THERE was a time when Tiger Woods would rock up to an Open Championship with an air of invincibility around him so powerful that it would trigger an involuntary twitching in the hand of the Claret Jug engraver.
He would not always win the Open but he would always expect to do so and, by dint of that unwavering confidence, pass on that same expectation to his rivals.
As a man triumphantly back at golf’s high table after his Masters victory, it might have been expected that Woods would pitch up at Portrush with that same swagger.
Woods is too much of a competitive animal to be an ornamental golfer but, blanked for a practice round by Brooks Koepka and still some way off where he wants to be on the range, he gave off the impression yesterday that a fourth Claret Jug is a stretch this week.
He has played only ten rounds of competitive golf under his belt since his Augusta win in April, choosing to holiday in Thailand after the US Open instead of fine-tune his game for the season’s final Major.
“Getting myself into position to win the Masters took a lot out of me,” said Woods. “That golf course puts so much stress on the system. And it took quite a bit out of me.
“Seeing my kids there, it was special for us as a family. So 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.”
Woods has been criticised by European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley for his non-existent playing schedule in between Majors but he insists he has little choice.
“I want to play here as long as I possibly can. And you have to understand, if I play a lot, I won’t be out here that long,” he said.
“So it’s understanding how much I can play, prepping how much I do at home and getting ready. And that’s the tricky part – trying to determine how much tournament play I need to get the feel for the shots and also understanding where my body is.
“It’s not quite as sharp as I’d like to have it right now. My touch around the greens is right where I need to have it. I still need to get the shape of the golf ball a little bit better than I am right now, especially with the weather coming in and the winds changing.
“Today it was a good range session. I need another one tomorrow. And hopefully that will be enough to be ready.”
The mixed forecast for the championship will not play in Woods’s favour. He has a back like a poker in the cold.
“It’s just part of, unfortunately, dealing with the procedures I’ve had, and being a little bit older. It just doesn’t move quite as fast when it’s a little bit cooler,” he said. “But the great thing is playing in an Open Championship, you can still do it. Look what Tom did at Turnberry, what Greg did at Birkdale.
“The golf course is fast enough that even if you don’t have the speed to carry the ball 20 yards anymore, you can still run the ball quite a bit out there. You just have to navigate the bunkers and navigate around the golf course. And that’s understanding how to play an Open Championship.”
He is right of course – knowhow and ringcraft counts double in an Open. But bracketing himself at 43 in with the greybeards Norman and Watson, who were in their fifties when they contended, gives an unintended insight of his state of mind and body this week.
Woods is feeling his age. And then some.
Who is Erica Herman? All about Tiger Woods’ girlfriend
Tiger Woods’ wild love life has had as many ups and downs as his golf career, and following the athlete’s severe car accident, many are curious to know the woman by his side.
The links great seems to have finally found his groove in dating just one woman — current girlfriend Erica Herman.
Here is everything to know about the pair’s nearly four-year relationship:
Woods and Herman began dating in 2017.
The 45-year-old golf legend and Herman, 44, were first spotted together at the Presidents Cup in 2017.
Herman was sporting a “player spouse” credential around her neck at the time, although they were not married.
Woods had previously been linked to Kristin Smith and Lindsey Vonn after splitting from ex-wife Elin Nordegren, who ended their six-year marriage in 2010, in part because of his many affairs — including with Rachel Uchitel. Woods and Nordegren had two kids together.
Herman is a supportive girlfriend.
Herman frequently travels with Woods to his competitions and was by his side when he earned his fifteenth major title at the 2019 Masters.
She later accompanied Woods to the White House in May of 2019, when the golf great was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom by former President Trump.
Woods posted a picture on Twitter of him, Herman and his children Charlie, 11, and Sam, 13, eating a quiet “Champion’s Dinner” together at home at about the time the canceled 2020 Masters tournament would’ve happened.
Had the event not been delayed for months because of COVID-19, Woods would have been hosting a formal Champions Dinner for fellow pros at Augusta National as the defending champion.
Herman is a Florida native.
Herman worked at Woods’ restaurant — The Woods — as she was local to the area, Metro reported.
Their time running the eatery was not without controversy. Both Herman and Woods were hit with a wrongful death suit in 2019 by the parents of a bartender at The Woods, who allegedly was overserved booze at the establishment and then got into a drunken, fatal wreck. The case against Woods and Herman was eventually dropped, according to reports.
Herman gets along with his kids
Woods and Herman are living together, according to People, and his son Charlie and daughter Sam “like her.”
The publication added that Herman has a friendly relationship with Nordegren as well.
Tiger Woods ‘a Fighter’ After Car Crash: ‘Being a Dad Has Helped Him Stay Focused on His Recovery’
Tiger Woods’ children have helped push him through recovery from his shocking February car accident.
