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'They were incredible': Tiger Woods hails Portrush fans as he vows to win again after missing The Open cut

Tiger Woods has fallen in love with Royal Portrush and Northern Ireland's golfing support.
Tiger Woods has fallen in love with Royal Portrush and Northern Ireland's golfing support.
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

There will be so, so much for Portrush and Northern Ireland to take away from The Open week.

While he won't be there to compete during the weekend, it didn't require Saturday and Sunday for the course and the people to grab the affection of Tiger Woods.

He spoke at length about the 'wonderful', 'unbelievable' Dunluce Links during his Tuesday press conference and, despite struggling to a six over par finish for his two rounds, he had similar words of praise for the local supporters on Friday afternoon.

"Oh my," he said. "They were incredible. They were so nice and so respectful. The kids were respectful. But that's not always the case when we travel around the world. We hear some rude comments from the kids. I think the adults kind of teach them that.

"But here they were so respectful. We couldn't have played in front of a better fan base than here at Portrush."

He heard plenty from the support. The man could barely take a step without being bombarded by shouts of his own name.

His Masters win a few months ago has introduced a whole new generation to the magic of the man many claim to be the GOAT - the greatest of all time.

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Yesterday he had bemoaned his 'sore' physical condition but hinted that he could 'peak' again this year, enough to pick up his disappointed fans.

He doubled down on that promise after his much-improved one under par card on Friday.

Woods shot down suggestions his up-and-down form is reminiscent of the 2015-16 period that he called 'the lowest times' of his life, building up hopes that he can return to the winner's enclosure again this year.

"It's just a matter of being consistent," he said. "That's one of the hardest things to accept as an older athlete is that you're not going to be as consistent as you were at 23. Things are different. And I'm going to have my hot weeks.

"I'm going to be there in contention with a chance to win, and I will win tournaments. But there are times when I'm just not going to be there. And that wasn't the case 20-some-odd years ago. I had a different body and I was able to be a little bit more consistent.

"I'm going to take a couple of weeks off and get ready for the playoffs. We've got the playoffs coming up, and anything can happen. Last year I almost stole the whole FedExCup at the very end. If it wasn't for Rosie's little break there at the bunker, it could have been interesting.

"So get ready for those events. And after that then have a break."

At three under par for the day through 11 holes on Friday, the volume was building and so were the hopes that he could pull off a miraculous comeback and slip inside the cut-line, projected to sit at +2.

It wasn't to be as he made a bogey-bogey finish.

"I kind of grinded my way around the golf course today," he mused. "I had a chance to get it back to even par for the tournament. I didn't handle the par-5s well. I was in perfect condition all three of them, if I handled those par fives well I would be right there.

"It's more frustrating than anything else because this is a major championship and I love playing in these events. I love the atmosphere. I love just the stress of playing in a major. And unfortunately, I've only had a chance to win one of them and was able to do it. But the other three I didn't do very well.

"I just have to continue doing what I'm doing. I've gotten so much stronger over the past year working with my physios and trying to get my body organized so that I can play at a high level. It panned out; I won a major chip this year."

And that's why he's a hero once again, making his absence all the more painful for the weekend spectators at Royal Portrush.

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