Tiger Woods is back. And this time it’s for real. Possibly. Or maybe not. But probably. Right?

Woods had the crowd cheering in awe at his imperious iron play as he left his playing partners Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson reeling in his wake. His one under par first round 69 saw his name writ large on the leaderboard. He’s got everyone’s attention.

Tiger’s rhythm was rock ‘n’ roll while Bubba and Phil struggled to find the beat as they muddled through in a modern jazz jamming session. Bubba said he thought his day among this stellar group would be like Sunday at the Masters. It was – but like Rory’s in 2011 as Bubba limped home with an 8 over par 78. Phil flapped to a 6 over par 76. Bragging rights to Tiger. Normal service resumed.

Tiger struck while his irons were hot. He was confident, aggressive, dialled in, as they say here. The highlight was a 7-iron from the rough at the 4th (his 14th). It looked like the smart move was a high whack straight at the green. But Tiger had his own smarter move. He smacked at it churning out a divot the size of a large steak punching a low draw to 8 feet form the hole. Of course he then curled in the birdie putt and gave a low fist pump in triumph. It got him under par and on the radar of his rivals atop the leaderboard.

This was only the fourth time Tiger has been under par after the first round of the US Open. Two of those times he went on to win – in 2000 and 2010. It’s too early to start thinking about a fourth US Open title and a 15th major but there is no doubt the Tiger fear factor will return on Sunday if he keeps this form together for the next two days.

Need proof? “That was the old Tiger. That was beautiful to watch,” Bubba said. “That’s what we all come to see. That was awesome.”