Woods' 1-under-par 69 at hard, fast Olympic Club was more than a good omen. Two of the three times he has broken par in the opening round of the U.S. Open, he's won.
Woods was thrilled with his performance on Thursday, especially considering the conditions.
"We knew it was going to get quick as the week progressed, but we didn't think it was going to happen overnight," Woods told reporters. "We teed off the same time yesterday and it wasn't that bad. Come out here today, and it's just like they used sub air [dryers] on the whole place."
While solid first-round play is a dependable barometer for Woods, Friday's second round might be even more telling. All 14 times Woods has captured a major championship, he's broken 70 in the second round, averaging an astonishing 66.8 strokes.
On the PGA Tour, Saturday is typically called "moving day." For Woods in majors, however, it's Friday. If he can tame rugged Olympic in the second round, it might be over. Woods is the best front-runner in major tournament history.
In Thursday's ballyhooed superstar threesome, the difference between Woods and his left-handed playing partners -- Phil Mickelson (76) and Bubba Watson (78) -- was off the tee. While Woods hit 10 of 14 fairways, Mickelson (seven) and Watson (five) were all over the place. Mickelson lost his ball on his first shot and had to make the walk of shame back to the tee. Watson hit one so far right on No. 7, NBC's Johnny Miller was amused.
"That was a nutty shot," he said.
In Friday's second round, the same three will tee off at 4:18 p.m. in a made-for-TV, extravaganza. While Mickelson and Watson will have to struggle to make the cut, Woods appears poised for prime time.
"That was beautiful to watch. That's what we all come to see," Watson said. "That was the old Tiger."
- Kevin Dunleavy