Either the bookies know something we don’t, or they have grossly misread the situation. With prices for a Tiger Woods win at Muirfield floating around the 10/1 mark, there are still lingering suspicions that the great one’s game will not meet the demands of a course that is likely to be punishing to the extreme on wayward driving. Will he? Won’t he? He’s just not the player he was…

Despite four tournament victories in 2013, it is still the American’s game from the tee that continues to form an area of contentious debate. The tempo is faster and the rhythm is not what it was, but there can be no argument that conditions this week will allow Woods to counter the demons that lie in the weakest part of his game.

‘I’ve been hitting my 3-iron over 300 yards,” he calmly stated yesterday, throwing caution to the rest of the field in a throwback to his last Open victory seven years ago. Then, over a sun-baked Hoylake that has drawn obvious comparisons all week long to the current Muirfield set-up, Woods drew his driver from the bag only once over the stretch of 72 holes.

An 18-under-par aggregate and a two-shot victory over Chris Di Marco admittedly came when he was at the height of his powers. But he had the one shot every other player was crying out to play: the ‘stinger’ long iron that will be at the forefront of his arsenal this week. Hit the fairway, pick those spots on the green, and accept that there will be a dosage of bad bounces along the way.

No player stirs the emotions of a usually mundane press conference like Woods. When he’s off colour, the media feel it; his answers punctuated with churlish tones. But when he’s on song, there is a relaxed and infectious manner sprinkled with moments of humour and wit. His Tuesday morning catch-up with the world’s golfing press fell very much into the latter category.

He knows he is playing a course that will test every facet of his game. But he also knows that he has the game to master the fiery conditions where others may lack the authority and control. After five years, Major number 15 looms large…