The Open Championship at Lytham – Where It All Started for Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods played the Open Championship at Royal Lytham in 1996 when he was still an amateur. He was undecided about when to turn professional but his performance at the tournament made up his mind.
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Tiger Woods father, Earl, said to his young caddie at Lytham, “My boy is going to change the world, he will have as much influence as the Pope. I hope you are worthy of the job.”
The caddie, a young local boy from a part of the world not given to grandiose boasting, thought this was weird. But reflecting later in life he thought, “Well, it happened.”
The clubhouse at Lytham is a beautiful Victorian building made from glossy Accrington brick, a material that gives the better houses in the area an air of distinction. Maybe the young Tiger picked up something in the air, he was not phased by playing with some of the top pros of the day. When he played with Darren Clark, a Ryder Cup golfer, his drive whistled 70 yards past the astonished Clark. ”I was well impressed,” Clark said recalling the day. “Tiger just ripped it, he was awesome.”
Tiger won a silver medal for sharing the best amateur score and it was the confidence he gained from playing with the senior players that decided him to turn professional when he got home.
He was just 20 at the time and had never played a links course before – which offers a different challenge to anything he was used to. Tiger has won an Open championship at Hoylake which is just down the coast and similar to Royal Lytham. But he is looking forward to playing Lytham again. He says the rough is brutal and knows the course will play according to the weather on the day – which is totally unpredictable.
Woods goes into the tournament a favourite but that means nothing. His game is not as imperious as before his spectacular fall from the golfing and social heights. He is fallible and Lytham will punish any mental or physical weakness savagely.
On his first visit he went with his young caddie to brash and breezy Blackpool, six miles and a continent away from quiet upmarket Lytham. The two enjoyed the thrills of Blackpool Pleasure Beach, riding the Log Flume, a water fall experience which usually drenches holidaymakers.
There is every chance Woods will get just as wet on the course. Whether he will enjoy the thrill of lifting the trophy is another story. But win or lose, Lytham will still be there next time. The great course is bigger than any player according to Lytham’s senior professional, Eddie Birchenough.
Not quite Eddie, a touch of professional jealousy there?