Tiger Woods waits to putt on the 11th green during the first round of The Open Championship on the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland, yesterday. (Reuters)
Reuters/St Andrews, Scotland
At the venue where he stamped his greatness on the sport with the lowest score to par in major golf history, Tiger Woods trudged off the 18th at St Andrews yesterday with his spectacular decline well and truly validated by the Old Course.
As Jordan Spieth effortlessly assumed the mantle of golf’s number one draw with a five-under par 67 and Dustin Johnson went two better with a 65, Woods cut a forlorn figure as he carded a ragged four-over par 76.
On the course where he posted a 19-under par 269 total in 2000, the only 269 on the horizon this week is his room number at the St Andrews Hotel, where he has stayed on every visit since that 2000 success, and even making the cut this week already looks unlikely.
Fifteen years ago Woods became the youngest man to complete a career grand slam when he won the British Open with a masterful display of ball control at St Andrews.
He triumphed again at the home of golf five years later but his game today bears almost no relation to that of his glory years when he ruled the sport and chalked up 14 majors.
The last of those came in 2008 and after a series of injuries, off-course dramas and swing changes, the prospect of him adding a 15th any time soon looks unlikely in the extreme.
Yesterday he was out mid-morning with the best of the weather but while everyone around him was racking up birdies galore, Woods struggled from the start.
His second shot at the opening hole found water leading to a bogey and he dropped another on the second when he left his approach short and then opted to putt on and was again short.
The player who was world number one as recently as last May is now ranked 241st in the world and even that looked generous as he dropped three more shots to sit five over after 10 holes—already 10 shots behind Spieth.
Woods routinely took an iron off the tee to try to keep some control leaving him considerably shorter than his rivals and it forced him into some tough approach shots that he all too often got wrong.
He did manage to settle things down on the way home, claiming his first birdie at the par-five 14th and, for a player whose default expression was a scowl even when he was winning everything, he looked remarkably relaxed around the course and was still trying to look positive afterwards.
“I know that today is a very benign day and guys have been shooting good numbers. Unfortunately I did not do that but hopefully the conditions will be tough tomorrow and I can put together a good round and we’ll move up the board progressively,” Woods said.
“I’m so far back and the leaderboard is so bunched that in order for me to get in there by Sunday, I’m going to have to have the conditions tough and then obviously put together some really solid rounds.”
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