Tiger Woods said on Tuesday he is confident his body can hold up under the rigours of links golf this week as he bids for a 16th major title at the British Open.
The 43-year-old, who capped one of sport’s greatest-ever comebacks with victory at the Masters in April, will be playing in just his fourth tournament since winning the green jacket.
With cold, wet weather predicted for all four days as the British Open returns to Northern Ireland and Royal Portrush for the first time since 1951, Woods’ troublesome back could come under extra strain.
But he was keen to point out tricky conditions may also play into his hands, as they did for Tom Watson when he lost in a playoff to Stewart Cink at the age of 59 at Turnberry in 2009, and Greg Norman when he finished third at Birkdale in 2008 aged 53.
“It’s just part of, unfortunately, dealing with the procedures I’ve had, and being a little bit older,” said Woods, who returned to elite golf in December 2017 after spinal fusion surgery.
“It just doesn’t move quite as fast when it’s a little bit cooler.
“But the great thing is playing in an Open Championship, you can do it. Look what Tom did at Turnberry, what Greg did at Birkdale. The golf course is fast enough, even if you don’t have the speed to carry the ball.
“You just have to navigate the bunkers and navigate around the golf course. And that’s true, that’s understanding how to play an Open Championship.”
Woods’ fifth Masters triumph was his first major victory since the 2008 US Open, but the success relaunched his bid to chase down Jack Nicklaus’ record tally of 18 titles.
The American admitted the effort needed to get over that major hurdle again had taken its toll.
“Getting myself into position to win the Masters was — it took a lot out of me. That golf course puts so much stress on the system,” he said.
“Seeing my kids there, they got a chance to experience The Open Championship last year after their dad took the lead, and then made a few mistakes. And this time they got to see me win a major championship.
“So it was a very emotional week and one that I keep reliving.” Woods is now ranked fifth in the world, but has not threatened at either of the last two majors, won by Brooks Koepka and Gary Woodland.
But he does still feel the Open and links golf gives him the best chance of closing in on Nicklaus’ haul of victories.
“It does (offer the best chance of more majors). It allows the players that don’t hit the ball very far or carry the ball as far to run the golf ball out there.
“Being able to control it as best you possibly can in the air to control it on the ground allows the older players to have a chance to do well in The Open Championship.” Woods opens his campaign at 1410 GMT on Thursday, playing alongside England’s Matt Wallace and 2018 Masters champion Patrick Reed.