AUGUSTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 14: Tiger Woods of the United States celebrates after sinking his putt on the 18th green to win during the final round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 14, 2019 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
AUGUSTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 14: Tiger Woods of the United States celebrates after sinking his putt on the 18th green to win during the final round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 14, 2019 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:27
Tiger Woods: The rise, fall and comeback
NBC
Now playing
01:49
'SNL' recap: Elon Musk hosts
Getty Images
Now playing
00:46
Actress Tawny Kitaen dies at 59
Now playing
02:07
Billions of cicadas are about to emerge. Here's what to expect
The Ohio Channel
Now playing
01:00
State senator attends Zoom meeting while driving his car
Getty Images
Now playing
02:30
See the bear starring in a California governor's race ad
Omaze
Now playing
01:19
George Clooney is diehard Brad Pitt fan in hilarious ad
FOX/"The Masked Singer"
Now playing
01:30
'Fast & Furious' actor revealed on 'The Masked Singer'
Jada Smith Willow Smith Split
Getty Images
Jada Smith Willow Smith Split
Now playing
01:36
Watch Willow Smith's Mother's Day surprise
circus elephants wildlife sanctuary florida orig mg_00005204.png
White Oak Conservation
circus elephants wildlife sanctuary florida orig mg_00005204.png
Now playing
01:05
Former circus elephants arrive at wildlife sanctuary
campy vaccine psa moos singapore pkg vpx _00010013.png
gov.sg
campy vaccine psa moos singapore pkg vpx _00010013.png
Now playing
02:29
TV star makes comeback with hilarious music video promoting vaccines
billie eilish FILE
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
billie eilish FILE
Now playing
02:14
Billie Eilish switches up her signature look
MOONSTRUCK, Olympia Dukakis, 1987. (c) MGM/ Courtesy: Everett Collection.
MGM/Everett Collection
MOONSTRUCK, Olympia Dukakis, 1987. (c) MGM/ Courtesy: Everett Collection.
Now playing
00:46
Oscar-winning actress Olympia Dukakis dies at 89
Oprah Winfrey attends the premiere of Disney's "A Wrinkle In Time" at the El Capitan Theatre on February 26, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images)
Christopher Polk/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
Oprah Winfrey attends the premiere of Disney's "A Wrinkle In Time" at the El Capitan Theatre on February 26, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:50
Oprah chokes up telling a story from her childhood
TikTok/lilnasx
Now playing
00:40
Lil Nas X mocks himself after failing driving test
Sansha Satellite TV
Now playing
01:08
See 100 mermaids in a world record performance
(CNN) —  

Everything’s a bit slower and more methodical with Tiger Woods these days.

The walk, the practice range sessions, even the delivery in his press conferences.

Where once burned a prickly intensity, he now faces his inquisitors with something akin to rapprochement.

Where once he gave nothing away, Woods seems more open to letting us in. Or at least, now and again. Perhaps he’s tiring of the fight, or maybe just relieved to be still of interest.

Ahead of the 148th Open Championship at Royal Portrush Tuesday, a relaxed, more reflective Woods was asked whether he had tapped into any of the local knowledge of the likes of Portrush local Graeme McDowell or Northern Ireland natives Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke. Or even Ricky Elliott, caddie to world No.1 Brooks Koepka, and another born and bred in the seaside town on Northern Ireland’s north coast.

“Tell you a funny story,” said Woods, explaining how he had texted Koepka to congratulate him on another good finish at the US Open. “And I said, ‘hey dude, do you mind if I tag along and play a practice round [at Portrush]. I’ve heard nothing.”

READ: The Open: Why a sense of humor and rhino skin are key for caddies

READ: Woods’$2 10-year plan to surpass Jack Nicklaus

Tiger Woods walks onto a green during practice for The Open at Royal Portrush.
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Tiger Woods walks onto a green during practice for The Open at Royal Portrush.

’Unbelievable golf course’

Woods beamed, pleased with his joke, reporters chuckled, pleased to have been tossed a nugget.

