The 2017 FedEx Cup victor and Player of the Year finished 9th last time out - he smashed a joint-record 63 in the third round - and it would surprise absolutely no one if the eight-time tour victor was to be among the main contenders at Shinnecock Hills come Sunday.
Woods, a 14-time major champion chasing the record 18 majors won by Nicklaus, has not won a major title in almost 10 years, since the 2008 US Open, and hasn't won the Masters since 2005.
Then again, it was late Sunday afternoon. Traffic on the two-lane roads into Shinnecock has been so heavy that it has taken some players nearly two hours to travel 15 miles. A lot of times you can hit great putts on poa and they don't go in. "I couldn't see my lines".
Yet this week, he sees himself as a peer, a competitor, although he is coming off a performance at Jack Nicklaus' Memorial Tournament in which a balky putter kept him from competing for a victory.
The best finish by an amateur in the last 60 years was Nicklaus, a runner-up to Arnold Palmer in 1960 at Cherry Hills.
McDowell was among those who began preparing Sunday for the U.S. Open on a course where golf first was played in 1891, and where the U.S. Open was last played 14 years ago.
"There's two ways of looking at that", Woods said. Woods was asked how his life has changed since that day.
On Tuesday, he spoke about playing Shinnecock Hills as an opportunity to add to his three U.S. Open titles, but also as filling a hole in his existence after skipping the last two.
"I've had my opportunities. If I just putt normal, I'm right there", Woods said at Wells Fargo, where he never cracked the top 30 in four days. But after wide-open Erin Hills allowed for record scoring previous year seven players finished at 10 under or better the USGA chose to replace some 200,000 square feet of short grass with fescue to bring the fairways in to about 40 yards. "It's really cool to be out here doing it, but I don't think we. think of it as a totally different experience than anything we've always kind of done". "I've given myself chances to win, which I didn't know if I was ever going to do again, and, also, then again, not happy with the fact that I didn't win because I loved how it felt being there", Woods explained.
And while the crowd was relatively sparse for his morning round, there is no mistaking when Woods is around.
Several golfers have made sure to be close to the course this week, including Tiger Woods, Jason Day and Bubba Watson. "And now to see this ladies tournament take place is just fantastic". "I saw that was going to happen".
The oldest player to win the U.S. Open was Hale Irwin, who was 45 when he won at Medinah in 1990 - Mickelson's first major.
Why he'll win: This year's setup at Shinnecock will definitely favor the big hitters.
Of course, a win at Shinnecock Hills in the U.S. Open this week would push Thomas back to the top.
It's impossible to draw up a list of major contenders and not include Justin Thomas, who is priced at 16/1.
It's therefore an unexpected luxury to have both of them back in the field, and in such form. I mean, I get the fairways sort of firm, grow the rough, put the pins in some tough locations. I have done it multiple times in a U.S. Open. "But the more I think about winning, the more it detracts away from my focus and the process of playing a round on Thursday".