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15th Jul 2022

Tiger Woods on Rory McIlroy’s gesture on 18 that caused the damn to break

Patrick McCarry

Tiger Woods

It was a simple, lovely show of respect.

As Tiger Woods walked to the 18th tee at the St Andrew’s Old Course, possibly for the final time as a professional golfer, he had only one thought on his mind.

Woods was +9 and knew he would not be sticking around for the weekend, at The Open, at least not in a competitive sense. Now a fully fledged R&A member, he may yet stick around to enjoy the golf, as a fan, and cheer on the likes of Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas – two men that grew up idolising him and, over the past decade or so, became his friend.

There could have been a lot swirling through his head, but Woods later told reporters he had only one thing to decide as he walked to the 18th tee – 3-wood or 5-wood. Ultimately, he went with the 3-wood and gave himself a chance for a short pitch onto the green and a look at birdie.

As he headed to the famous Swilcan Bridge, where he strode over on his way to victory here in 2000 and 2005, he sensed he had been left alone for the occasion:

“As I was walking off the tee, I felt the guys stop, and I looked around, where the hell is Joey? He stopped back there, so I gave him the club. That’s when I started to realise, hey, that’s when I started thinking about, the next time it comes around here I might not be around.”

Rory McIlroy hat-tip started the Tiger tears

While the TV cameras were, rightly, focusing on Tiger Woods making his walk over the Swilcan Bridge, one camera crew from CBS captured a small but lovely Rory McIlroy gesture.

McIlroy, who finished on -10 after a great round of 68, had just teed off on the first hole and was walking by Woods, as the first and 18th are adjacent.

As the Northern Irishman came close to the 15-time major winner, he tipped his cap to the living legend. Woods would later say this is what set him off crying.

‘It’s neat to see that and feel that’

Asked if the tears started to arrive as the realisation hit him that he may not be back to playing another Open at St Andrew’s, Tiger Woods replied, “No, not then.

“As I walked further along the fairway, I saw Rory right there. He gave me the tip of the cap. It was a pretty cool… the nods I was getting from guys as they were going out and I was coming in, just the respect, that was pretty neat. And from a players’ fraternity level, it’s neat to see that and feel that.

“And then as I got into the shot – or closer to the green, more into the hole, the ovation got louder and got – you could feel the warmth and you could feel the people from both sides. Felt like the whole tournament was right there.

“And they all had appreciated what I’ve done here for the years I’ve played – I’ve won two championships here – my British Open success and all my times I’ve enjoyed here in Scotland and playing, I felt like it just came to a head right there as I was walking to my golf ball.”

The only blemish for Woods, the ultimate competitor, is that he missed a simple birdie putt on the 18th.

With The Open not expected to return to this famous, old golf course until 2030 – when Woods will be 54 – this could well have been his farewell to Open championships at ‘The Home of Golf’.

“I’ve always loved coming to Ireland.”

Ahead of the 150th Open Championship, Tiger Woods spoke about why he loves playing golf in Ireland and his favourite courses to play.

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