DALY CITY, CA - JUNE 11: Tiger Woods of the United States hits a shot during a practice round prior to the start of the 112th U.S. Open at The Olympic Club on June 11, 2012 in Daly City, California. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
Under a cool blue-gray California sky on Thursday at the U.S. Open, Tiger Woods did the darndest thing. He played like Tiger Woods used to play at a major.
Tiger Woods shot a 1-under 69 in the first round of the U.S. Open on Thursday. (Getty Images)
Gone were the pained expressions after mis-hits. Gone was the clank of a golf club banging off a tee box in a disgusted follow through. Gone was the muttered profanity.
In was a calm, clinical golfer. In was a player intent on a game plan, on calling the USGA's bluff and opting for fairway-pounding tee shots. In was a player thinking his way around the grueling Olympic Club setup, cagily eyeing each hole as if it were an adversary worthy of his best chess move.
Sixty-nine golf shots later, Tiger had his best first-round score at a U.S. Open since his 67 at the 2002 Bethpage Black U.S. Open. He won that U.S. Open.
The question: Who kidnapped the Tiger Woods who hasn't won a major in four calendar years, and replaced him with Tiger Woods?
Don't think the field didn't notice. Bubba Watson, whose first-round 78 smacked of surrender to Olympic's beastly demands, sure did.
"That was the old Tiger," he said, in gifting the media with Thursday's mission statement. "That was beautiful to watch."