When Adrian Meronk met Tiger Woods




CNN

Never meet your idols, as the saying goes. Try saying that to Adrian Meronk.

At the Open Championship in July, Polish golfer Tiger Woods tracked down for a photo. Twenty-four hours later, he was chatting with the 15-time major nine-hole champion of the legendary St. Andrews Old Course.

The fact that Meronk was even in the same tournament as his childhood hero was itself a moment to pinch myself. Just two weeks before the Irish Open, the 29-year-old had made history as the first Pole to win on the DP World Tour, stamping his first ticket to the 150th edition of the Major.

Meronk spotted Woods on the putting green Monday and missed his photo opportunity, believing there would be no further opportunity after the competition started Thursday.

Imagine his shock when he strolled to the 10th tee for his practice round at 8:45 the next morning and saw none other than a lonely forest setting up his opening shot. After asking him if it was okay to join, Meronk spent the rest of the morning side-by-side with the kings of golf.

“That was probably one of my childhood dreams, so I got a lot of messages from home, and that was very exciting for me,” Meronk told CNN’s The Jazzy Golfer.

“I messed around with his brain a bit. He was very nice to me, quite talkative too, so I was quite surprised.”

Meronk and Woods pose for a photo during their practice round.

What would you ask your idol? It was important for Meronk to start competition advising, especially as Woods is a two-time Open Champion at St Andrews.

With the Open possibly not returning to St Andrews until 2030, there was speculation that the 150th edition would be Woods last at the Scottish venue, particularly given his physical struggles.

The 46-year-old had made a remarkable comeback to the sport after suffering injuries in a car accident in 2021, with his focus on returning to St Andrews during a grueling recovery process.

“I started with some advice on the course, some lines and so on,” Meronk recalls. “Some advice on how to handle putting when it’s really windy.

“Then he told me about his first open at St Andrews because he asked me if it was my first open.

“I asked him how he was feeling, how was his health and stuff like that, just casual stuff. He was very open.”

Meronk and Woods stroll past St. Andrews Old Course Hotel.

The legendary golfer’s tournament ended in moving scenes on Friday when a tearful Woods, after missing the cut, was serenaded by a surging crowd from St Andrews on the 18th fairway. For Meronk, it was an ovation worthy of the greatest of all time.

“He was probably the idol for most of the guys here and still is, to be honest,” he said. “With what he has achieved, I would say that he is certainly the greatest in our sport.”

Unlike Woods, Morenk’s time at St Andrews went the distance. After a nightmarish three-over-75 start, the Pole roared back with an impressive 68 to make it through to the weekend, where he finished a solid 42nd in two strong rounds of 70 and 69 in his Open debut.

Meronk teeing off in the third round at The Open.

It was the latest culmination of a stellar season for Meronk, his best on the DP World Tour since turning pro in 2016. After three second places in a string of top 10 finishes, the Pole firmly put his near misses to rest with a three-shot win in Kilkenny, Ireland.

“Winning the DP World Tour has always been a goal of mine, always a dream,” said Meronk. “To make it in Ireland, at the Irish Open, at such a historic event, was a really great feeling for me.

“I’ve had a great season this year, I’ve come very close a couple of times, so it was a huge relief for me too to finally make it.”

Meronk celebrates his victory at the Irish Open in July.

The triumph not only earned Meronk a winner’s check for €974,000 ($947,690), it also wrote Meronk in the history books as the first-ever Tour champion from Poland, a country not known for its golf prowess.

With 64th place in the world rankings of Poland’s best-ranked golfer, Meronk’s best-ranked compatriot Mateusz Gradecki is ranked 341st. According to this, there is currently no Polish golfer in the top 2,700.

“It did [feel historic]’ Meronk said. “More and more people are following me to Poland, but also all over the world. There are a lot of Poles everywhere.

“There were a lot of Poles in the crowd congratulating me and I got a lot of messages from home, it was really exciting and it also motivates me to go further.”

Meronk poses with the Polish flag after his first Tour victory.

At 6’6″, Meronk uses racquets that are longer and have different lie angles to accommodate his towering frame. To balance his natural flexion over the ball, Meronk repeats a rigorous posture exercise five times before each training session. While his longer levers allow him to hit the ball longer distances, he believes his size is a compromise in the short game.

“I’ll probably have to catch other guys with accuracy,” he said.

“I still have a bit of work to do on that, especially around the green and the short game. So there are downsides, but I think I can definitely hit a little further with the longer levers.”