Tiger Woods won’t get a chance to see Rory McIlroy’s secret weapon in next week’s Open Championship at Sandwich - a six year old club he rescued from his garage.
Injured Woods pulled out yesterday because he hasn’t recovered from the left knee and Achilles’ tendon problems that have plagued him all year.
In a statement, Woods said: “Unfortunately, I’ve been advised that I should not play in the British Open. I am only going to come back when I’m 100 percent ready. I do not want to risk further injury.
“That’s different for me, but I’m being smarter this time. I’m very disappointed and want to express my regrets to the British Open fans.”
Fans were hoping to see a clash between the game’s fallen king and new crown prince McIlroy on the bouncey and notoriously elusive fairways of Royal St George’s.
But Woods’ absence won’t bother US Open champ McIlroy, who is already fully focussed on his bid for back-to-back major wins.
The Holywood star has been practising hard with coach Michael Bannon and plans to play Sandwich tomorrow and Friday.
And while his critics claim he can’t play in the wind, both Bannon and his manager Chubby Chandler believe he’s ready to take on anything that Royal St George’s can throw at him.
The key to winning his first Claret Jug could already be in the bag in the shape of an unused, six-year old Titleist driving iron - believed to be a 2005 Titleist 503.H hybrid iron - he rediscovered recently.
Chandler revealed: “He’s got a new Titleist driving iron in the bag for next week - I think it was lying around the garage. He’s really excited about it because he can hit it very low and it’s very, very strong through the wind.
“It’s got a loft of around 19 degrees and he reckons he can get it out there at around 260 yards, which will be huge at Sandwich.”
The 503.H utility iron is designed to provide serious golfers with a long game yardage and trajectory solution. The innovative design and construction provides a more manageable trajectory versus a high-loft fairway for higher ball speed players and a more playable trajectory versus a long iron for low launch and slower ball speed players. The 503.H launches lower and spins less than a comparable loft fairway metal for better shot and trajectory control.
Many believe the wind is the only thing that can stop McIlroy’s march to his second major win in the space of a month.
He opened record-equalling 63 at St Andrews last year but got blown away in gale force winds and shot a second round 80 that scuppered his chances.
But coach Bannon shot down theories that McIlroy can’t handle the wind, insisting: “He’s been working on his wind game for a while now and he can hit the ball any height he wants. I don’t foresee any problem at all.
“You don’t see him practice and I see him all the time. Rory can hit the ball two feet off the ground if he wants to. That’s the honest truth. He will adapt to anything he’s playing in.”
Scot Colin Montgomerie reckons McIlroy’s Open hopes have been dented by lack of tournament practice and an exhausting round of interviews and public appearances since his Congressional triumph.
But Chandler hit back, insisting: “Yes he’s taken time off since the US Open, but what’s he been doing? Watching sport mainly.
“He only has one hobby and that’s watching sport so the last couple of weeks have been perfect for him.
“He went to Wimbledon a few times and saw the David Haye fight and that’s how he relaxes and recharges.
“Those who know him best know what he’s like and he will take next week in his stride. He won’t get carried away by anything.”
Montgomerie and Padraig Harrington fear that McIlroy might get distracted by “155 players and caddies” who will want to congratulate him on his runaway, eight-shot US Open win.
But Chandler said: “He knew that all this was going to happen when he was about 15. When the gun goes off on Thursday, he’ll be ready.
“Going to Sandwich as US Open champion won’t faze him. He can’t wait.”