Tiger Woods believes the Open Championship represents his best chance to add to his major tally as he looks to become the latest 40-something winner of the Claret Jug.
Woods has not played the Open since missing the cut at St Andrews in 2015 but his remarkable recovery from spinal fusion surgery means the 42-year-old’s bid for a fourth Claret Jug cannot be overlooked.
And the omens may well be in his favour considering five of the past seven Open champions have been 39 or older, while the dry conditions at Carnoustie are reminiscent of Royal Liverpool in 2006.
Woods famously used his driver just once all week at Hoylake, led the field in fairways hit and won his third Open title a month after missing the cut in the US Open, as he did this year at Shinnecock Hills.
The former world number one has won the Masters and US PGA four times and his last major victory was the 2008 US Open, but asked if the Open was his best chance for more silverware, Woods said: “As far as long-term, certainly I would say yes because you don’t have to be long to play on a links golf course.”
Aside from the victories by Darren Clarke, Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson and Henrik Stenson, Tom Watson famously lost a play-off for the 2009 Open at the age of 59, while 53-year-old Greg Norman led after 54 holes in 2008 before finishing third.
“Look at what Tom did at Turnberry. Greg was there at Birkdale. So it’s possible. It certainly can be done,” Woods added.
“You get to places like Augusta National, where it’s just a big ballpark, and the golf course outgrows you unfortunately. That’s just the way it goes. But a links-style golf course, you can roll the ball.
“I hit a three iron on the 18th that went 333 yards. Even if I get a little bit older, I can still chase some wood or a long club down there and hit the ball the same distance.
“Distance becomes a moot point but creativity plays such an important role and you’ve got guys like Tom playing late in his career, doing well. There’s a reason he won five of these [Open Championships]. He’s very creative and hit all the shots.”
Woods was seventh in the Open at Carnoustie in 1999 and 12th in 2007, while he also has fond memories of experiencing links golf for the first time when he played the course in the 1995 Scottish Open as an amateur.
Since returning to action following that make-or-break surgery last April, Woods has recorded three top-10 finishes in 11 PGA Tour events, finishing second to Paul Casey in the Valspar Championship and fifth in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he crucially drove out of bounds on the 70th hole.
“Each tournament I keep coming back to I keep feeling a little better because I’m starting to play some golf again,” Woods added. “I feel like I have a better understanding of my game and my body and my swing, much more so than I did at Augusta.
“That’s just going to come with a little bit more experience and I think that I’ve made a few adjustments, as you’ve seen so far.
“I’ve changed putters. I’ve tweaked my swing a little bit since the west coast swing. And everything’s got just a little bit better.
“I’ve put myself up there in contention a couple times. Just need to play some cleaner golf, and who knows?”