Tiger Woods’s welcome back to the British Open will be at the most challenging course of the Open rota, at least in his opinion.
“I have missed not playing the Open in a while because this is our oldest tournament, and then coming here to Carnoustie, it is special,” Woods said Sunday, speaking to reporters after a practice session at Carnoustie. “This is my fourth time playing it as a tournament. From my first time coming here as an amateur to being back now, it’s just amazing how this course doesn’t change. It is right in front of you. It’s hard. It’s probably the most difficult one we play in the whole rotation.”
In his two previous Opens at Carnoustie, Woods finished T12 in 2007 and T7 in 1999. He also tied for 48th as an amateur in the 1995 Scottish Open. This year, however, Mother Nature has changed the course more than previous years. An unusually hot summer in Scotland has dried out the links, and pros — like Rickie Fowler and Brandt Snedeker and others — are crushing the ball in the firm and fast conditions.
“Right now the fairways are faster than the greens,” said Woods, who hasn’t played an Open since 2015 at St. Andrews, when he missed the cut. “I am sure they will probably speed the greens up a touch, but I’m sure this will be one of those weeks where the fairways are a little quicker than the greens.”
Woods’s love for links golf is well known. It’s no target golf, and creativity is often rewarded. He said the trajectory of his shots will be key this week. According to Steve DiMeglio of USA Today, Woods even hit a seven-iron off the tee on Sunday.
“That’s what is going to be important — how hot you want the ball coming into the fairways,” he said. “You can really make the ball roll 60, 70, 80 yards. Is it really worth it or not? Some of the holes, can you carry bunkers? It is a risk-reward golf course, and the way it is set up right now it is going to play awfully narrow because it is so fast. We don’t get a chance to see it quite this firm very often. It was like this in 2000 and like this at Hoylake. It is just one of these weeks where I don’t see a lot of guys hitting woods off the tees just because it is so quick. It is just going to be about trying to keep the ball out in front of you. It will be a lot of fun.”
Of course, in 2000 at St. Andrews, Woods won. He also won at the aforementioned Hoylake Open in 2006, the last of his three claret jugs.
“I have a few more days to work on a few things and get the feel for playing this kind of golf again,” Woods said.