The Open: Tiger Woods gives Rory McIlroy a shoulder to cry on

'You can’t live in a box,' said Woods, reflecting on a phone call with McIlroy

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The Independent Online

A first look at St Andrews in the company of junior golfers followed by a sage word on the absent Rory McIlroy; all in all, a gentle Open loosener for Tiger Woods. “You can’t live in a box,” said Woods, reflecting on a phone call with McIlroy, who dropped him a line after he ruptured the ankle ligament that forced his withdrawal from his Open defence next week.

“He sent me a photo the day he did it,” said Woods, who played three holes with five youngsters from Nike’s junior programme.

“We talked about it for a little bit. He said, ‘You’ve been through a lot of injuries over the years,’ so he picked my brain a little bit. We had a good talk. He’s doing the right thing, taking care of his body first before he gets back out here.

“No doubt he’s frustrated that he’s not going to be able to play in the Open Championship, especially here at St Andrews. And how well he’s been playing of late, and this golf course really does set up well for him, too. That’s the way it goes. We all get injured at one point in time.

“I’ve skied a lot. I like adrenaline. I like feeling that rush. That’s why I love spear fishing, free diving. It’s so peaceful down there. There is inherent risk in all of that. But you can’t live in a box.”

A sharp upturn in fortunes last week at the Greenbrier, where Woods posted three rounds in the 60s, including his first bogey-free round in two years on 5 July for a 67, provided the confidence boost he had sought ahead of next week’s challenge on the course where he won his first Open title 15 years ago.

“I feel good,” Woods said. “Sunday at Greenbrier is probably the best I hit it in two years. I feel like everything’s coming around. I still need to get a feel for how this golf course is chasing. I wasn’t expecting it to be this soft.

“I was shocked. I had seen photos of it a month ago. It was bone dry. It looked like it was going to be one of those dust bowls again; hard, fast, like the years I’ve played St Andrews. It’s changed. They got big rain and a lot of sun. It’s totally changed.”

The wind got up at Gullane to present the kind of challenge at the Scottish Open more readily associated with links courses. Overnight leader Daniel Brooks began with a double bogey after burying his opening tee shot in the rough.

With Frenchman Raphael Jacquelin setting the clubhouse pace with a 64 to reach 11 under par, Brooks’ three-shot advantage with which he ended day two had gone by the second hole. Last week in France he broke a run of 13 consecutive missed cuts to contest the weekend. He demonstrated every ounce of that spirit to claw his way back to the top of the leaderboard with a 69 and takes a one-shot lead on 12 under into 12 July's final round. 

Rickie Fowler, who seems to draw strength from the wind, led the American challenge with a 66, including an eagle at the 16th, to close two back. “I’m excited. I have put myself in a great position. I feel like it’s always a good test of golf skills but a day like this, mentally it can make you or break you.”

Defending champion Justin Rose would concur. He set himself the challenge of playing at greater than 50 per cent of capacity. His failure to advance his station, closing on six under par after a round of 72, suggests there is work to do if he is to retain his title on 12 July.

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