Tuesday, 16 July 2019
Tiger Woods  (Getty Images)
Tiger Woods (Getty Images)

Tiger Woods is taking inspiration from two fellow greats of the game as he goes in search of a fourth Open Championship title at Royal Portrush Golf Club this week.

The American last lifted the Claret Jug in 2006 and the 13 years since have been a roller coaster, with a host of factors - including numerous back surgeries - seeing him slip out the top 1,000 on the Official World Golf Ranking before roaring back to win his 15th Major Championship earlier this season at the Masters Tournament.

Woods had his first significant challenge for a Major in five years last summer when he led at Carnoustie Golf Links with eight holes to play and feels that at 43 years of age and with his back to look after, links golf may provide his best chance of more Major glory.

A 53-year-old Greg Norman finished third at Royal Birkdale in 2008 before Tom Watson lost in a play-off at Turnberry 12 months later at the age of 59, and Woods sees no reason why a more nuanced approach to the game cannot deliver a win this week.

"Dealing with the procedures I've had and being a little bit older, it just doesn't move quite as fast when it's a little bit cooler," he said. "But the great thing is playing in an Open Championship you can do it.

"Look what Tom did at Turnberry, what Greg did at Birkdale. The golf course is fast enough. Even if you don’t have the speed to carry the ball 320 yards anymore, you can still run the ball quite a bit out there. You just have to navigate the bunkers and navigate around the golf course.

“There is an art to playing links golf. It’s not ‘okay, I have 152 yards, bring out the automatic nine iron and hit it 152’. Here, 152 could be a little bump and run pitching wedge. It could be a chip six iron. It could be a lot of different things.

"Being able to control it as best you possibly can in the air to control it on the ground allows the older players to have a chance to do well in The Open Championship."

Look what Tom did at Turnberry, what Greg did at Birkdale. The golf course is fast enough - Tiger Woods

One man who knows how to play the contours of Portrush better then most is Brooks Koepka's caddie and native of the town Ricky Elliott.

Such is Elliott’s perceived inside track that even Woods has tried to piggyback on his wisdom.

“I texted Brooksy and I said, ‘mind if I tag along and play a practice round?,” Woods said. “I’ve heard nothing.”

Elliott’s presence on the fairways this week means Koepka is walking slightly in his shadow, with the World Number One himself even talking about how great it would be for the 41-year-old bagman to win in his home town.

“I’m sure he’ll have quite a bit of friends and family out," he said. "It will be a special week for him, for sure.

“I don’t think when he grew up that he ever thought there would be an Open Championship here and to top it off, I don’t think he ever thought he’d be a part of it.

“And to be caddying and to be able to win one here would be - he’d be a legend, wouldn’t he? He already is. But it would be cool to see him win.

“I wouldn’t want anybody else on my bag. He’s been tremendous. He’s part of the reason why I’ve had the success I’ve had.

“I love the guy to death and am looking forward to many years to come, he’s not going to leave me for a long time.”

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1LOWRY, ShaneIRL18-15
3FINAU, TonyUSA18-7
T4KOEPKA, BrooksUSA18-6

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