Young feasts on Old Course, Tiger looking old

150th Open Championship / St. Andrews

Open 2022 – Past & future

Open 2022 - Past & future
Cameron Young (Richard Heathcote/R&A/R&A via Getty Images)

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes


ST. ANDREWS, SCOTLAND. The face of golf — both past and future — were on display during the first round of the 150th Open Championship at the iconic Old Course and the storyline was rather direct — youth is now front and center.

Open 2022 – Past & future

PGA Tour rookie Cameron Young started with a flourish – eight birdies with no blemishes on his scorecard for an eight-under-par 64 and a two-shot lead over former Open champion Rory McIlroy seeking to end his major championship drought which stretches back to 2014.

On the flip side — 48-year-old Tiger Woods — making just his third competitive appearance this year started with a double-bogey at the opening hole and matters only got worse with a six-over-par 78. The 15-time major winner and twice winner of The Open at St. Andrews simply looked old on the Old Course — no pun intended. More on Tiger later.


Open 2022 – Past & future

Young’s 64 marked Cameron’s lowest round in a major championship and was a clear indicator the ongoing youth movement at the highest levels of professional golf is now firmly in place as seen earlier this year with major wins by Scottie Scheffler at the Masters, Justin Thomas at the PGA Championship and Matthew Fitzpatrick at the U.S. Open.

The 25-year-old Young was successful on the Korn Ferry Tour after a collegiate career at Wake Forest. He joined the PGA Tour for the ’21-’22 season and quickly acclimated himself with a tie for second at the Genesis Invitational and rose into the top 100 of the Official World Golf Rankings, in May 2022. This past May — Young had his highest finish in a major championship — a tie for third in the PGA Championship at Southern Hills.

After ending 2021 in the 134th position in the world rankings — he is now 32nd. Should Young prevail this week he would fittingly earn his first PGA Tour victory with possession of the famed Claret Jug.


Open 2022 – Past & future

Young had been to St. Andrews with his family when younger but the full effect of being a contestant at the home of golf clearly impacted him.

“Any time you set foot on the first tee or 18th green or anywhere, especially on that part of the course, there’s just no hiding how special of a place it is. And it’s certainly been a goal to get to an Open Championship. And for my first one to be here is a little bit extra special for me,” said the Scarborough, NY native whose father David is the head golf professional at the acclaimed Sleepy Hollow CC in Westchester County.add

In addition, a new caddie — Chad Reynolds — is on Young’s bag at St. Andrews and the veteran looper has worked for such star players as Vijay Singh, Nick Watney and Keegan Bradley, among others. Young was asked about what went into that decision to move on from college chum Scott McKean.

“Quite a few things. I kind of, as much as I’ve had a solid year, there’s been a couple things missing, I think. I haven’t won anything, and that was just something that could change to kind of exhaust all my options to see what I could do better. That was just something that we as a team decided was probably best for my golf,” said Young.


Open 2022 – Past & future

Matters were helped by the experience Reynolds brings to the table.

“I mean, there’s no replacement for being around good golf and major championship golf for 20 years. There’s just a level of knowledge that is hard to find elsewhere. There’s a bunch of veteran guys out here like that. And I think that knowledge is kind of irreplaceable.”

Young did play in last week’s Scottish Open — missing the cut but stating jet lag likely caused the result. Now, he returns to the center stage of another major championship in his rookie season. 

I think any time you’re around the lead in a major championship or any PGA Tour event, frankly, you get more and more comfortable every time. Whether I’m leading by three or one or four back after today, I’ll sleep just fine,” said Young.

“I feel like I’ve been around, even though it’s only been most of the year, I’ve been around the lead a good bit, and I think we’ll just take tomorrow as it comes. That’s really all I can control.”

Young is not getting ahead of himself — realizing 54 holes remains and the man two shots behind him is equally determined to get his hand around the Claret Jug again. Camerson also knows his learning process of the Old Course is an ongoing matter.

