CALIFORNIA • Tiger Woods has set himself a target of a decade more at the top level as he looks to overhaul the Majors record of 18 held by Jack Nicklaus.
After years of physical turmoil, this may be regarded by some as a bold aspiration, yet Woods defied all odds to win his 15th Major at Augusta National in April.
Since that juncture, however, all bets are off.
In a break from his preparations at Pebble Beach, where he will attempt to win a fourth US Open starting today, the 43-year-old was asked to what extent Nicklaus' total features as motivation.
He took a deliberately broad approach in answering.
"If I keep progressing how I am physically and how I'm getting better and better, I just need to give myself chances," he said. "Hypothetically, let's say I give myself 10 years. That's 40 Major championships. That's a lot of Majors.
"And now the trick is, can I keep myself healthy enough and strong enough and fast enough to endure all that, considering what my body has gone through? That's where I need help with my trainers, physios, my workout regimes and, hopefully, I can make that happen."
Woods had earlier played down the sense that winning 18 Majors or more features most in his competitive outlook.
"What's important to me is that I'm back playing again," he said.
"This game was taken away from me for a few years. And I miss competing, I miss playing.
"Now I have an opportunity to do that again and also to be able to share it with my kids. They don't remember me enjoying golf, because all they remember is Daddy on the ground in pain.
"Now golf brings me so much joy, they're able to see that. And, if it brings a smile to their faces, it brings a smile to my own."
THE PHYSICAL SIDE OF THINGS
Now the trick is, can I keep myself healthy enough and strong enough and fast enough to endure all that, considering what my body has gone through?
TIGER WOODS, on his game following his back surgeries.
Woods was clearly short of fitness and energy en route to missing the cut at last month's US PGA Championship at Bethpage.
While unwilling to specify the nature of the affliction, he admitted he was "in rough shape".
The same fate, many fear, will befall Pebble Beach this week. The US Open's organisers have been widely criticised in recent years for its course set-up.
Woods hinted at such concerns once more at a venue where he won by 15 shots in 2000.
"The greens are all slanted, very small targets," he said. "And, if they ever firm up, then we have a totally different ball game.
"This week, I feel like I'm trending in the right direction. I want to see the course when it's a little bit closer to game time.
"I know they're holding it back, but I just want to see how much are they going to let it go and show us how it's going to be come Thursday."
Other players to watch
RORY MCILROY, 30 (NIR)
World ranking: 3
Majors won: 4
Best US Open: Winner (2011)
McIlroy arrives at Pebble Beach off a victory at the Canadian Open, where his final-round 61 gave him a seven-shot win. He also finished second in Mexico City and was in a tie for fourth at Riviera this year. But, if he wants to add to his four Major titles, he will need to avoid the kind of slow starts that proved too much to overcome at the Masters and the PGA Championship.
DUSTIN JOHNSON, 34 (USA)
World ranking: 2
Majors won: 1
Best US Open: Winner (2016)
Johnson grabbed an elite World Golf Championships title in Mexico this season and charged to runner-up finishes at the Masters and the PGA Championship. He is a proven winner at Pebble Beach, where he won the PGA Tour's National Pro-am in 2009 and 2010. But he also held the 54-hole lead at the 2010 US Open at Pebble but closed with an 82 to finish tied for eighth.
PATRICK CANTLAY, 27 (USA)
World ranking: 8
Majors won: Nil
Best US Open: Tied 21st (2011)
The California native grew up putting on Poa annua greens like those at Pebble. He captured his second US PGA Tour title at the Memorial earlier this month, erasing a four-shot deficit to beat Adam Scott by two strokes. His Memorial victory came after seven top-10 finishes this season, including a tie for third at the PGA Championship.