Tiger Woods has laughed off retirement talk as he set his sights on challenging for more major glory at the home of golf.
A decade after blowing the field away to reign at St Andrews for the second time, the fallen world No.1 will tee off at The Open on Thursday ranked 241st and without a win in two years.
But turning 40 in December, Woods has no plans to garage his clubs and believes he can contend again now that he’s finally injury free.
“I know some of you guys think I’m buried and done, but I’m still right here in front of you,” Woods told journalists on Tuesday.
“I love playing. I love competing, and I love playing these events.”
Woods joked that he didn’t have a pension card yet and planned on playing for years to come.
“I feel like my body is finally healed up from the (lower-back disk) surgery from last year,” the American said.
“They say it takes you about four to six months to get back, but I’ve heard a lot of guys on tour who have the surgery and other athletes who say it takes over a year to get back.”
Old friend Mark O’Meara believes Woods can win on the Old Course again – if he gets a sniff.
O’Meara saw signs of life when the 14-times major champion carded his first bogey-free round in two years at this month’s Greenbier Classic and is refusing to write his countryman off.
“I would never underestimate him,” said O’Meara, the 1998 US Masters and British Open champion.
“Do I think he has battled? Absolutely, on and off the golf course. We all do.
“We all have our problems on the course, off the course. But the problem is that he’s been away from the game. He hasn’t won in a while. I know that.
“But you give him a sniff of it, and he starts to play a little bit better, and he starts to slowly get his confidence and he knows how to play a round here.”
As well as 2005, when he finished five shots clear of Colin Montgomerie, Woods won the 2000 Open at St Andrews in even more commanding fashion, by eight strokes over Tomas Bjorn and Ernie Els.
Montgomerie believes it is the kind of forgiving links course that Woods can even spray his way around and contend if the American can get the putter going.
“He can’t land it on the green from where he’s been hitting it, but at St Andrews he knows he can hit it miles off line and still be okay,” Montgomerie said.
“He won’t be able to get round without a driver because it’s been wet and soft. Even a three-wood isn’t guaranteed to hit the map.
“But if there is one course that suits him, it’s the Old Course.”