Why Tiger Woods Looks Destined To Play At The Open This Year
This year’s battle for the Claret Jug, the 150th instalment of the Open Championship, has all the ingredients to be one of the best as Bill Elliott writes...
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With 2022 now underway following the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, it’s a time for both reflection and thinking ahead. Some of you may feel it’s preferable to stay in the present. Whatever your position, there is no doubt that the last 12 months have been both challenging and encouraging. Clever people have stepped up to offer us a vaccine that saves lives while opening the doors to actual crowds gathering at events.
No sport has gained more from this than golf. The fact that the old game’s supporters can maintain an electrifying silence before releasing a roar of approval at an outstanding shot only emphasises the adrenalin jab that fans bring to the scene.
Nowhere will this be more obvious this year than at St Andrews during the 150th Open Championship. What a week this promises to be. The Open at the old town is always the most special week, but this 2022 version will be even bigger, a celebration not only of the grandest championship of them all but a deep appreciation of the game itself.
It will be my 45th Open and, who knows, possibly the last I attend. It will, however, be poignant for several reasons. My friend Peter Alliss had definitely decided to retire after this Open, completing a circle he began almost 70 years ago. He never made it, of course, but at some point I shall pause and raise a glass to his memory and to the thought that he may be among the game’s Gods who gather mischievously to look down on Old Course rookies swishing nervously on that 1st tee. It should be the easiest drive in golf, but somehow contrives to be up there with the most difficult.
We may also see Tiger Woods in Scotland. It was both impressive and reassuring to hear Woods talk recently about his ongoing recovery from that awful car crash. He knows he will never be quite the same again, but he hopes his ongoing rehab will mean a restricted and selective return to pro golf in 2022 is not only possible but worth the mind-numbing effort.
Rest assured, two events will be top of any shortlist he ultimately compiles... The Masters and The Open, especially The Open. He always says the Old Course is his favourite jousting ground. This is partly because of the history and the vivid and unique difference to other places, but also the fact that a player can feel protected, isolated almost, from the physical presence of a crowd.
When he first played there as a professional in 2000 – and crushed the opposition – he said he appreciated the relative tranquillity of the place as much as the challenge and the historic back story, pointing out that the only other place he found this peace was when he was indulging his passion for sub-aqua fun.
If he does make it to this special Open Championship then his presence will make it extra special. By then, he should have an idea if he can play the game to a more than slightly decent level. If not, I suspect he will not hang around, and what better place to end the most significant sporting career of my lifetime. Any sport, any career.
Before then, of course, there is much golf to be played by you, by me and by the world’s best. They do it for serious reasons and try to have a bit of fun now and then, as well as scooping into ever-increasing shedloads of dosh. The rest of us do it for fun but try to take it seriously. Sometimes we succeed, mostly we don’t, but it helps keep us on the right side of sane.
But the first date to note in 2022 is February 3, when the Saudi International begins, with at least two plane-loads of the most successful current golfers heading there, rather than at the PGA Tour’s Pebble Beach Pro-Am. This marks the opening shot in the battle between the Saudi-backed Asian Tour and the American circuit. For the first time in its existence, the PGA Tour is being challenged seriously. Players may be forced to take sides and the lawyers will, as ever, have even more lucrative fun as the old status quo is skittered on to its back.
Bill has been part of the Golf Monthly woodwork for many years. A very respected Golf Journalist he has attended over 40 Open Championships. Bill was the Observer's golf correspondent. He spent 26 years as a sports writer for Express Newspapers and is a former Magazine Sportswriter of the Year. After 40 years on 'Fleet Street' starting with the Daily Express and finishing on The Observer and Guardian in 2010. Now semi-retired but still Editor at Large of Golf Monthly Magazine and regular broadcaster for BBC and Sky. Author of several golf-related books and a former chairman of the Association of Golf Writers. Experienced after dinner speaker.
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