Rory McIlroy (Richard Heathcote/R&A/R&A via Getty Images)

Open 2022 – Past & future

“You could play every day here for a year and you would just scratch the surface of what you can know about this place. There’s so many humps and bounds and little nuances to the golf course, that we could never know in the four or five days that I’ve had to prepare,” said Young. So, a lot of its accepting that and figuring out as much as we can. I think we probably have seen about 5 percent of what’s out there. There’s a pretty endless amount to take in.”

Young also knows that round one is now in the history books — the bulk of the championship remains ahead of him. He also respects what is possible on the Old Course.

“You definitely could be in a world of trouble out there any day, even with not too much wind. If you start hitting it on the wrong sides of holes, you’re going to have a rough day kind of regardless of what conditions are. But it’s very firm, and it’s definitely doable if you’re in all the right places. But if you’re not, you’re going to really struggle.”

Struggle is the operative word for what Woods faced — right from the get-go. Tiger’s opening tee shot on the first found a fresh divot and his approach failed to clear the Swilcan Burn which fiercely protects the green. Woods played a fine chip but then missed a three-foot putt for double-bogey. Interestingly, Tiger started in a similar fashion in 2015 — the last time The Open was at the Old Course.

By the time he completed the 7th hole – he was already six-over-par. All facets of his game were simply at a low level of success. Birdies were made at the 9th, 10th and 14th holes but offset by three bogies before concluding play with a par at the 18th.

Open 2022 - Past & future
Tiger Woods (Stuart Franklin/R&A/R&A via Getty Images)

Open 2022 – Past & future

Tiger’s 78 only beat seven other players in the field. In his two other tournament appearances Woods made the cut at the Masters and PGA Championship respectively. He will need no less than 65 or 66 to have an outside shot for weekend play. To make that a reality he will need to completely overhaul his play quickly for round two Possible — yes. Probable — doubtful.

Before making his first appearance earlier this year at Augusta, Woods was quick to point out that extensive preparation would be needed otherwise one will be “exposed” when competing at the highest levels of professional golf.

Tiger’s explanation of his play following the round was hard to decipher given his results.

“It feels like I didn’t really hit it that bad,” Woods said. “Yes, I did have bad speed on the greens. But I didn’t really feel like I hit it that bad, but I ended up in bad spots. Or just had some weird things happen. And just the way it goes. Links is like that. And this golf course is like that. And as I said, I had my chances to turn it around and get it rolling the right way and I didn’t do it.”

Former Super Bowl winning coach Bill Parcells was famous for saying about National Football League teams “you are what your record says you are.” To paraphrase for golf in Tiger’s case you are what your golf score says you are. A 78 is what the number says. That’s the reality — his reality.

The fanfare tied to Woods returning to St. Andrews is akin to a rock star landing. Fans clamored to see him but the 46-year-old they saw in round one for the 2022 Open is hardly the same golfer who won twice on the Old Course in 2000 and 2005. There are now plenty of miles on the tires Tiger is using now.


Open 2022 – Past & future

Returning to competition was hardly anticipated for Tiger given the seriousness of his recovery from major surgery following his horrific car accident but the grit and tenacity that have been the hallmark of his career were front and center in pushing him onward to be present for the 150th Open Championship.

“All things considered, where I’ve been, I was hoping I could play this event this year. Looking at it at the beginning of the year, end of last year when I was rehabbing, trying to see if I could do it, but somehow I was able to play two of the major championships in between then and now, which was great. But this (The Open) was always on the calendar to hopefully be well enough to play it. And I am. And just didn’t do a very good job of it.”

The storyline for Woods now is simply making cuts. A far cry from the days when Tiger ruled supreme over the jungle of professional golf. Friday’s second round will signal whether Woods can summon the wherewithal to show some meaningful firepower. 

If a missed cut does happen after Friday’s play it will be up to Tiger to assess with total candor if he can still play at the highest of levels and if his body can still function for the kind of rigors it will need to undergo for him to return to a position of prominence in world class golf circles.

Round one showed clearly that the 2022 Open Championship version of Tiger is a cat with no claws.

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