Painful. That’s the only way I can describe watching Tiger Woods’ first round performance at The Open. The famed St. Andrews Links chewed Tiger into pieces, as he limped all over the golf course. He shot a 6-over 78. Tiger is now tied for 146th place and only has a slim chance of surviving the cut.

Golf fans are holding onto hope that Woods will one day return to the greatness he demonstrated early in his career. Tiger won 14 majors by age 32.  Then, his world came crashing down in November 2009 when the National Enquirer published a story detailing his infidelity. Woods’ wife – the mother of his children – Elin Nordegren confronted Tiger in the driveway of their home. He tried driving away but crashed his SUV into a fire hydrant and tree. His marriage pretty much ended that evening. For the most part, so did his career.

Since the divorce, Tiger has been in and out of relationships, was arrested for DUI, and then became seriously injured in a mysterious car crash in 2021. The leg injuries were so bad (open fractures to tibia and fibula), many believed Tiger would never play golf competitively again. It’s a miracle he’s back on the course. It’s a blessing we can see one of the greats still reach for glory.

Every major tournament that goes by, golf fans talk about it being an opportunity for Tiger to make a statement. Make a comeback. Make history. But that has already happened. Tiger’s 2019 Masters victory was his last stand. The last gasp. Tiger won his 15th major, leaving him three majors away from tying Jack Nicklaus’ record. Breaking Jack’s record was once considered a foregone conclusion, until Tiger’s personal life wrecked his golf life.

Many athletes have overcome infidelity and marital problems to continue professional success. The late Kobe Bryant comes to mind. Ben Roethlisberger, too. Heck, even Tony Parker won another ring after scandalous details became public, leading to his divorce from actress Eva Longoria. For some reason, Tiger was never able to shake the scandal. Tiger’s reputation was stained… and he never fully recovered.

Hate to be a Debbie Downer, but Tiger Woods will never catch Jack Nicklaus’ record. And, based on how Tiger hobbled up and down the course Thursday, it looks like he will never win another major.

With or without that record, Tiger is still the greatest golfer to ever play the game. He’s also the most important player to hit the links. Woods is Jordan and LeBron all-in-one. I’m pulling for one more miracle run, but to be honest… those days are over.
Do you think Tiger will win another major? Let me know on Twitter @MikeESPNSA and tune into Halftime weekdays from Noon to 2 p.m.