Rocking a hoodie, backward hat and sunglasses, Tiger Woods arrived in Ireland, landing at Adare Manor, site of the 36-hole J.P. McManus Pro-Am, via helicopter for his one and only tune up ahead of the 150th British Open.
Woods has done his best to ghost the world since he withdrew from the PGA Championship at Southern Hills in May after gutting out another made cut at a major and shooting 79 on Saturday in cold, dreary weather. Given the obvious pain he was dealing with, Woods had little to gain in playing the final round. His chase of his 16th major triumph would have to wait. Then he elected to skip the U.S. Open in June in order to give his body more time to prepare for the easier walk at the flatter Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland, where he claimed two of his three Claret Jugs in 2000 and 2005.
Woods, 46, defied the odds by returning from his serious single-car accident last February and multiple surgeries to play in the PNC Championship in December with son Charlie with benefit of a golf cart in the two-man team event. Then he shocked the world in April by competing at the Masters, and shooting an opening-round 71. He finished 47th.
“That’s the first time I would think that 78-78 on the weekend of a major would be a smile,” mused ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt. “But I felt like that smile reflected the satisfaction of, man, I got here. I got here. I played well enough to be here on the weekend. Did I play how I wanted? No, but I’m here, man, and I’m playing.”
Woods was quick to commit after the Masters to being at St. Andrews in July, noting it is his favorite course in the world.
But there have been no updates on his current health, just a few random tweets, one showing the devastating effect of the crash to his right leg without pants or covered by a compression sleeve (below).
The other showed Woods on the sideline at his daughter’s soccer practice in Florida, rehearsing his golf swing without a club.
“The man never stops working,” the fan site TW Legion observed.
In a field with nine of the top 10 players in the world ranking at the J.P. McManus Pro-Am, Woods still is the center of attention. He’s turned the event into must-see TV to determine if he still has a pronounced limp as he did at the PGA Championship and to show how sharp his game looks. But why might he be playing in a hit-‘n-giggle with a major looming?
ESPN’s Curtis Strange was referring to Tiger playing Augusta National ahead of the Masters, but the sentiment holds true for St. Andrews too.
“How else would you test yourself other than to go walk and play and get up there and play some practice rounds and see if you can walk the golf course, see how the leg holds up, see how the game is,” Strange said.
The pro-am will serve as a good opportunity for Woods to simulate playing in a competitive environment with 40,000 spectators watching, with nothing but pride on the line.
The J.P. McManus will be streamed from 9 a.m.-2:30 ET on Peacock on Monday and Tuesday. Golf Channel will replay the event from 7 p.m.-12:30 a.m. ET both days.