A source tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue that Woods “lives for” his son Charlie, 12 and daughter Sam, 14, with his ex-wife Elin Nordegren.
“Being a dad has helped him stay focused on his recovery,” says the source. “At times, it’s been very difficult for him both physically and mentally. His leg injuries caused him extreme pain. He is a fighter and has been determined to get better though.”
Adds the source, “He has worked very hard in physical therapy. … He has had an incredible recovery.”
Earlier this week, another insider told PEOPLE that Woods’ recovery since the single-vehicle car crash on Feb. 23 has been “remarkable.”
Woods — who suffered significant orthopedic injuries to his right leg, including fractures to his tibia and fibula bones — is “feeling strong and healthy and optimistic that he’ll be able to return to tour.”
When he’ll be back on the PGA Tour is unclear, but Woods has a “timeframe in his head,” the insider said, adding “He knows when he wants to return, and he’s going to make it happen.”
Woods was spotted out supporting Charlie on the golf course over the weekend, looking on as his son — also a talented golfer — participated in a juniors’ tournament.
Golf World Reacts to Tiger Woods’ Latest Twitter Post
Every year, the Tiger Woods Invitational commences with various events planned over a few days. A perfect blend of golf and entertainment, the tournament has come a long way since its inception. Naturally, Tiger Woods’ presence is a major highlight for all those in attendance.
Unfortunately, Woods was unable to be there this year. Sidelined with his accident since February, the 15-time major winner has made few to no public appearances. Regardless, fans follow the event in numbers, supporting the Tiger Woods Foundation and their constant efforts to make the world a better place.
However, Woods did not fail to congratulate the winners despite his absence.
Twitter reacts as the Tiger Woods Invitational comes to an end
“Congrats to the winners of the 10th #TWInvitational,” the 45-year-old wrote. He tagged United States Liability Insurance (USLI), thanking the company for helping this year’s event and supporting his foundation.
Of course, Woods could not go without thanking PGA Tour icons Max Homa and Bryson DeChambeau, who attended the event. Both stars were seen having fun, also speaking to everyone at the end of Day 1. While Woods was not physically present, fans seemed to be happy to see DeChambeau and Homa at the event.
Congrats to the winners of the 10th #TWInvitational. Thank you to @USLI150 and our guests who helped support this year’s event benefitting @tgrfound, along with @b_dechambeau, @maxhoma23, and @ESPNAshley for making it so special. pic.twitter.com/6mGwIJSSw1
— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) October 13, 2021
Like usual, fans were happy to see Woods interacting, appreciating him for the event organized every single year. “Congratulations to you Tiger for your continuous noble acts of kindness,” wrote one fan, thanking him for making golf an inclusive sport. “Golf thanks YOU, Mr. Woods!” wrote another, thanking him for his humility off the court.
Congrats to them. You are the true winner. We all still believe In you. We are not done watching tiger highlights. We still hope for records broken. Against all obstacles the tiger will prevail. You mess with the tiger you get the whiskers lol. Go tiger!
— Steven D (@stevend143) October 14, 2021
Congratulations to you Tiger for your continuous noble acts of kindness. It’s because of you that golf is an inclusive sport for everyone including yours truly. I am glad that everyone are afforded the greatest opportunity to indulge in this great sport. Thanks to everyone 👏🏽
— Judy Newton (@JudyNewton2021) October 14, 2021
Hope see you stay in PGA at 2022!
— thomas woo (@Thomaswu2020) October 15, 2021
hope you are recovering well
— SteezeMcQueen 🚔👌 (@SteezeMcQueen1) October 13, 2021
Another interesting point was people mistaking a man in the photo for Woods. Fans seemed to make fun of this misunderstanding, explaining that the 82-time PGA Tour winner is still back home in recovery mode.
That’s not him 😀
— TWLEGION (@TWlegion) October 14, 2021
None of those guys are @TigerWoods. If you were a real fan, you’d know this🙄
— Judy Holmes (@golfisart) October 14, 2021
— Robert Cameron (@RobbieCamCam) October 15, 2021
Is that Tiger?
— Robert Schnure (@Schnure50) October 13, 2021
That’s not Tiger dude!
— David Schneider (@dwschneider1) October 14, 2021
A little about Woods’ Invitational tournament
The invitational, which has been around for a decade, is described as ‘three days of competitive golf, incredible networking, amazing entertainment, and once-in-a-lifetime memories who work to help the youth via various programs.’ “It’s just amazing for us to have a company like USLI support us and what we’re trying to do for the next generation of kids,” Woods said in a video shared a few days ago.
USLI helps the event fundraise to a greater level, which assists the Tiger Woods Foundation in helping more people.