Open 2022: Rory McIlroy’s hat tip is a meaningful ode to Tiger Wood’s legendary impact on golf


Open 2022: Rory McIlroy's hat tip is a meaningful ode to Tiger Wood's legendary impact on golf

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Rarely has history in sport revealed itself so clearly in the moment. In most cases, time contextualizes what is observed. Looking back helps us see how it fits in with everything that happened.

And then there’s what happened on Friday afternoon at St Andrews on golf’s widest fairway: Tiger Woods faces an uncertain future at majors, Rory McIlroy is rebounding from his frustrating recent past at the same event. Woods and McIlroy met in the middle – one person suggested Rory pulled his tee shot to No. 1 as Tiger came up to No. 18 to create the moment (hilarious but untrue) – and the most romantic spot in golf during the 150th Open Championship, delivered a moment that could never be written.

As Woods raised his left hand to acknowledge the Legion he was walking into, McIlroy raised his as well. Rory lightly grabbed his blue Nike hat just as Tiger secured his white one. As golf gestures go, it was an understatement; but to Tiger Woods it meant the world.

“As I continued down the fairway, I saw Rory right there,” Woods said. “He gave me the top of the cap. It was pretty cool – the nods I got from the guys as they walked out and I walked in, just the respect, that was pretty decent. And on a community level, it’s nice to see and feel that.”

Woods continued, “Just the amount of understanding and respect from everyone involved in this event that supports the players. The nod I got when the players went out [were touching moments].”

It was obviously significant for McIlroy. He was wistful that Woods missed the cut where Rory legitimately thought Tiger might fight.

“I just hope – everyone hopes it’s not the end of their old course career,” McIlroy said after the round. “I think he deserves it, we deserve it, that he tries again.

“Hopefully The Open is back here in four or five years and he gets another try because as good as he’s been throughout his career and as good as he’s been on the Old Course, I don’t think that’s the way for him to go out there . He’s gotten better at him.

For McIlroy, the act of spending time with Woods has become routine; They played a match together in Ballybunion, Ireland last week. But part of him can’t believe his life turned out the way it did.

The substance of 33-year-old Rory is still made up of parts of 7-year-old Rory, and 7-year-old Rory would have cried at the idea of ​​Tiger taking his cap on the Old Course at St Andrews as his peers playing an Open more important to Tiger than to him.

“I’ve gotten pretty close to Tiger over the past few years,” McIlroy added. “And especially after the accident, and I think we all rallied around him down there in Jupiter. And we all want him to be okay.

“He was our whole hero growing up, although I’m maybe a little older than some of the other guys. But we want him to do well. We want him to still be out there competing. And this week has obviously been a tough week for him. But we’re all behind him, we’re all drawing for him.”

The moment they briefly shared on Friday is a chameleon. It will take on a different meaning if, for example, McIlroy wins on Sunday or Woods returns to the Old Course in a few years.

However, on Saturday morning at the 150th Open Championship, Rory’s hat peaked like an ode.

An ode to the ancient and the magic that permeates the sands beneath this floor. An ode to this tournament, which is the largest in the world. An ode to St Andrews, who, as the two most important players of the last three decades, seemed to have the entire tournament in mind.

An ode to McIlroy, his reverence for history and his enduring affection for important moments.

“I’ve always been a big person of ‘What does that mean? What’s the meaning behind things?’” McIlroy told CBS Sports. “Sometimes I might do this too much. It’s hard for me not to relate what I’m planning to do to everything else.”

Above all, it was an ode to Woods. A nod to the present and the future that golf is on a different level because of its past. An ode to perhaps the most perfect golf ever played, on the most perfect golf course ever built. An ode to the fact that what Tiger did meant more people than he realizes. An ode to the fact that even today, even the most powerful and famous player in the game still has at least some reverence for what Tiger constructed and how he transformed the sport.

It was the kind of moment that could have happened in a thousand different places but wouldn’t have meant as much as it does on this square course which, in addition to the most picturesque final tee, is home to the most stunning opening tee in major championship golf.

So often in golf, it’s all about the nuance. Such is the case with the Old Course, which you could play every day for the rest of your life and never quite figure out. Several players commented this week on how little they still know about this location, even after playing it all week.

It was fitting that for the first two days of the Open Championship, it was the tiniest gesture — a nod and a cap grab that lasted no more than 2 seconds and was barely picked up on the broadcast — that served as the most powerful thing been said all week.

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