MONTEREY, CA -- Two months ago, Tiger Woods sent roars echoing through the pine trees at Augusta National when he won his fifth Masters title and 15th major championship.
When he tapped in for bogey on the 18th hole to punctuate the win, he let a primal roar and a weight appeared to be lifted from his legendary shoulders.
He was back -- for real and in full.
After letting his Masters win wash over him, Woods' first quest for major No. 16 didn't last long at the 2019 PGA Championship. Ailing from a cold and a month of rust on his game, Woods missed the cut by one stroke and watched Brooks Kopeka win his fourth major championship in his last eight starts.
As the 119th U.S. Open descends on Pebble Beach this week, Woods has a sense of calm surrounding him.
In Pebble, he'll face a familiar test, one he dominated half-a-lifetime ago when he ran away from the field at the 2000 U.S. Open, posting a score of 12-under-par to win the championship by 15 strokes. It was a tour de force the likes of which the golf world had never seen, and performance Woods credits to just putting the ball in the right spot.
"Yeah, it's crazy," Woods told reporters Tuesday. "It's been 19 years. I still remember most of the shots I hit that week. It was just one of those weeks where I don't know how I pulled it off, but on seaside poa annua, I never missed a putt inside ten feet for a week. I did the same thing at Torrey, too.
"So I've putted on poa greens well, and I grew up on it and did that week. It happened to be a very special week. I made everything. And not only that, I was hitting it well. And when I did miss it, I missed it in all the correct spots. So I had the best angles. And again, to be able to putt on greens this steep and bumpy as they get in the afternoon, and not miss a putt in under ten feet was saying something."
Woods arrives at Pebble Beach rested but not rusty. After missing the cut at the PGA, Woods teed it back up at The Memorial, firing a final-round-67 to finish in a tie for 10th place. His play off the tee at Muirfield Village should have him feeling confident heading into his second try for major No. 16.
Woods hit 42 of 56 fairways in Dublin, Ohio., and did so with a variety of shots. His iron play always has been the calling card of his game, but Woods will need to be accurate off the tee in order to avoid the penal U.S. Open rough and find success on the California Coast, something he's done before.
"Well, if I feel good, then I feel like I can play any venue," Woods said. "It's just that when I'm stiff and not moving as well, it becomes a little bit more difficult. Now, this week -- we're all going to be playing from virtually the same spots, and especially if it dries out. The longer guys will be hitting a shorter club; the shorter guys will be able to sneak driver down there. We're all playing from the same spots.
Now, how do you put the ball in the correct position is the key. And these greens, we don't face greens like this, this small and this steep. And so it puts a premium on iron play, because I feel like most of the field can drive the ball in the fairways, they're plenty wide, the golf course is not overly long. Where to put the ball in the right spots so you can have putts at it."
After his showing at The Memorial, Woods likes where his game is at heading into the toughest test in golf, and he is confident he can contend at a place he once eviscerated.
"And this week I feel like I'm trending in the right direction," Woods said. "I need one more day of prep. I want to see the golf course when it's a little bit closer to game time. I don't want to -- I know they're holding it back. But I just want to see how much are they going to let it go and show us how it's going to be come Thursday."
After sending roars around the hallowed grounds of Augusta National, Woods now looks to send them cascading around the cliffs of Pebble Beach.
His game is in the right place to do just that.