Three time British Open winner Tiger Woods is to play in this year’s championship for the 20th time but first since 2015, tournament organisers announced yesterday.
The 42-year-old American - a 14 time Major winner - returned to competitive golf this season after missing most of the previous two years through injury and finished tied for 32nd at last month’s Masters.
“Three-time Champion Golfer Tiger Woods plans to tee it up at Carnoustie for The 147th Open after confirming his entry into golf’s original Championship,” read the statement from the organisers.
“The confirmation of the entry from one of the greatest golfers ever to grace the sport will delight fans around the world.”
Woods, who is playing at the “fifth major” The Players Championship in his first competitive outing since The Masters, has played two Opens at Carnoustie, finishing seventh in 1999 and 12th in 2007 which is the last time the Open was held at the course. Woods, champion in 2000, 2005 and 2006, missed the cut in 2015 and his best finish since his last victory was tied for third in 2012.
As recently as last September, before he underwent back fusion surgery, Woods was uncertain he would ever play golf again. But, since the operation, he has rediscovered the club head speed which he once took for granted.
In March, he registered the fastest club head speed by any US tour player this season by clocking 129.2 miles, or 207.9 kilometres, per hour on a drive at the Valspar Championship.
“I didn’t have any speed the last four or five years because my back wasn’t very good,” Woods said. “What I thought was speed was not. It was slow motion.
“Swinging at 115 mph an hour is not very quick. I didn’t realise for a number of years how bad my back was until I had it fixed. It’s kind of neat. I’m seeing speeds and velocities I haven’t seen since my early 20s.”
Woods’ best golf will never be repeated, says Mickelson
Tiger Woods in his prime played the best golf ever seen and it is highly unlikely those heights will ever be reached again, Phil Mickelson said yesterday ahead of this week’s Players Championship.
Mickelson traded friendly barbs with his old rival during their respective press conference at TPC Sawgrass, their relaxed demeanour a far cry from the days when, as the older American admitted, “it sucked” to have to face Woods on the course.
“I don’t think (we) will ever see that level of play again,” 47-year-old Mickelson said.
“It was the most remarkable golf in the history of the game and I think unrepeatable. I think it was that good.”
The once icy relationship between the multiple major winners has thawed since they hit their 40s, and they appeared genuinely pleased to be grouped together for the first two rounds here on Thursday and Friday.
They have played together only once at the Players Championship - in the third round in 2001 - when Woods was at the peak of the powers that brought him 14 major championships in barely a decade. It was the era when Woods won the 2000 US Open at Pebble Beach by 15 strokes, a record performance Mickelson suspects some younger players do not fully appreciate.
“I look at 2000 as being kind of the benchmark at the US Open as being the greatest golf I’ve ever witnessed and I believe has ever been played,” said Mickelson.
“And it sucked to have to play against him,” Mickelson continued. “You look at it and say ‘how am I going to beat this?’. There was a stretch there that it was hard to imagine that it was actually happening, that he was hitting some of the shots that he was hitting.”
The hype over their grouping this week - they will play with another American in Rickie Fowler - prompted Mickelson to playfully suggest sidelining the other 142 players and deciding the title in a head-to-head winner-takes-all match.
“Fifteen years ago my record against him sucked, and now it’s okay,” Mickelson said, giving a bit of needle. “I’m doing better as time has gone on.”
Mickelson has won five majors but also recorded 18 runner-up or third place finishes.
Asked about their rivalry, Woods smiled and suggested reporters kept an eye on the “big picture.”
“How many times have we won on tour?” the 42-year-old said, fully aware of the answer.
Woods has won 79 times on the PGA Tour, second only to Sam Snead’s 82 but well clear of Mickelson’s none-too-shabby 42 victories.
Chances are neither will add to those tallies this week, but for two days at least they will hog the limelight, two ageing heavyweights trying to keep pace with younger rivals who carry less baggage - and a lot less major silverware.
LEAVE A COMMENT Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*
Greaves shines in Scotland’s stunning win over Bangladesh
Maqsood, Singh help Oman beat Papua New Guinea
Afghanistan will stick to daring T20 approach, says skipper Nabi
Bayern smash five past Leverkusen to reclaim top spot
Al-Saadi wins Qatar Cycling Federation’s season-opening race
Fowler takes lead in Las Vegas, eyes end to drought
Rodriguez makes debut but Rayyan go down to Duhail; Sadd stay top
Thrilling victory for Tandon, Golan and Willstrop advance
Mir on target as Sevilla go third after win over Celta