The Open Championship returns to the Emerald Isle for the first time in 68 years. Tiger Woods...well, his sabbatical hasn't been as long, yet the reigning Masters champ has played just four competitive rounds in two months.
Yet Woods enters the year's final major as one of its favorites, and judging by the response to his Portrush arrival, one of its crowd darlings.
On Sunday morning Woods made his first appearance in Northern Ireland, on Portrush's venerable links within two hours of his overnight Florida flight landing. The 43-year-old, who has recently changed his practice schedule at majors to accommodate the limitations of his body, played 18 holes with Patrick Reed, with observers noting Woods looked a tad rusty off seven-hour journey.
Of course, that rust could also be attributed to a lack of reps. Woods has vacationed across the world in the past month, and since his triumph at Augusta National, the 15-time major winner has played in just three tournaments. It's a schedule that has led some pundits and players, such as Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington, to question Woods' game plan.
That sentiment was lost on the crowds, as Woods was greeted with shouts and cries throughout his round, many of the locals seeing Woods for the first time in his career.
Woods is a three-time Open champ, his last win coming at Royal Liverpool in 2006. He led last year's Open at Carnoustie on the back nine, although ultimately finished T-6.