Truth was, Tiger couldn't have handled what he called "a lot of moving parts out there" any better. He was rock-solid emotionally, and physically, too. That aborted swing on 18 could've been a back breaker for a man whose back was recently introduced to a surgeon's blade, and Woods didn't even flinch.
"I knew I could do it," he told reporters. "I'm telling you guys it was so important for me to play at Congressional. The fact that I was able to recover every day, and the fact that I was stronger, more explosive the more days I played -- I'm only going to get better from that point. And I'm getting stronger, I'm getting faster, I'm getting more explosive. The ball is starting to travel again."
Woods pulled out his driver once all day; he used it once all tournament in 2006. And yet in the middle of his post-round practice session, Tiger ripped off his familiar Tiger head cover and worked on the big club just in case.
His old coach, Hank Haney, had told The Scotsman's John Huggan that Woods "doesn't care as much as he used to," and cited the lack of tournament play and practice between Congressional and Hoylake as evidence his former client was using this Open as a tuneup for a major he thinks he can actually win: next month's PGA at Valhalla.
Only that Tiger wasn't the Tiger who showed up Thursday. He played the smarter, more patient golf he said he needs to play at this stage of his career, reminded himself after the bad start that four par-5s were still to come, and bought himself time, in his words, "to fight myself back into the championship."
When Woods was done pounding balls on the range, his caddie, Joe LaCava, said his man's first major round of the year was built around his accuracy off the tees.
"It was all pretty solid, no surprises," LaCava said. "But you expect this because Tiger feels it. He expects it. Regardless of the layoff, he expects to play the way he did."
Above all else, Woods expects to win. He said so two days before the start of this tournament, and he repeated it on the course Thursday, when he did his talking with his clubs.
Tiger Woods is not treating the Open Championship as any dry run for more manageable majors down the road. He can win this thing, and his opponents can believe otherwise at their own peril.