When Dustin Johnson’s 45-foot, downhill, left-to-right birdie putt dribbled into the cup on Shinnecock Hills’ treacherous Redan green at the par-3 7th, it sparked the biggest roar from the crowd so far this week.

One playing partner, Justin Thomas, was busy eyeing up his own birdie putt. He is, after all, very much still in this US Open. The other, Tiger Woods, eked out a knowing smile and a shake of the head that said everything.

It seems Woods has accepted his role as the hunter, rather than the hunted.

For so many years, Woods was the best of the best. His playing partners would watch on in awe. They knew they were witnessing something special.

On no fewer than 15 occasions between 1997 and 2008, Woods led a major championship with one round left to play. Only one didn’t convert to a victory.

Now those size 11 Nikes are on the other foot. He no longer strikes fear into opponents. He’s just one of the boys now. And, in so many ways, that takes the pressure off the 14-time major champion.

The changing of the guard may have happened a while ago, but despite a fifth cut in his last seven major starts confirmed, Woods is still convinced he can win another.

“Absolutely,” he told a group of journalists off the back of the 18th green.

Then, grinning from ear to ear: “Have you seen the way I’ve been swinging?”

He added: “You don’t win major championships by slapping all around the place and missing putts. You have to be on. Our whole careers are pretty much measured as if you can win four times a year.”

Another broad smile: “One year, I did it three times.”

While it’s not quite working out for him on the golf course just yet – “I don’t know that you can be too excited about 10 over par” – he’s clearly happy to just be back competing in the sport’s biggest championships. And comfortable in his new role.

Tiger’s 10-year exemption for winning the US Open in 2008 is up, but don’t think we’ve seen the last of him in his national championship.

This time around though, that shake of the head spoke volumes. Woods is confident of who will be lifting that trophy come Sunday.

Fleetwood’s back

Almost all of the NCG writing team backed Tommy Fleetwood to be the highest-placed player from Great Britain – and it looks like he won’t be far off after a best-of-the-day 66.

The Englishman finished 4th at Erin Hills last year and has put himself well in contention going into the weekend this time around.

What I didn’t expect was to hear this question in Fleetwood’s press conference following his round on Friday…

I bet no one’s ever asked Kenny Perry if he’s related to me.

Dedicated followers of fashion

I tweeted this early on Thursday morning…

It’s true though, isn’t it? Why do fans go to golf dressed in the same gear they play golf in? Wearing the shoes makes sense – especially if you don’t have a pair of walking shoes – but why wear the shirt? Or the trousers? Or a GLOVE? (Yes, really, I’ve seen this.)

My colleague, Steve Carroll, suggests it’s because you’re spending a lot of time standing out in the sun so it’s better to be wearing these expensive shirts with moisture-wicking technology and the like. But I think Steve is just being defensive because he wears golf clothes in the shower.

I get it when fans wear their team’s colours to a football match, or rugby game, or wherever, but I’ll never understand this. You wouldn’t get snooker fans showing up at the crucible in a waistcoat and bow tie, would you?

Incidentally, the hunt goes on…

Oh, while I’m here…

Seriously? It’s just common sense.

Marquee madness

I’ve been quite outspoken about my dislike of supergroups at golf events, but the adrenalin that surrounds them in the following masses is something else. That DJ putt for birdie at the 7th really got the juices flowing.

If you’re interested, that was the group of Matthew Southgate, Scott Stallings and Sebastian Munoz getting completely ignored on the 2nd.

And finally…

Traffic update: A solid hour and 25 minutes today. And I found a radio station that exclusively plays 90s hits, but doesn’t seem to follow any particular genre. Nirvana followed by Spice Girls was a particular highlight.

Tea update: The lovely lady that said she’d see if she could find me some said she even looked AT HOME. Bless her. But then, like a superhero emerging from the shadows, up stepped Sky Sports Golf writer and all-round bloody good bloke Ali Stafford.

Enjoy the weekend, it’s going to be fascinat… oh Ian Poulter’s just triple-bogeyed the 16th.

Congratulations, DJ.