By Simon Evans
PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland (Reuters) – If Tiger Woods fans were hoping his Masters win in April marked a return to the days when he was a consistent threat at every major championship, then Thursday’s opening round of the British Open was a reality check.
The 15-times major champion never looked comfortable as he shot a seven-over 78 at Royal Portrush and he admitted he was feeling sore.
“I’m just not moving as well as I’d like. And unfortunately, you’ve got to be able to move, and especially under these conditions, shape the golf ball. And I didn’t do it. I didn’t shape the golf ball at all. Everything was left-to-right. And wasn’t hitting very solidly,” Woods told reporters.
The 43-year-old American, who has battled a number of injuries in recent years, made no attempt to hide his fear that age was catching up with him.
“Just the way it is. Just Father Time and some procedures I’ve had over the time. Just the way it’s going to be,” he said.
“As I said, one of the reasons why I’m playing less tournaments this year is that I can hopefully prolong my career, and be out here for a little bit longer,” he added.
Woods has played only 10 competitive rounds since winning the Masters in April and his last tournament start was at the U.S Open.
He has gone 32 days without competitive golf and he took two weeks off after the U.S. Open to go on a family holiday in Thailand.
Woods said he deals regularly with pain but that the standards expected on a links course at a major give him little room for error.
“If I am at home and have school pick-up and soccer practices, I’m a lot more sore than I am now. But playing at this elite level is a completely different deal. You’ve got to be spot on. These guys are too good, there are too many guys that are playing well and I’m just not one of them,” he said.
The three-times British Open winner was once known for his relentless approach to practice and physical fitness but he said those days are long gone.
“It’s going to be a lot more difficult. I’m not 24 anymore. Life changes, life moves on. And I can’t devote, as I’ve told you this many times, I can’t devote the hours to practice like I used to. Standing on the range, hitting balls for four or five hours, go play 36, come back, run four or five miles and then go to the gym. Those days are gone, okay?”
“I have to be realistic about my expectations and, hopefully, peaking at the right time. I peaked at Augusta well. And, hopefully, I can peak a few more times this year,” he said.
(Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Ed Osmond)