The Open: Fast-running links will provide ageing Tiger Woods with hope

Tiger Woods believes the Open Championship represents his best chance to add to his major tally as he looks to become the latest 40-something winner of the Claret Jug.

Tiger Woods in contemplative mood on the ninth tee during practice on Tuesday (Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire).
Tiger Woods in contemplative mood on the ninth tee during practice on Tuesday (Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire).

Woods has not played the Open since missing the cut at St Andrews in 2015, but his remarkable recovery from spinal fusion surgery means the 42-year-old’s attempt for a fourth Claret Jug cannot be overlooked.

The omens may well be in his favour considering five of the past seven Open champions have been 39 or older, while the dry conditions at Carnoustie are reminiscent of Royal Liverpool in 2006.

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Woods famously used his driver just once all week at Hoylake, led the field in fairways hit and won his third Open title a month after missing the cut in the US Open, as he did this year at Shinnecock Hills.

The former world No 1 has won the Masters and US PGA four times and his last major victory was the 2008 US Open, but asked if the Open was his best chance for more silverware, Woods said: “As far as long term, certainly I would say yes because you don’t have to be long to play on a links golf course.”

Aside from the victories by Darren Clarke, Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson and Henrik Stenson, Tom Watson famously lost a play-off for the 2009 Open at the age of 59, while 53-year-old Greg Norman led after 54 holes in 2008 before finishing third.

“Look at what Tom did at Turnberry. Greg was there at Birkdale. So it’s possible. It certainly can be done,” Woods added.

“You get to places like Augusta National, where it’s just a big ballpark, and the golf course outgrows you unfortunately. That’s just the way it goes. But a links-style golf course, you can roll the ball.

“I hit a three iron on the 18th that went 333 yards. Even if I get a little bit older I can still chase some wood or a long club down there and hit the ball the same distance.

“Distance becomes a moot point, but creativity plays such an important role and you’ve got guys like Tom playing late in his career, doing well. There’s a reason he won five of these [Open Championships]. He’s very creative and hit all the shots.”

Since returning to action following that make-or-break surgery last April, Woods has recorded three top-10 finishes in 11 PGA Tour events, finishing second to Paul Casey in the Valspar.