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So there will be a Tiger prowling the fairways of Royal Liverpool after all.
No, not Tiger Woods, of course, but a fresh-faced German amateur will carry the name of his injury-ravaged idol at Hoylake next week.
Tiger Christensen, a 19-year-old prodigy who plays college golf in Arizona, will make his major championship debut at the Open after an almighty effort in Final Qualifying at West Lancashire.
Christensen snatched one of five Open spots with rounds of 67 and 68 in the 36-hole shootout to prevail from what was perhaps the strongest 72-player field in Final Qualifying history.
And what was most striking when meeting this big-hitting teenager for the first time at West Lancs was not his towering stature, but his soaring levels of self-belief.
“I don’t want to sound cocky but I was pretty certain of qualifying,” Christensen told bunkered.co.uk after securing his place on a marathon day at the glorious Merseyside links.
Christensen had just birdied three of his last six holes to overcome Sergio Garcia and co. down the stretch, but had the demeanour of a young man who had done nothing out of the ordinary.
“A lot of guys I know pretty well qualified for the US Open this year, so I felt like it wasn’t too far away,” he said. “I just had to do what they did and play my game.”
He came up three shots shy in that Dallas qualifying event when bidding to play at Los Angeles Country Club, but has now saved his first major bout for the most historic championship of them all.
Tiger will be in town at Hoylake after all. The young German amateur Tiger Christensen secured the last of five qualifying spots here at West Lancs and will be playing in The Open. pic.twitter.com/je14euYcrM
— Ben Parsons (@_benparsons) July 4, 2023
And what better place for Christensen to start his Open story than at the place his hero lifted his third (and surely final?) Claret Jug back in 2006.
Christensen knows eyebrows will be raised when the golfing world is introduced to a new Tiger at Hoylake, but he was keen to stress that his name only partly comes from the 15-time major champion.
“It’s not only after Tiger Woods,” he explained. “My dad also has a very good boxer in Germany. He is retired now but his ring name was Tiger. So it’s 50/50.
“He’s been a pretty big inspiration. To me he’s the greatest of all time. It’s really special what he’s done for the game, changing the entire game and making it more popular and his achievements are unbelievable.”
Christensen is very much carving out his own path in the sport after first dreaming of becoming a footballer, with golf not at the forefront of the public consciousness back in his home city of Hamburg.
Now with two collegiate titles under his belt, he attends Arizona University, competing for the Wildcats team after 18 months at Oklahoma State. He won the German Amateur Championship back in 2021 and will look to accelerate his development into the paid ranks with the Silver Medal for the leading amateur at Hoylake.
The assured Christensen certainly won’t be worn down by the comparisons with his namesake as he steps onto the first tee back on Merseyside come Thursday.
“For me it’s never been [a burden] because it’s just my birth name,” he said. “I understand that, everything I do, people are going to compare me straight to him but at the end of the day, it’s a different time and I don’t have any connection to him.
“It’s just a name – there’s so many Harrys and whatever. I’m glad to be called Tiger – I couldn’t imagine having another name.”
Similarities between Christensen and Woods may well end there, but the teenager certainly shares the same ambition as golf’s transformative figure.
“My final goal, which is supported by smaller goals,” he says, “is definitely to win as many majors as I can.”
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