As Justin Thomas insisted it would not be a shock to see Tiger Woods in contention at the Open, three-time winner Nick Faldo wrote off the prospect of a 16th major success for the 46-year-old Woods at St Andrews. Faldo even floated the idea that this Open would bring down the curtain on the American’s illustrious career.
On Sunday, Woods and Thomas had a five-hour practice session on the Old Course, during which the former limped badly. Woods, who missed the US Open last month, is still reeling from a serious car accident last February. He signed, however, in a remarkable manner; Woods drove the green on the par-four 18th before seeing a 20-foot eagle putt hang over the edge of the hole.
After that, Thomas discussed the possibility of his close friend Open. “His swing looks as good as ever,” said the US PGA champion. “Would I be surprised if he challenged this week? No. I’ve learned to better challenge anything about him.
Faldo is not convinced. The Englishman believes the scale of effort needed to win a major match is up to Woods. “I don’t think there’s a chance, no,” Faldo said when asked by Sky Sports if Woods could win the Claret Glee. “Physically, he played at Adare Manor [in last week’s JP McManus pro-am] and was in a cart for a couple of days to rest his leg. The physical challenge is just walking around the golf course, and although St. Andrews looks flat, this course has so many twisting undulations that it will be physically demanding for him.
“Even when Tiger was fit and strong, he doesn’t play much and these kids [the world’s top players] young and strong. Who knows what we will get from Tiger, where he is in his mind and what he is thinking.
“If you’re going to retire, this is the place to retire, but is it too soon? What does he know and believe about his leg or his golf game? What are the possibilities? don’t know Tiger always keeps things very close to his chest.’
Thomas sought information at St. Andrews from Woods, who has won two Open championships at the course. – A little, – said Thomas. “I understand he’s going to withhold some information, but I’m trying to get as much out of him as I can because he’s doing a pretty good job at this place.” Thomas, the No. 5 in the world, is expected by many to do well in the Open.
He declared himself a big fan of St. Andrews. “I love it here, it’s incredible,” said the 29-year-old. “It’s very special. It is unique. This is the most authentic Open link I have ever played. It’s such a fun place. I’ve never missed a result like I did at the Scottish Open on Friday because it was so nice to come here and have two days of preparation.”
Thomas played down widespread fears that the Old Course could be broken up by competitors due to the possibility of mild weather conditions and advances in technology. “The fairways are already hard,” Thomas explained. “If the green ends up getting baked and hard as a fairway, you’re not going to be able to get close to it where they can put those pins. It’s going to take a lot of discipline, patience and drive.”
On the famous road hole, the 17th, Thomas landed an errant drive on the grounds of the Old Course Hotel. The ball narrowly missed former R&A chief executive Peter Dawson, who at least saw the funny side of the incident.