Tiger Woods is back in control of his swing and the U.S. Open, and nobody picked up on that faster than Woods himself.
His tournament to win. His vibe. His show. All under his control. His world, again.
"It's a wonderful place to be," Woods said of finishing the first two rounds in a three-way tie for first.
He said this Friday with a bright smile and evident satisfaction, and kept talking about the great shots he hit and the great saves he made.
Both things were true, and to be able to say that after an even-par round of 70 tells you all you need to know about the difficulty of the baked-out Lake Course on Friday.
Yes, it took the hiss and bite of Olympic Club to finally bring out the best in Woods again; the best in his game, the best in his mood, and the best in his mental approach.
This doesn't mean he's guaranteed to win this event, of course. Not with two rounds to go and treachery lurking everywhere.
And it doesn't mean Woods is back to his old dominant self -- probably no one ever will play like that or win like that again, even Woods.
But these two rounds -- particularly Friday's -- provided proof that Woods still can be the best player in the world, and there hadn't been any such evidence in many years.
Tiger, how long has it been since you've hit it like this?
"Been a very long time," Woods said. "Because don't forget, I went through all of last year hurt. Hadn't been able to
"But now it's becoming more consistent, day-in and day-out."
While others flailed, Woods found his happy place amid the baked conditions and bad bounces. He exercised discipline, and he pulled off the shots he absolutely had to.
While playing partners Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson drooped, Woods seemed to charge from tee to green as if he were electrified.
While everyone else was drained by the situation, Woods came into the media center with a peppy stride and looked as though he could play another 18 if anybody was up for it.
"Yeah, I think I'm in a good spot," Woods said.
Woods was on such a good ride Friday that even three consecutive bogeys -- on the fifth, sixth and seventh holes -- didn't send him sprawling, though it did knock him out of temporary solo hold of the tournament lead.
Woods didn't play terribly to register those bogeys -- they were just the high penalty for less than perfect shots at Olympic Club.
And then the tee shot right after those bogeys, on the par-3 eighth hole, might have been the key to the round. Maybe to the whole tournament.
Maybe to the rejuvenation of the Woods Era.
"Coming back right there and hit a nice beautiful high 5-iron -- take something off of it and land it ... where I wanted it to be," Woods said proudly.
Woods made par on that hole, then proceeded to play 2 under par the rest of the way.
By the way, Woods is 8-1 when leading or tied for the lead in a major after two rounds.
Important note: He lost the last time this happened, in the 2009 PGA Championship, which was won by Y.E. Yang.
And now, probably for the first time since then, a major tournament sits there, for Woods to win or lose, just like the old days--before the scandal, the surgeries and the string of less-than-stellar play.
So far, he's winning. Not by crushing the ball past everybody, though he did out-drive Watson by 20 yards on the par-5 16th hole. Not by making every putt.
Just by playing disciplined golf, using long irons off most tees, and by hitting the right shots at the right time to keep the flow going.
"He has great control of his ball-striking," Mickelson said of Woods.
Interestingly, Woods said two of his best shots ended up in bad spots -- on the sixth hole, when his 4-iron approach bobbled into a tricky lie and led to bogey; and on the par-5 17th, when his towering 4-iron second shot hit the green then tumbled off the back side.
He saved par on 17 with a delicate chip and two-putt, then saved par again on 18 after his approach shot ended up in the front trap.
Then Woods exhaled and smiled as he walked off the course, smiled during his news conference and probably was smiling hours and hours later.
Woods is back in control of his game and a major tournament. He knows it, and more importantly, so does everybody else.