Rory McIlroy was out there contending at The 150th Open, but one of the biggest crowds was for Tiger Woods on the driving range.
Watching him was to feel like something special was about to happen at the most magical place in golf.
The 15-time Major winner, who claimed two of those at St Andrews, was stepping back onto the Old Course against all the odds – and looking good.
He hit all the shots, but then he stepped onto the putting green.
Suddenly, onlookers were filled with dread: he couldn’t make anything and even his lag putts were stopping way short.
And that turned out to be the story of a six-over par round which sent an electric Home of Golf into a solemn lull.
The grandstands read that ‘everything has led to this’ and from the point of Woods’ near-fatal car crash in February 2021 to this historic event – that was true.
Unlike his previous two Major appearances, the banged-up 46-year-old was strong enough to compete on his favourite golf course in the world, which also happens to be dead flat.
But, golf forgot to read the script – and even the gods are not immune to bad breaks.
Woods never recovered from a perfect opening tee-shot which landed in a fresh divot hole, or the gust of wind which sent a decent second shot into the burn.
A double-bogey start would only get worse – and as rounds dragged on for six hours, past 10pm, the Old Course fell flat as their hero provided nothing to cheer about.
Although it became easy to forget amid the disappointment, Friday’s record crowds do have plenty to get excited about.
How about McIlroy? Two shots back on six-under at a tournament which would suddenly render the last eight years without a Major totally irrelevant.
Or the callibre of players around him, such as the excellent leader Cameron Young on eight-under, Cameron Smith on five-under, Scottie Scheffler, Dustin Johnson, Lee Westwood and Viktor Hovland all at four-under.
Maybe the Old Course just read a different script. Sheffield amateur Barclay Brown, the 21-year-old competing in his first Open, led in the clubhouse for a little while at one of the most important events in golf’s history.
Fellow Englishman Robert Dinwiddie, 39, finished in the dark only three-shots back – and his last win came on the Challenge Tour in 2010.
And hey, Woods will not win, but he is pretty good at fighting back from the brink.
Maybe the mircale man will climb yet another Everest and somehow make the cut to provide the most fitting tale of all.
“Looks like I’m going to have to shoot 66 tomorrow to have a chance,” he said. “It has been done.
“Guys did it today and my responsibility tomorrow is to go ahead and do it.
“I need to do it.”
Hear live commentary of The 150th Open on talkSPORT 2 and regular updates from Bob Bubka, Rupert Bell and Sean O’Brien on talkSPORT
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- Tiger Woods sends The 150th Open into solemn lull but Rory McIlory and surprise contenders give St Andrews reason to feel again
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