ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- One hundred twelve years ago, President Theodore Roosevelt delivered his famous "Citizenship in a Republic" speech in Paris, 750 miles southeast of Fife. The 1910 Open Championship was played at St. Andrews a few months later. The Masters wouldn't be conceived for another quarter-century, but the 50th Open ended with James Braid winning the Claret Jug.
One hundred Opens later, the words Roosevelt spoke that April day in Paris still resonate, and the Open Championship is more illustrious than it's ever been entering the tournament's 150th playing.
The two are even intertwined. The R&A used words from Roosevelt's most famous passage of that speech, commonly known as "The Man in the Arena," in a promotional package it made for this historic Open at St. Andrews. Jordan Spieth narrated.
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
Few men have ever entered this particular arena. Fewer still have ever left it a champion.
Tiger Woods is one of just five golfers in history who have lifted multiple Claret Jugs in the 29 Opens that have been played on the most strategic, complex golf course in the world.
Woods has played just seven rounds of competitive golf in the last 20 months. The 15-time major winner recently admitted his surgeons would have said last year that he'd never play golf again. Yet nearly from the beginning of the horrific car crash that left Tiger with a mangled leg, he was thinking about this week, this tournament at this course.
"For the most part of my rehab, I was just I was hoping that I could walk again," Woods said.
"But lo and behold, I've played championship golf this year. And once I realized that I could possibly play at a high level, my focus was to get back here at St Andrews to play in this championship being, as I said, it's the most historic one we've ever had. I just didn't want to miss this Open here at the Home of Golf."
"I just think it was the most realistic timetable that he had, but it just so happened to be that he was ready earlier," said Justin Thomas, Tiger's friend and frequent practice partner. "But I know that if you could have told him at the beginning of the year you had one event to play and one event only ... I would also say that it would have been here."
Not the Masters at Augusta National where Woods completed four rounds in April. Not the PGA Championship at Southern Hills where he withdrew after three in May. Not the U.S. Open at Brookline, which he skipped in June to ensure he was as healthy as possible for one last good shot at the Old Course.
It was all for this, the Home of Golf, his favorite golf course in the world.
-- sharing how golfers who are taking the payday may never be able to play in majors again, a decision that befuddles him -- Tiger made clear what has always been clear: There is nothing he loves more than being in the arena. Specifically the arena that juts out from the edge of this little Scottish town upon which some of the best sport in history has been played and will be again for the 150th time.
"I don't know, if it is that long [until The Open returns to St. Andrews], whether I will be able to physically compete at this level by then," said Woods. "It's also one of the reasons why I wanted to play in this championship. I don't know what my career is going to be like.
"I'm not going to play a full schedule ever again. My body just won't allow me to do that. I don't know how many Open Championships I have left here at St Andrews, but I wanted this one.
"It started here for me in '95, and if it ends here in '22, it does. If it doesn't, it doesn't. If I get the chance to play one more, it would be great, but there's no guarantee."
It's a hell of an arena in which Woods finds himself. The Old Course is perhaps the only major championship track in the world that can ascent to Tiger's intellectual golf genius, and this year's Open feels more consequential than ever given its anniversary and the state of the sport. History is heavy, and this is the weightiest of all the championships in the golf world.
"It feels more historic than it normally has, and it's hard to believe that because we are coming back to the Home of Golf," Tiger said. "It is history every time we get a chance to play here. It's hard to believe it's been 150 years we've played this tournament. And it's incredible, the history behind it, the champions that have won here.
"As I said, it's hard to believe it's more historic, but it really is. It does feel like that. This does feel like it's the biggest Open Championship we've ever had."
The question bearing down on this sport whenever a major comes around is whether the Big Cat can add to his total of 15 majors. While the answer has been an unequivocal "no" all year, this course and this week do offer a glimmer of (perhaps irrational) hope that other weeks have not.
"I think the way the golf course is and the way the conditions are, I could certainly see [Tiger contending on Sunday]," said Rory McIlroy. "It's going to be a game of chess this week, and no one's been better at playing that sort of chess game on a golf course than Tiger over the last 20 years."
Thursday and Friday with Woods battling St. Andrews will thump no matter what the three-time Champion Golf of the Year shoots. Tiger tussling with the Old for perhaps one final time with even a sliver of a chance of conquering her contours and fighting back the Firth of Forth is going to be one of the highlights of an important week.
Max Homa, who is paired with Tiger for the first two rounds of the championship, reacted as one might expect when learning that he would be playing with his hero (who just so happens to be the hero of most players in this field).
"Unreal times a million," he said, which is the same reaction everyone else had about Woods even contending this week.
Near the end of that 1910 speech from Roosevelt, in which he defended those critiqued for trying to make the world a better place, he ends with an affirmation for those vulnerable enough to risk being sneered at for their efforts.
" ... who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."
Tiger has known much victory in his career, and it's almost certainly that most -- if not all -- of what lays ahead is defeat. He doesn't care. It doesn't bother him whatsoever. Woods has destroyed himself just to get back here, just to feel defeat. As long as he's not among the cold and timid souls.
Woods disclosed this when discussing those who have eschewed even a chance at playing major championships like this at courses like St. Andrews for guaranteed paydays.
"Some of these players may not ever get a chance to play in major championships," said Woods. "That is a possibility. We don't know that for sure yet. It's up to all the major championship bodies to make that determination. But that is a possibility, that some players will never, ever get a chance to play in a major championship, never get a chance to experience this right here, walk down the fairways at Augusta National.
"That, to me, I just don't understand it."
There has been much chatter this week about whether Woods would wave goodbye Friday or Sunday on the Swilcan Bridge, where on Monday he took a photo with the only other man to whom he can even be compared. He laughed at the question because to deeply believe such a thing could happen is to not understand Tiger Woods whatsoever.
Woods always craved winning, to be sure. For him, that was always synonymous with competing. When Tiger played, he won ... a lot. But there's something buried in his makeup that others were not given -- not completely, anyway. Not like him.
Everybody loves winning, of course, but not everybody wants what Tiger wants -- what he's always wanted whether his body was the best on tour or broken beyond belief. This week is perhaps the clearest it's ever been that he's attaining what he desired from the start.
To be the one whose face is marred with sweat and dust and blood. To know the great enthusiasms and the great devotions. To know the triumph of high achievement and to know what it is to dare greatly even in defeat.
The simple through line of Tiger Woods' career -- what he's always wanted most -- is to be 'The Man in the Arena.' Now, he gets the best arena in sport, perhaps for one last miracle triumph, but far more probably for a concluding defeat.