“Game day is Thursday so I just have to pace myself until then and get after it and hopefully we can put ourselves in contention on the back nine come Sunday.” PIC: Sportsfile
Four former winners of the Open at St Andrews unsurprisingly came out on top in the Celebration of Champions ahead of this week’s 150th Open.
Nick Faldo, John Daly, Louis Oosthuizen and Zach Johnson teamed up to shoot six under par in the light-hearted, four-hole event over the first, second, 17th and 18th holes on the Old Course.
That gave the illustrious quartet – winners at St Andrews in 1990, 1995, 2010 and 2015 respectively – a three-shot win over the teams captained by Laura Davies and Tiger Woods.
Woods was partnered by Rory McIlroy, Georgia Hall and Lee Trevino, with McIlroy driving the 18th green after hitting his tee shot on the 17th into the garden of the Old Course Hotel.
The 15-time major winner pulled out of the US PGA Championship in May following a third round of 79 and skipped the US Open in order to give himself the best chance of playing at St Andrews, scene of his Open victories in 2000 and 2005.
Asked how he was feeling, the 46-year-old – who suffered severe leg injuries in a car accident in February last year – said: “I’m feeling good.
“Game day is Thursday so I just have to pace myself until then and get after it and hopefully we can put ourselves in contention on the back nine come Sunday.”
McIlroy admitted he found being part of the event “a little bit emotional”.
“If you told a 10-year-old Rory I would be doing this I wouldn’t have believed you, ” the four-time major winner added.
“To get my name on the Claret Jug, to be as close as I am to my hero growing up (Woods) and to be doing this, the Champions Dinner tomorrow in the R&A clubhouse… it’s sort of pinch yourself moments.
“It’s really, really cool and I am so privileged and humbled to be part of it all.”
McIlroy won the Open in 2014 but was unable to defend his title at St Andrews in 2015 due to an ankle injury suffered while playing football.
“I was a silly boy but I have not done anything to jeopardise playing in this championship. I’m looking forward to teeing off on Thursday,” he said.
One former champion missing from the event was two-time winner Greg Norman, the R&A deciding not to invite the Australian due to his role as CEO of LIV Golf, the Saudi-backed breakaway circuit which has caused a deepening rift in the men’s professional game.
“The 150th Open is an extremely important milestone for golf and we want to ensure that the focus remains on celebrating the Championship and its heritage,” the R&A said in a statement on Saturday.
“Unfortunately, we do not believe that would be the case if Greg were to attend. We hope that when circumstances allow Greg will be able to attend again in future.”
Norman, who had previously asked the R&A for permission to play at St Andrews despite being well outside the age limit of 60, described the decision as “petty”.
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