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Tiger Woods grabs share of 36-hole lead at Arnold Palmer Invitational

Jonathan Wall
Devil Ball Golf

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Tiger Woods / Getty Images

Follow Jonathan Wall on Twitter at @jonathanrwall.

For the first time in two-plus year, Tiger Woods is in the lead at the 36-hole mark of a PGA Tour event. Let that sink in for a second, because there used to be a time not too long ago when seeing the words "Tiger Woods" and "36-hole leader" in the same sentence were commonplace.

A lot has certainly changed in Tiger Woods' life during that span, but one thing that's remained the same is his affinity for playing well at Bay Hill. Woods has turned Arnie's place into his personal playground over the years, winning the event six times, the last coming in 2009.

So it seems fitting that if the comeback's going to commence, it would start at Bay Hill. Going into the week, however, the last thing that seemed to be on anyone's mind was a win; after tweaking his Achilles at Doral, Woods' health seemed to be the talk of the tournament.

But following Friday's bogey-free 7-under 65, that left Woods in a tie for the lead at 10-under with Charlie Wi, the only things golf fans seemed to want to talk about was "What if." As in what if Bay Hill was the start of an incredible return to the winner's circle for Woods.

It's easy to get caught up in the moment and wonder. Heck, golf scribes do it all the time. But the fact of the matter is Woods has been in this position before recently. He was right there in Abu Dhabi, and again at Pebble Beach. And both times he struggled when the pressure started to rise.

What the heck makes this time any different? That's the million-dollar question. Honestly, nobody knows if this time is any different than the last time he found himself in contention, but based on the way Woods has been playing, you have to like his chance going into the weekend.

The seven birdies were nice, but what really sticks are the putting stats. When Woods is hot, his putter is usually at its absolute best. Only that hasn't been the case this week. He's averaged 31 putts per round, tied for 59th in the field ... and yet he's somehow tied for the lead at 10-under.

Imagine what could've happened if Woods was on with the flat stick. This could be an entirely different ball game right now. But let's not get ahead of ourselves; there's still 36 holes remaining in this tournament and Tiger has proved over the last couple of months that he still has trouble closing the door when it counts.

Until he clears that last hurdle the questions are going to remain. However, based on what we've seen out of him, you can't help but get excited about his chances at a place that's been the site of some incredible finishes over the years.

Could it be the site of another one? We're about to find.

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