Tiger Woods has his swagger back.
The trademark smile that wasn't always on display two years ago when he hosted the AT& T National at nearby Aronimink Golf Club is back. Woods stepped to the podium Tuesday inside the media tent at Merion Golf Club dressed in all black.
The golfer was jovial with reporters, especially with the cute one in the back who asked him an unusual question. The woman asked Woods what he would be doing to relax this week.
"Didn't expect that," he said, with a sheepish smile.
The woman's name was Cheyenne Woods, Tiger's niece, who surprised him by showing up at Tuesday's press conference. She is also a professional golfer and earned her first win last August.
"We have a great crew at the house, and we're going to have fun," Tiger said.
Woods smiled often and answered every question fired at him with wit and charm, something that wasn't always there when he was mired in the slump following his scandal.
He talked seriously about the clubs he'd be stacking in his bag — no 1-irons — and about the challenges the famed East Course would present. The only time he puckered up and looked anything close to serious was when Sergio Garcia's name came up. Woods confirmed the two shook hands Monday on the driving range, but the conversation ended there. Garcia still hasn't apologized for the racially-charged comments he made.
"No, we didn't discuss anything," Woods said of Monday's exchange. "Just came up and said hi, and that was it. It's already done. We've already gone through it all. It's time for the U.S. Open and we tee it up in two days."
Woods did express concern over the rain-soaked course at Merion, which is flooded with mud puddles and wet greens. The putting greens were running very slow Tuesday, prompting many to expect very low scores this week.
"Today the putting green was still a little bit slow," Woods said. "I don't think that it's going to be that much faster, especially with the forecast with rain on Thursday. It will be interesting to see what the players end up doing the first few days and getting a feel for what the number is going to be."
Woods doesn't expect to use too many drivers, either — if any.
"There are a few drivers here and there," he said. "Obviously it's not going to be that many."
The only thing he requested is that his niece show up at dinner on time.
"Tomorrow [Wednesday], make sure you're ... is it 6:30 dinner? Is that all right?," Woods said, staring at Cheyenne, before adding, "Okay. Perfect."