He's teased us with this before. Tiger Woods, coming out in a big tournament and posting a good round of golf to get everyone buzzing that this is the day he's finally back in the game, shot a 6-under 66 in the second round to sit three back of Rory McIlroy.
But for some reason, Friday at Augusta National was different. It wasn't the Chevron World Challenge, or his opening round here last year. The way he was swinging was different. His swagger was back. He was standing over golf shots and you got that old feeling in your gut like, "Man, he's about to toast this golf shot," even before he made his swing.
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It didn't quite start out that way. Tiger hit his opening tee shot in a fairway bunker on his way to a bogey, and followed that up with a flubbed second shot on the short par-4 3rd hole on his way to another square. He made another bogey on the seventh hole, but after that, it was vintage Tiger.
He started hitting golf shots and rolling putts like he used to. When Tiger really had it going, when he was really, really dominant, it was the lengthy par putts that he seemed to always make, and that was the case on the par-4 11th, when Tiger left his birdie putt well short, and then rolled the slippery par putt in the center of the hole followed by a fist pump.
And then the 18th. For a guy that for so many years seemed to always make the putt that mattered on the final green, Thursday's birdie putt on 18, that failed to even hit the hole, was a perfect example of Tiger 2.0. Friday was different. A wayward tee shot, followed by a creative 8-iron around the trees, and a putt dead center for birdie, followed by, you guessed it, a fist pump.
So it goes back to the same question we've been asking for so many months I can't even count them all; can Tiger finally close the deal? Can he actually win this event?
It sure seems like if you had to pick a name at the top of that leaderboard, Tiger is as logical as they come. He's won here before, and unlike the two youngsters ahead of him, he knows how to deal with the weekend pressures at the Masters. He will be out one group before McIlroy and Jason Day on Saturday, and he will be the one in charge of directing the roars. The question is, will his swing come out for another day, or will it disappear like it has so many times the last two years?