These young ’uns, eh? You spend a career inspiring the next generation with your golfing feats and what do they give you in return? Nowt, that’s what.

“I’ll tell you a funny story,” said Tiger Woods as he regaled the world’s media with a tale about the current major machine that is Brooks Koepka in the build-up to the Open Championship here at Royal Portrush.

“What he’s done in the majors has been unbelievable. He’s been in contention to win each and every major. I texted him and said:

‘Hey dude, do you mind if I tag along and play a practice round?’ … I’ve heard nothing.”

It’s hardly surprising Woods wanted a hit about with Koepka. Not withstanding Koepka’s inspiring form that has led to him winning four of the last nine majors he has competed in, the Floridian’s caddie is Northern Irishman Ricky Elliott, a Portrush native who knows the Dunluce links like the back of both his hands.

Oh well. Woods will just have to fathom out the nooks and crannies of Portrush for himself. And it’s this process that has left eager observers scratching their heads like Stan Laurel working out a yardage into the sixth.


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His build-up to the 148th Open, and his bid for a fourth Claret Jug, has provided more questions than answers. After that earth-shattering Masters win back in April, Woods has played just 10 rounds of competitive golf and, twice this season, he has not played at all between major championships in this new condensed schedule.

He’s so lightly raced, folk are just about suggesting he should head down south from here and have a run out at the Curragh while many still harbour concerns about his general fitness.

Woods admits his game is “not as sharp as I’d like it” and, like a student cramming in their revision before an exam, he’s got to learn Portrush pretty quickly. At least most of his rivals have to as well, given that there’s not been an Open here since 1951.

That Woods only played seven holes yesterday – the first and then 13 to 18 and said the rest of his preparation will take place on the range – merely added another layer of intrigue to the Tiger tune-up. As far as Woods is concerned it’s quality, not quantity that matters.

“I think I’ve seen enough of it [the course] to understand that I’m still going to have to do quite a bit of homework in my yardage book,” he added.

“I want to play here [on tour and in the Open] as long as I possibly can and you have to understand that if I play a lot, I won’t be out here that long. So it’s understanding how much I can play, prepping how much I do at home and getting ready.

“And the tricky part is trying to determine how much tournament play I need to get the feel for the shots and also understanding where my body is.”

That body was absolutely jiggered by the end of a hectic 2018 campaign in which he ramped up his comeback by playing in 19 events and winning an emotional Tour Championship. A week after that he played in the Ryder Cup and was completely exhausted.

The magnitude of his Masters win earlier this season, meanwhile, has taken a toll. Woods is the first to admit that.


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“Getting myself into position to win the Masters, it took a lot out of me,” conceded Woods. “That golf course puts so much stress on the system.

“If you looked at that leaderboard after Francesco [Molinari] made the mistake at 12 [in the final round], it seemed like seven, eight guys had a chance to win the golf tournament with only six holes to play.

“I was reading the leaderboard all the time trying to figure out what the number is going to be, who is on what hole. And it took quite a bit out of me.

“It was a very emotional week and one that I keep reliving. It’s hard to believe that I pulled it off and I ended up winning the tournament.”

Given that the weather is set to turn largely damp and a touch cooler, it’s not a great sign for Woods and a fragile back that prefers warmer, soothing climes.

“It just doesn’t move quite as fast when it’s a little cooler,” he said of his creaking frame. Despite that, Tiger remains confident the links game still offers him the chance of further glory.

“Look at what Tom did at Turnberry?” said 43-year-old Woods as he referenced Tom Watson’s momentous push for the Open at nearly 60 a decade ago.

“The Open allows the older players to have a chance to do well.”

If this 43-year-old does well here, Tiger-mania will be in full flow again.