Still, something was missing Thursday during the opening round of the U.S. Open.
The buzz of anticipation. The deafening roar of the gallery.
Even that annoying cheer, 'You da man!'
Has Woods become -- gasp -- just another player?
He sure looked like one as he plodded to an ordinary 2-over-par 72, failing to take advantage of conditions that were as good for scoring as they'll ever be on the links course sandwiched between Great Peconic Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.
The much-feared wind barely materialized, struggling just to get a ripple out of the flags. Fifty-year-old Jay Haas opened with 66, as did Shigeki Maruyama.
Nine other players who went out in the morning also broke par, including Hooters Tour journeyman David Roesch and Craig Stadler's son, Kevin.
Not Woods, who dipped into the red with a birdie at No. 5 but never got anything else going. He had three bogeys and 10 pars the rest of the way, straying drives and getting plenty of practice with his sand wedge.
'I did, didn't I?' Woods said, forcing a smile.
He has now put up three straight over-par rounds at the Open, going back to last year's tournament at Olympia Fields. He followed up an uninspiring performance at the Masters, where a pair of 75s left him in a tie for 22nd.
Woods is not the same golfer who won 7-of-11 majors beginning with the 1999 PGA Championship, and he's quick to admit it.
'It's never going to stay that way,' he said. 'I had a great stretch where I was playing fantastic golf. Hey, when you're making a lot of putts and hitting the ball good, that's a fun run to be on. I carried that for about four or five years.'
Still, Woods was undaunted, repeating a familiar theme: Close, so close.
For instance, he blamed an erratic performance off the tee -- only 5 of 14 fairways -- on bad luck rather than bad shots.
'I drove it all right,' Woods said. 'I probably hit three poor drives. I lost them to the right. But other than that, I really hit some good shots that didn't end up in the fairway. They took some funky bounces. It's just the nature of the golf course.'
And what about having seven shots claimed by the bunkers?
'Some of those are poor shots, but some of those are trying to miss on the correct side so I have ample green to work with. I just overcooked it,' Woods rationalized. 'At least I missed it on the correct sides. That's the most important thing.'
Whatever the case, Woods gave little indication that he's going to break an 0-for-7 slump in the majors. He's never won a tournament of any kind after shooting above par in the first round.
'An awful long way to go,' Woods countered.
Other than slamming his clubs a few times after poor shots, he didn't seem all that upset.
'I was extremely patient,' Woods said. 'I know how to play U.S. Opens. I've been down that path where, yeah, you're going to get frustrated because you get some bad bounces or you hit a bad shot, it ends up in a bad spot and you end up chewing yourself out.
'You've got to stay in the present, focus on the next shot and stay committed. That's the key, and I did that the whole day.'
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