"It's one of the good things of taking the time off to let it heal and get the treatment and therapy on it," he said. "The main reason was that coming over here the ground is going to be hard, obviously. And I'm going to need that elbow to be good. And just in case the rough was ... well, reports were it was going to be high and it was going to be lush. I needed to have this thing set and healed."
It's not that reports were exaggerated.
Ernie Els, the defending British Open champion and the last Open winner at Muirfield, returned to the course last month after winning in Germany.
"It was like this," Els said, tapping the dark green cooler on the 13th tee. "And there was a bit of rain that day, so it was very green. The rough was thick. You could just hack it out. And then I get here two weeks later, and it's this."
He looked across a course that was a blend of yellow, wispy grass framing the fairways that were turning brown by the day. Most players prefer a brown links course because it's running fast. Els didn't buy that, not at Muirfield.
"A little more luck involved," he said.
Muirfield doesn't have the severity of humps and hollows in the fairway. It looks like links golf, not a trip to the moon. But the drier the condition, the faster the ball runs along the ground, and the harder it is to control where it stops.
Maybe that's what Woods needs — a little luck.
"I've had a pretty good year so far — won four times," Woods said, again on the defensive. "Even though I haven't won a major championship in five years, I've been there in a bunch of them where I've had chances. I just need to keep putting myself there, and eventually I'll get some."
Since returning from the crisis in his personal life that led to divorce, Woods has had five finishes in the top four at the 12 majors he has played. But he still hasn't seriously contended. The closest he has been to the winning score was three shots, at the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.
McDowell won that U.S. Open. Adam Scott won the Masters this year. Justin Rose won the U.S. Open. The closest anyone has been to dominance in the majors was Rory McIlroy, who won two of them by eight shots, though his game is now in a slump.
That used to be Woods.
"You could never get 18 players win 20 majors when there's a guy winning 14 majors in 12 years," Geoff Ogilvy said. "There was definitely a period when he was winning them all and there were less people who thought they could."
"There are more players who think they can win," Ogilvy said. "And every time one of those players wins one, it gives confidence to others that they can."