Ryder Cup poser for Tiger
THE last time Tiger Woods visited the Royal Liverpool course for the British Open championship, he dismantled it with a unique strategy and perfect ball striking.
He was then being hailed as the greatest player of all time.
This time, the former World No. 1 comes with familiar questions about his health and one that he has never heard before. Is he good enough to qualify for the US Ryder Cup team?
Woods is making only his second appearance since back surgery in March.
His assertion that he has arrived in Hoylake to win this week has drawn ridicule from some quarters, after he missed the cut on his only other post-operative outing at the Quicken Loans last month.
The only one who seems to take him seriously is US Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson.
"It is silly to think that way about what he says. Why can't you understand that Tiger Woods may well win this tournament?" said Watson, a five-time British Open winner himself.
He added: "I wouldn't write off Tiger Woods for a long time, the way he plays the game.
"He is a tough competitor, he knows how to swing the club: yes, he's had some injuries and other issues but you fully expect him to have a much longer career.
"You have to respect what his capabilities have been and probably will be again.
"I guarantee you that players looking at these new electronic scoreboards are going to be looking for Tiger Woods' name, guaranteed."
When Woods played this course in 2006, he barely took his driver out of his bag.
Said his former coach Hank Haney: "He hit driver off (No.) 1 and driver off (No.) 3 (in practice) and it never came out again. He was determined to just have no penalty shots, hitting sideways out of a bunker is essentially a one-stroke penalty. If you hit driver it is virtually impossible to avoid some penalty shots."
It helped, of course, that a hot, dry summer had baked the course and Woods' stinger shot ran a long way.
Now the course is lush and will demand a more aggressive approach off the tee. That means Woods will have to use his driver, with which he has been struggling for accuracy.
Haney thinks he could struggle.
Watson says he wants Tiger on his team - but only if he plays well enough to qualify for the FedExCup play-off series.
Woods is outside the automatic nine places for the Ryder Cup match against holders Europe at Gleneagles and looks like he may have to rely on being one of the captain's three wildcard selections.
"If he's playing well and he's healthy, I'll pick him," said Watson. "But then the caveat is if he doesn't get into the FedExCup, what to do then? That's the question I can't answer right now."
Woods is a lowly 72nd on the Ryder Cup points list and needs to start stringing together some good results, starting at Hoylake this week.
Watson plans to speak to Woods this week to get an idea of how he feels his game is progressing but, even then, he admits performances are what counts.
"I could ask Tiger, 'How are you feeling? How are you feeling like you're hitting the ball? Are you hitting it well?'" added Watson, who will this week play his 37th British Open at the age of 64.
"That doesn't mean anything, really. The performance means something. I'll be watching Tiger and I want him on the team.
"He's a tough competitor and he's great in the team room. Wouldn't you want him on your team?"