Tiger Woods Called The Old Course “Stupidly Hard” at First

Tiger Woods, St. Andrews,The Old Course,Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports
Tiger Woods, St. Andrews,The Old Course,Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports /

Tiger Woods realizes that this may possibly be his last chance to play a British Open at The Old Course.

With that, he has become oddly sentimental, reminiscing about the first time he played The Old Course at St. Andrews as a young amateur, who he played practice rounds with, and what it was like for him in his first British Open.

“My very first practice round, I couldn’t believe how stupidly hard this place (was),” Woods admitted in his press conference before the British Open. The reason, he noted, was the shift in the wind direction, which notoriously happens when the tide changes from low to high.

“I happened to have the tide change, and I played every hole into the wind,” he said. “All of a sudden it changes, and I see. No. These bunkers are now in play.”

"The Wind and The Tides and Picking Winners:   Sir Nick Faldo, during his tenure as a golf announcer, has often mentioned that wind changes come with tide changes.  Most U.S. golfers never experience it because most U.S. golf is played inland. But in Scotland and Ireland, with so many courses along the coasts, it can play havoc with any golfer’s round, and it’s likely they have learned to pay attention to it.  It may be the same for every seaside or near seaside course.On Thursday of this week, the first tide, which according to the tide charts appears to be high tide, occurs at 3:38 AM. The first low tide is about eight hours later at 10:34 AM. Afternoon high tide is at 4:12 PM and low tide is at 10:43 PM, all local times.  Now this could actually be important for those who want to bet on the outcome of each round or the British Open finale. A lot of study would be needed for the field to determine when the wind is going to switch."

As a newcomer,  Tiger Woods got tips on playing The Old Course during his practice rounds and they came from older and wiser players like Fred Couples, Raymond Floyd, Jose Maria Olazabal, and Bernhard Langer.

"“They showed me the ropes of how to play this golf course and how many different options there were,” he explained. “It was eye opening, how this golf course can play as easily as it can be played and also as difficult it can play, just by the wind changing, obviously when the tide changes as well.”"

Tiger Woods’ first trip to St. Andrews was in 1995, and in the first two rounds, he played with Ernie Els and Peter Jacobsen.

At the end of the tournament, he finished 68th. If he’d played as a professional, he would have won €6,965 because he made the cut.

Now, due to the injuries to his right leg in 2021, he realizes that this may possibly be his last chance to play a British Open at The Old Course.  It has become very important to him.

“I’m not going to play a full schedule ever again,” Woods said.

"“My body just won’t allow me to do that. I don’t know how many Open Championships I have left here at St Andrews, but I wanted this one.”"

Once he realized that he could potentially play golf at a high level again, he set his sites on the British Open.

"“My focus was to get back here at St Andrews to play in this championship,” he explained.  “It’s the most historic one we’ve ever had. I just didn’t want to miss this Open here at the home of golf.”"

Yes, it’s the history of golf, but it’s also the history of Tiger Woods.

"“This is where I completed the career grand slam,” he noted. “At the time I had the record in scoring in all four major championships.”"

Tiger Woods, British Open, The Old Course, St. Andrews, The Open
Tiger Woods and Jacks Nicklaus at The Old Course, St. Andrews, (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images) /

That was in 2000 when he was halfway to the Tiger Slam.

Tiger Woods recalled earlier this year that it was amazing he was able to play at Augusta when he had just started putting weight on his leg six weeks before the tournament.

Being able to play in Tulsa, he thought was another big step forward, even though he had to withdraw.

His biggest challenge has been, other than the difficult rehabilitation process, trying to get tournament tough without playing in any tournaments.

"‘I’m not hitting shots in tournaments to know what works and what doesn’t work. I’ve had to do that at home,” he explained."

He said he can practice at home, but anyone would agree that it’s just not the same as tournament pressure.

However, walking at The Old Course is easier than the first two majors he played this year. The downside is that even St. Andrews has plenty of opportunity for odd stances which are very difficult for him.

If Tiger Woods gets into a pot bunker, will caddie Joe La Cava have to pull him out?

“I’ve gotten a lot stronger since then,” he added about the first two majors he played this season.

"“I spend more time now that I’ve gotten a chance to work in the weight room and get stronger and get the endurance better in my leg.”"

In his practice rounds, he is not just testing the speed of the greens, which are notoriously slower than typical greens at PGA Tour events.

He is trying to figure out the speed of the fairways.  In addition, he’s testing how much the wind will cause the ball to drift.

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This week, Tiger Woods has paid attention to the historic nature of St. Andrews and The Old Course.  As he said, there is even a lot of history in who has walked over the Swilcan Bridge.

“It started here for me in ’95, and if it ends here in ’22, it does,” he noted. “If I get the chance to play one more, it would be great, but there’s no guarantee.”