Tiger Woods set for early arrival in Portrush for Open Championship
Tiger Woods says he will do his 'homework' ahead of the final major of 2019 and that could be good news for practice day spectators at Royal Portrush.
The former world number one is looking for his 16th success in golf's top tournaments but admits that this summer's Open Championship will provide a different challenge.
While Woods has been no stranger to Northern Ireland in his preparations for past Open Championships, he will have to get used to a new experience at Royal Portrush.
That's why the Masters champion says he will make good use of the practice days on the north coast to prepare for the tournament.
"I've only played (Royal) County Down, I've never been up to Portrush and I'm looking forward to getting up there and taking a look at the golf course and trying to figure it out," he said. "I'll get there early and do a little bit of homework - see if the golf course is going to be dry, fast or not.
"Hopefully I'll get practice rounds with different winds to try and get a feel for the golf course. There's nothing like playing in an Open Championship."
The Open Championship begins on Thursday, July 18 but practice gets under way the previous Sunday, July 14. Tickets for all four practice days can still be bought from the Open website here.
It seems unlikely that Woods will play another tournament before the Open. After the US Open, he told reporters he will now take 'family' time' and said he would play 'at home'.
"I know that Florida will not be the same temperature as Northern Ireland. I'm not going to be practising with any sweaters at home, but it will be nice to get to Portrush and get with it again," he said.
Woods has previously proved his ability to win on links courses, picking up three Open Championships - in 2000 and 2005 at St Andrew's as well as 2006 at Royal Liverpool.
Meanwhile, USPGA Champion Brooks Koepka said the event will be special for his caddie Ricky Elliott, who is from Portrush.
"It will be awesome for Rick to get back to play a major championship in his home town," he said. "It will be great for me too, I've never been to Ireland."
Koepka has won four of the last nine major tournaments and was runner-up at the US Open last weekend, three shots behind winner Gary Woodland.
Woods could only finish in a tie for 21st at two under par, battling back from four over after six holes of his final round to card a two under par 69.
He began the final day a distant 11 shots off the pace and quickly slipped further down the leaderboard with four bogeys in his first six holes, the 43-year-old again failing to take advantage of the easiest stretch of holes on the course.
However, Woods bounced back to birdie the seventh and eighth and then covered the back nine in 32 with birdies on the 13th, 14th, 16th and 18th for a closing 69 at the scene of his record 15-shot victory in 2000.
"I got off to another pretty crappy start but fought it off and was able to get it under par for the week," Woods said. "Normally that's a good thing (in a US Open) but these guys are really taking it to the golf course.
"After the sixth hole my goal was to get back to even par and it was a nice finish to get it to two under."
Belfast Telegraph Digital