Emotional exit for Tiger Woods at St. Andrews

Source: Associated Press

Tiger Woods made an early and emotional departure on Saturday from the British Open, possibly for the last time at St. Andrews. Cameron Smith can only wonder if the 150th Open will be his arrival as an undisputed elite player.

Smith already won The Players Championship this year and has risen to as high as No. 3 in the world. His 8-under 64 gave him his first lead in a major, by two shots over PGA Tour rookie Cameron Young. Rory McIlroy was lurking another shot behind.

“It’s obviously a really good spot to be in,” Smith said. “I feel like I’ve been in this spot a lot over the past couple of years, and things just haven’t quite gone my way yet.”

Woods strode over the Swilcan Bridge without stopping to pose for pictures and said it “felt like the whole tournament was right there” when he walked the final 356 yards of what was otherwise a long day of 75 to miss the cut.

Woods didn't retire from major championship golf or the British Open. He's just not sure a right leg held together by hardware or a lower spine that has been fused will allow him to compete when the Open returns to St. Andrews again.

“It’s very emotional for me,” he said. “To me it felt like this might have been my last British Open here at St. Andrews. And the fans, the ovation and the warmth, it was an unbelievable feeling."

About the time Woods was saluting thousands of fans crammed into so many spaces around St. Andrews, Smith was making birdie after birdie to take the lead. Right when it looked like it couldn't get any better, he holed a 65-foot eagle putt on the 14th hole.

Young overcame a few mistakes and closed with a birdie for a 69, putting him in the last group with Smith going into the weekend.

McIlroy got one of the loudest cheers — for a shot, not a farewell — with his 25-foot birdie on the tough Road Hole at the 17th. He missed a birdie chance on the 18th. Still, it was important for him to back up a great start (66) with a solid round (69).

He was tied with Viktor Hovland, who delivered his own thrills by holing out from 139 yards for eagle on the par-4 15th hole and finishing with a birdie for a 66.

Smith was at 13-under 131, the lowest 36-hole score in the Open at St. Andrews.