The Open: Rory McIlroy’s salute sets off Tiger Woods’ tears on 18 as brilliant Cameron Smith storms into St Andrews lead
RORY McILROY tipped his hat to Tiger Woods — then set about following in the legend’s footsteps.
Fading giant Woods revealed the show of respect on his walk up the 18th fairway was what sparked his tears.
The greatest golfer in modern history wept as he waved goodbye to his favourite course having failed to make the cut.
McIlroy, who was teeing off on the first, saw Woods treated to a standing ovation from thousands of fans at St Andrews.
And it inspired the Northern Irishman to stay right in the hunt for Open glory as he finished with a second-round 68 to sit ten under — three shots off leader Cameron Smith.
Woods said: “The warmth and emotion at 18 got to me. I saw Rory right there. He gave me the tip of the cap.
“It was pretty cool. The nods I got from guys going out, that was pretty neat.
“The ovation at 18 is something I’ll always remember.”
Woods, 46, finished nine over par from two rounds and is heading home.
Recovery from a horror car smash last year is compounding ongoing back issues.
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Woods said: “I just don’t know what my health is going to be like. It’s hard just to walk and play 18 holes.”
Yet fitness woes have not doused the 15-times Major winner’s competitive spirit.
Woods said: “I’m a little ticked that I’m not playing on the weekend.
“I wish I had played better. I fought hard.”
Saluting his pal Woods, McIlroy said: “Tiger was a hero to all of us growing up. We all want to see him back here one day.
“He deserves it — and we deserve it.”
Asked about tipping the cap, he added: “It would have been better had he been eight under at that moment, instead of eight over or whatever it was.”
The Northern Irishman is right in the mix as he hunts a second Claret Jug.
He said: “I know I have the game. I just have to keep hitting good shots until I run out of holes.
“I have just felt pretty much in control of things all year. I felt like it was a good day.
“I am now in a great position going into the weekend.
“It feels good. It’s going to be a great weekend and it’s nice to be in the mix.”
Yet Rory has a big job ahead as Smith carded eight under yesterday.
And the ice-cool Aussie said: “It’s just exciting to be leading The Open after a couple of days.
“I think that experience is going to be really cool. There’s a lot of Aussies in the crowd.
“I’ve had a lot of support and can’t wait for the next couple of days.”
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