It was just like the halcyon days of a previous era as Tiger Woods carded his best ever score at TPC Sawgrass, a seven-under-par 65, in the third round of the Players Championship on Saturday.
Woods, a 79-times winner on the PGA Tour, used his irons with precision and wielded a hot putter to record his lowest numerical score on the PGA Tour since 2015.
It was also his best score in relation to par since 2013, though he has played only sparingly in the ensuing five years while nursing a serious back injury.
After making the cut with nothing to spare on Friday, Woods teed off trailing halfway leader Webb Simpson by 14 strokes on another perfect morning.
“I finally got off to a good start,” said Woods, who sent waves of excitement through the gallery with six front-nine birdies.
He turned in 30 and added further birdies at the 11th and 12th holes, but he could not pick up any more. His 65 left Woods on an eight-under 208, unlikely to be near the lead by day’s end as scoring conditions remained ideal.
Still, it was a nice confidence-booster for Woods as he works his way back to tournament sharpness after last year’s successful spinal fusion.
“It was nice to see a few putts go in. I hit a lot of quality shots and 65 was probably as high as I could have shot today, which was kind of nice,” he said.
“To be eight-under there through 12 — realistically, I probably could have got a couple more out of it and got to 10 (under) for the day.
“Today I felt more comfortable with my overall warm-up. I felt I had better control of hitting it right-to-left and left-to-right, and consequently today I was able to shape the golf ball both ways and started to control it a little bit better today.”
While Woods has shown signs of his old self in his seven-plus tournaments this year, he has struggled to string good rounds together.
The 42-year-old has displayed patience, outwardly at least, knowing that even a player of his calibre needs some time to get back to near his best after missing so much time through injury.
“It’s just a matter of playing and executing and putting the shots together,” he said. “Eventually I was going to put all the pieces together and today for the most part I did that.”