Though Koepka's father, Bob, used to tease his high school classmates for earning letterman jackets for golf because, he said, "I didn't think it was a sport", Woods helped make golf a viable option for Brooks and other versatile young athletes who lived in the gym and preferred to look more like National Football League strong safeties.
"In order to win this one, driving is going to be at the forefront", Woods said. "I felt like I had to be within six or seven going into the weekend".
"I'm 100 percent not hitting it as well as I did a couple years ago", the three-time major victor said. Jordan Spieth overcame a double bogey on the 10th hole for a 69 and was in a group that included Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler and Jason Day.
Not making any of it more palatable, Woods was paired with defending champion Brooks Koepka, who shot a 63 Thursday on a somewhat benign Bethpage Black. I think he's got some of that swag that Tiger used to have, especially considering he's won three of the past five majors. That's no easy feat, especially with Woods back on the prowl.
"I got it back under par for the day, and let a couple slip away with a couple bad putts and a couple mistakes at the end", Woods lamented.
"I've never been this confident", he said. That sloping course was the site of Koepka's breakout and it's not hard to see the same story playing out by the time the Sunday sun sets on Long Island.
Woods fought back with birdies at the first and second holes, then curled in a 30-foot eagle putt to make the crowd roar.
Lee nearly caught Koepka in the afternoon, the South Korean-born, American-based kiwi finishing in style with birdies at the final two holes for a 64.
The 43-year-old American superstar's electrifying triumph last month at Augusta National has made him the focus of attention on the same layout where he won the 2002 US Open. "It is a very real thing", Pepper said.
Masters champion Woods made a double bogey at the hole, and, just like that, Koepka had a three-shot lead over the 15-time major victor and betting favourite.
Later, when surveying Koepka's course record of 7-under 63, Woods said his opponent had posted "probably the highest score he could have shot today".
"It wasn't as clean as I'd like to have it, for sure", Woods said of his 6 on the par-4 10th hole. "I think I'm still learning, understandably, my game, and I've figured it out. I guess that would have been pretty good".