live in a box,” Woods added in an interview with USA Today. “I’ve skied a lot. I like adrenaline. I like feeling that rush.
“That’s why I love spear fishing, free diving. It’s so peaceful down there. There is inherent risk in all of that. But you can’t live in a box.”