The deafening roar that echoed around Augusta National on Friday meant only one thing. Tiger Woods was back on the prowl.
The former world number one's private life and golf game may have been torn to shreds in the past year but he remains the master of his lair.
After a solid opening round of 71 on Thursday, Woods made his move at the Masters on Friday, shooting a six-under-par 66 to reach the halfway stage at seven-under-par.
That left him tied for third with South Korea's K.J. Choi, three strokes behind Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy and one behind Australia's Jason Day.
"I played myself back in the tournament," Woods said. "I'm three back but we have got a long way to go. It's going to be fun."
Woods may not have won a major since 2008 nor any tournament since 2009 but his charge up the leaderboard has already added a magical element to the tournament.
He has won the Masters four times and finished in the top five on five other occasions and knows exactly what he has to do to win at Augusta.
"My whole job is to get myself there with a chance with nine holes to go," he said. "That's what we have always done. I've been successful at it in the past by doing it that way."
Even by his own standards, Woods' performance on Friday, was startling. He made nine birdies, including seven from the eighth hole, and his 66 was just one shot off his lowest ever round at Augusta.
It also came at a time when he has been tinkering with his swing, which he said had made his recent results on the regular PGA Tour look deceptively poor.
"The whole idea was to peak for this event," he explained. "We try to peak four times a year and it was nice to go through the learning curve."
At his peak, the 14-time major winner was almost unbeatable and held a psychological edge over many of his rivals but that has partly been eroded by his below-par performances and the rise of a new generation of golfers, led by McIlroy.
Woods, more than anyone else, helped inspire the current crop of fearless, long-hitting players and now the hunter finds himself as the hunted.
"It's good to see these guys out here playing with that much enthusiasm and that much zest for the game. And that good," Woods said.
"But I'm just trying to put myself in the mix come Sunday. It's irrelevant who is there."
Saturday, April 9, 2011
Tiger Woods back on the prowl at the Masters
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