Remember that December 2015 press conference at the Hero World Challenge when Tiger Woods basically said anything he did in professional golf from that point onward would be "gravy"?
Remember how depressing it was to hear the greatest golfer of the modern era, and perhaps the greatest golfer ever to live, sound like a man defeated in a two-on-one handicap match by Father Time and his own body?
That's not the Tiger Woods that was behind the microphone on Tuesday at Riviera Country Club ahead of the 2018 Genesis Open. This Tiger Woods, coming off a T-23 finish at the Farmers Insurance Open last month, feels confident he can make more than gravy with what's left of his career.
"It's winning time," Woods said to the room of assembled media.
That's not opaque, or melancholy. That's direction-injected self-belief.
Woods knows he was astray off the tee at Torrey Pines, hitting the lowest percentage of fairways that week compared to any event in his PGA Tour career. He's made some driver alterations with the TaylorMade M3 he's using, going with a shaft he played at the 2015 Wyndham Championship -- site of his last top-10 finish on the PGA Tour -- and added some loft.
"We could all see how bad I was driving it, and I was able to clean that up a little bit," Woods said.
But just because he was spraying it all over didn't mean there weren't a ton of positives for Woods in San Diego. His iron play was above board, and his chipping and pitching were downright outstanding. He didn't look at all like a guy who, a few years ago, had the chipping yips. He can find the bottom of his arc again. His putting stroke looked good.
Woods is the de facto host this week as his TGR Live management firm runs this event, and his foundation is the primary charitable beneficiary. So, naturally, he landed in a featured group over the first two days with Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas. If Woods was amped to get his ball speed above 180mph -- and driver swing speed above 120mph -- at the Hero World Challenge hit-and-giggle-and-check-cashing, imagine what he might try to do at the deepest field of 2018.
The 14-time major winner believes his younger peers are starting to see him again as a legit threat to contend rather than a golf statesman who was basically on the sidelines for the past three years.
"I think now they're starting to see me as a competitor because I'm starting to come back again," Woods said. "Yeah, we still give the needle and have a whole bunch of fun...I think at the Hero this year it changed quite a bit."
Woods has even entertained the idea of playing in the 2018 Ryder Cup. Captain Jim Furyk already knows Woods, one of his vice-captains, has designs of being a playing assistant.
“Why can’t I have both?” Woods said. “I like both.”
We'll see about that. Let's get past this week, and the next start, and the Masters first before anything else. Try to get in contention on a weekend first. Woods believes he can do that, perhaps as soon as this Saturday and Sunday. And if he does, Woods believes closing a tournament is like riding a bike.
"Once I get into contention, I can handle myself," he said. "I just need to get back there."