LONDON – Organizers of the British Open are still waiting for an entry from Tiger Woods but expect him to try and become the first player to win the title three times at St. Andrews on the tournament’s 150th anniversary.
Woods is one of five players to have won the Open twice at the Old Course – taking the last two majors played there in 2000 and 2005 – and returned to competitive golf recently at the Masters after a long layoff following a sex scandal.
“Tiger Woods has not yet entered, but in a normal year he would not have done that anyway, so I am absolutely certain he will be with us,” Royal and Ancient Club chief executive Peter Dawson said in a briefing on Tuesday.
The deadline to enter is May 27.
Dawson also downplayed concerns that Woods’ appearance after his highly publicized extramarital affairs might create security difficulties at St. Andrews.
“By the time the Open comes around, Tiger’s return to the game will be well established,” Dawson said. “He’s got quite a playing schedule in front of him and so the novelty factor of Tiger being back will have worn off to some degree. The Masters had a major problem in really having no idea what to expect, but we will have the benefit of several Tiger events behind us prior to the Open. I am very pleased that we are not the guinea pigs in this.
“We will be watching what happens with Tiger and other players between now and July and will be discussing the whole security position as we always do with the police. We always act on police advice in these matters.”
Assuming he decides to play, Woods has also been invited to participate in a special four-hole event on the day before the championship, open to all surviving Open champions to mark its 150th anniversary.
That includes Seve Ballesteros, who has accepted an invitation even though he is still recovering from brain surgery, and Jack Nicklaus, another three-time winner who has not yet confirmed he will attend. Neither has Greg Norman, who recently had shoulder surgery.
The R&A also explained why it was making a change to the 17th hole, the famous Road Hole which has lost much of its danger in recent years because of advances in club technology.
Dawson said Tuesday that taking the tee back 40 yards to make the hole 490 yards should force the players to take longer irons for their second shots into the green and risk their balls finishing in the deep greenside bunker or on the gravel road, which makes a third to the green very difficult.
Dawson also said that the introduction of doping tests – a mandatory requirement with the World Anti-Doping Agency for golf to become an Olympic sport in 2016 – had shown that it was an almost drug-free sport with only one or two minor cases showing up. He said he doesn’t expect golfers at the British Open to be subjected to blood tests, which is the only way to catch those who take human growth hormone (HGH).
“That’s certainly an issue that’s coming at us at the moment,” Dawson said. “The testing that golf does meet WADA’s requirements, and the International Golf Federation’s anti-doping policy is WADA complaint without the taking of blood and it’s something we will keep an eye on.
“I think it’s a way away in golf. But we bow to the experts on this and, if WADA say it’s necessary, then it’s necessary.”