Tiger Woods admits his storied career window is closing but when it comes to Ireland and JP McManus there is no end in sight.
The 15-time Major winner in the JP McManus Pro-Am seems unwavering in his support and Ireland will once again play its part in its bid for a fourth Claret Jug as he plans to play some links golf here this week in preparation for the 150th Open to play St Andrews.
There will be no emotional wave of farewells from the Swilcan Bridge reminiscent of those iconic images of legends like Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus or Tom Watson. But it will likely be the last time he tees off up there with any semblance of golfing capable of suffering horrific leg injuries in that 2021 California car crash.
“This is quite a historic Open that we’re going to play,” said Woods in the quiet Walled Garden that housed the media center at Adare Manor, where he used a cart and shot rounds of 77 and 74 to finish 39th. 17th place finish shots behind winner Xander Schauffele.
“I’m lucky enough to be among the previous champions who won there and I want to play there again and I don’t know when they will ever come back as long as I’m still able to play at a high level, and I want to be able to try at least one more time at a high level.”
Having won there in 2000 and 2005, he knows what a win at St Andrews means to a player’s career. “Like Jack says, your career isn’t complete until you win an Open Championship at Home of Golf,” he said. “And I feel like he’s right about that.”
After finishing 47th at the Masters but being forced to retire after a painful 54 holes in the US PGA’s Southern Hills, Woods had hoped to play the US Open but his leg wouldn’t allow it. “There’s no physical way I could have done that,” he said.
It speaks volumes about his relationship with McManus that he would worry about abandoning his boyfriend if he wasn’t in Adare this week. But he is grateful, not only for the Limerickman’s friendship, but also for life and limb.
“If you asked me last year if I would play golf again, all my surgeons would have said no,” Woods revealed. “But I’m playing two major championships here this year.
“I will always be able to play golf, whether it’s this leg or someone else’s leg or wrong leg or different body parts that have been placed or fused, I will always be able to play. Now if you say play at championship level, that window is definitely not as long as I would like.
It took blood, sweat and tears to get to St Andrews. “Yes, it was worth it,” he said of his efforts to play two of the three majors this year. “It was hard. I’ve had some very difficult days and some days where getting off the couch is a damn hard task, and that’s the way it is. As I said, I’m very grateful for all the support I’ve had, my treatment staff, all my surgeons who are fixing this leg and keeping it.
“So I have my own two legs. I’m telling you, I’m not going to take it for granted anymore, some people do. But people who have come close or lost a limb understand what I’m saying.
“But you have difficult days and you have great days too and my great days aren’t what they used to be, that’s for sure. But they are great days to be with my kids and do things that they can do at a slightly slower pace but I can still do it with them.
As for the McManus Pro-Am, Woods explained why he’s giving up his time. “We know how much JP means to golf and what he has done for our sport and whenever we can help, wherever we can we do and this is one of the ways we support JP and what he has done has, pay tribute. ‘ said Woods, noting the dramatic changes that have taken place at Adare Manor since he last visited in 2010.
“I know he hates the limelight and he hates being in front of cameras and all that, but we’re going to do that for him and make sure. What JP does for charities, for every charity in the country of Ireland and in some places around the world, [is] unsurpassed. He raises a lot of money, and all the money goes out. I mean, he doesn’t keep any of it.”
As for Ireland, he obviously likes coming here. “I’ve always loved coming to Ireland. I’ve loved coming here since the first time, I think it was 1999 when me, Payne and Marco (Mark O’Meara) were over here fishing down here in Waterville. We played ballybunion. Payne made a hole in one. We had great times.”
Links practice here helped him win at least one of his three Claret Jugs and he’s continuing that tradition this week. He just doesn’t say where or when he’ll show up. “No, I don’t want to tell you because I don’t want everyone to come down and watch us. So yes. Yes and yes.”
https://www.independent.ie/sport/golf/tiger-woods-staying-in-ireland-this-week-for-links-practice-ahead-of-open-championship-at-st-andrews-41817157.html Tiger Woods stays in Ireland this week to practice links ahead of the Open Championship at St Andrews