The 43-year-old golfer explained how he has been to Ireland many times to fish and play golf, with the likes of the late Payne Stewart and Mark O’Meara, but he admitted he’d never been this far north (Portrush is in Northern Ireland, which remains part of the UK).

Asked if he had sampled any Guinness – the dark black stout famous in this part of the world – Woods said not this week. “In the past? Mmm, mmm.”

Woods described Royal Portrush as “wonderful” and an “unbelievable golf course,” adding it was “amazing” the Open hasn’t been played here since 1951.

He either missed or glossed over the fact that political and social strife – the infamous “Troubles,” which many hope are a thing of the past since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement – are the reason the province has been overlooked for golf’s oldest major for so long.

Visit CNN.com/Sport for more news, features and videos

Cut off from Koepka

Woods chewed gum and occasionally stooped slowly to drink from a cup during his leisurely morning range session among the dunes of Portrush’s dramatic linksland.

A three-time champion, Woods won his last Open title at Hoylake near Liverpool in England in 2006, but he sent shockwaves around Carnoustie last summer as he briefly took the lead haflway through the final round during his comeback year from spinal fusion surgery.

His remarkable Masters victory in April, a first major for 11 years and 15th in all, was final confirmation the 43-year-old’s career is somewhat back on track.

Woods struggled in the ensuing PGA Championship and US Open, revealing Tuesday the Masters took a lot out of him – “that golf course puts so much stress on the system” – and admitted it’s “hard to believe I pulled it off.”

READ: Koepka sets ‘double digit’ major target’

But Koepka’s phone silence speaks volumes.

The impressive Koepka has won four of his last nine majors and has been second in two more this season, including behind Woods at Augusta. So he knows only too well that on the right course, in the right week, Woods can be a major threat.

Woods, however, has an eye on the changeable weather forecast this week. Colder temperatures inhibit his back, saved from the brink by spinal fusion surgery two years ago.

He’s also undercooked on the golf course, having recently spent time in Thailand with his family.

“It’s not quite as sharp as I’d like to have it right now,” said Woods, sporting a white tape on the second finger of his right hand and a red, white and blue beaded bracelet next to his silver watch on the left.

Brooks Koepka and caddie Ricky Elliott, a Portrush native, ahead of the Open Championship.
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Brooks Koepka and caddie Ricky Elliott, a Portrush native, ahead of the Open Championship.

’Art to playing links golf’

At least Woods is not the only one who can’t be accused of overdoing things.

Koepka admitted the only time he practices is before major tournaments. “Regular tournaments, I don’t practice,” he said, displaying a sparkle most golf fans would like to see more of. “If you’ve seen me on TV, that’s when I play golf.”

He did add, ominously, that coming second in two of the year’s three majors was not good enough. “Finishing second sucks,” he said. He won’t like this stat then – since 1986 only Woods has won the Open as world No.1.

But despite his advancing years and physical frailties, Woods takes comfort in the feats of Tom Watson, who went so close to winning the Open at Turnberry at 59, or Greg Norman, who was 53 when he tied for third at Royal Birkdale in 2008.

“There is an art to playing links golf,” said Woods, referring to the type of undulating, seaside courses among sand dunes used to host the Open championship.

“It allows players who don’t hit the ball very far to run the golf ball out there. Being able to control the ball in the air to control it on the ground allows the older players to have a chance to do well in the Open Championship.”

Tiger Woods talks to reporters ahead of The Open at Royal Portrush.
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Tiger Woods talks to reporters ahead of The Open at Royal Portrush.

Woods revealed in the build-up to the Open he has been getting up at 1 a.m. back home in Florida to acclimatize for coming over to Portrush.

The body clock might be rewired, but Woods knows the clock is ticking on his career.

But where once a question such as, “how are you going to celebrate if you win the Claret Jug?” might have been shot down, the questioner perhaps treated to a death stare, the latest Woods model just laughed along.

“I’ve got a few days to work on that part,” he chuckled. “Let’s take it one step at a time.”