His last tournament win came in 2013 and since then the battle to return to competitive golf again has one been lost more often than won.
But success at this Open, on the toughest links in the rota?
"I watched the scores this morning and it seemed like it was very gettable", said the three-time major victor.
T2. Xander Schauffele (-6): It seemed like the 24-year old two-time PGA Tour victor played his way out of contention early with bogeys on No. 5 and No. 6 and then a double bogey on No. 7.
Kevin Chappell is two shots further back on 7-under, Italy's Francesco Molinari is 6-under after a superb 65 and then Woods is among a group of seven players on 5-under, after a 5-under-par 66. And Woods's playing partner sensed an aura around the 14-time major champion.
This is the 16th time he has been in at least a share of the lead in the majors in the five years he has been playing them on a regular basis. Four of them are among the top 11 on the leaderboard going into the weekend with Spieth and Rickie Fowler, who shot 69 and was at 3-under 139.
As a rule, golfers are always keen to avoid missing the cut, but Jordan Spieth was left wishing he had.
Rory McIlroy was bogeying two of his first five holes.
Xander Schauffele was hacking his way through fescue. Our liability on Tiger is actually not that bad considering the other majors.
"I've just thoroughly enjoyed being here", Locke said. "It didn't feel any different". Woods' iron off the tee looked near flawless but just barely caught the slope to the right of the green and fell into a collection area. For instance, Zach Johnson managed to grab a share of the half-way lead by reducing it on Friday to a three-wood, seven-iron and a 40-foot putt for a closing birdie.
"I really felt like I had control of the golf ball today". He followed it up on 12 with another misadventure in the rough, leading to a momentum-killing bogey. They were last together three weeks ago when Woods presented him the trophy at the Quicken Loans National after Molinari shot 62 for an eight-shot victory. "He was so impressive, and if he's not quite back to his very best he's getting there".
With the leaders still on the course, Woods' deficit will stretch, but he will be in contention come Sunday.
"We're not there yet", Woods said. Williams is one of the few athletes on the planet with whom Woods can relate - an aging, larger-than-life superstar who is fiercely competitive and adept at overcoming adversity.
On Friday, though, McIlroy was faced with having to curb his bomber mentality, because the rain that fell for most of the day (and through all of his round) softened the thirsty, browned-out terrain just enough to bring the bunkers back into play. "I've sometimes forgotten that, and just need to get back in that mindset".
Thousands followed Woods around the links and it was not hard to know exactly where he was with cheers echoing across the course, heralding each of his six birdies.
Molinari would be the first Italian to win a major championship. I received a lot of good wishes. And even though I made that birdie on the second, which was a good start, I couldn't really capitalise on that start. His hair was cut shorter than his normal style, but he still left a 20-pound note for the 9-pound haircut. I'm trying to see the line and trying to roll it over the line. "That was a real positive for me, and it renewed the love of the Open for me".