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Tiger for pre-Open warm up in Ireland? Don't bet the house

"Before the Whoosh became the Swoosh. Rare shot of Tiger Woods with real people close to him. Ireland in about 1998. Pre-Nike it seems." © Mike King via Flickr

Writers on both sides of the pond are wondering if Tiger Woods should play in next week's Scottish Open to better prepare himself for his first injury free-major appearance for several years in The Open at Royal Liverpool.

It appears unlikely that he will be at Royal Aberdeen alongside Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy or Quicken Loans National winner Justin Rose. But is it too far fetched to wonder if he might come back to Ireland for some links practice?

Having had his first taste of links golf in the Scottish Open at Carnoustie in 1995, Woods became a frequent visitor to Ireland in the week before The Open for several years after that, combining golf with fishing alongside the likes of Mark O'Meara, Payne Stewart, David Duval, Scott McCarron and others.

Or perhaps we imagined he came more often than he really did, as he told us when explaining why he got to Hoylake early in 2006 and did not stop off in Ireland on the way there:

"I've only played in Ireland actually three times, in all the years that I've played in this Championship. So I haven't gone over there each and every year. There's only been three times. Of those times we've had a lot of fun, fishing and hanging out and practicing and preparing. 

"But I wanted to spend a little more time at home and work on a couple of things prior to coming over here. I came over earlier to this venue than I normally would because no one had seen it. There's no video of it, no one has ever seen this golf course. So I wanted to come over here and take a look at it, and I got here a couple of days earlier than I normally would."

He won the Open for the first time at St Andrews in 2000 and explained on a visit to Mount Juliet in Co Kilkenny before his win in the 2002 American Express Championship that his links trips to Ireland had been a key part of his preparations for The Open that year.

"Coming here has been instrumental in preparing for the British Open, not only for getting adjusted for the time difference but also for getting used to playing links golf," he said at the time.

"Obviously it's a different type of golf and we've played Portmarnock just about every year and Royal County Down just about ever year. Sometimes we'll go down and play Ballybunion."

Woods first came to Ireland in 1998 when he was invited over by multi-millionaire businessmen JP McManus and Dermot Desmond.

He stayed and played at Waterville with Stewart, O'Meara, Stuart Appleby and others and has combined golf and fishing with trips to Portmarnock, Royal County Down, Waterville and The European Club in Co Wicklow.

"It's been so much fin to play these type of golf courses and we play in all different types of weather which certainly makes it interesting," he said at the time. "It's the weather and it's a lot of fun to play that type of golf and I think it's instrumental in my preparation for the Open championship."

Woods was back in Ireland in 2005 and 2010 to help McManus raise money for charity in star studded pro-ams at Limerick and Adare Manor.

The 2010 Invitational took place just nine days before the start of The Open at St Andrews but Woods did not stick around to play links golf, explaining: "I need to get home.... (to) see my kids."

He added: "It all started with Dermot (Desmond) and JP (McManus) inviting Mark and I over. We came over here I think back in '98, I think it was. And I had such a great time I've been coming here ever since. I loved fishing here. I loved hanging out at the pubs. The Irish people have actually been wonderful."

We've been told that Woods has been back in Ireland several times to fish the River Bann, not far from Portrush, where Darren Clarke now resides.

If he does come to Ireland, it sounds more likely that he'll come as an angler. But with discreet friends in high places, he could well ghost his way around several links before word gets out. God knows he needs the practice after his rusty comeback performance at Congressional.