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Pump the brakes on crowning Tiger Woods 2013 Masters winner

By Will Brinson | NFL Writer

This Tiger Woods fella is kind of good, huh? The most-watched golfer in the world posted a very nice round on Friday during his second round at the 2013 Masters, tossing up a 1-under-par 71 that featured a scorching 33 on the front nine. He ended the day 3 under for the tournament and three strokes back of Jason Day, who held the lead alone going into the weekend.

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During that white-hot front nine, there were plenty of folks clamoring to hand Tiger the green jacket before the second day was even done. There will be plenty of amateur tailors doing the same thing throughout the weekend.

Not so fast, my friends.

Woods is killing it this year, he is most certainly "back" (he would officially eliminate one of sports' more annoying recent narratives with a victory) and he has been the clear-cut favorite to win the Masters since well before things kicked off in Augusta.

But before we coronate Woods the 2013 Masters winner, let's remember how he played over the weekend at majors during the 2012 season. Because, frankly, it was night and day from his performances on Thursdays and Fridays at golf's biggest events.

His Masters performance was even enough: Woods shot 72 and 75 to kick things off and 72 and 74 to close. But he was never really in contention, finishing 40th overall. (72-74 ain't gonna get it done this week, either.)

The U.S. Open was a much better example. Tiger went 69-70 in the opening rounds, appeared "back" and then stumbled to 21st overall with a 75 and 73 to close.

At Lytham for the British Open, Woods' pair of 67's to start the tournament had him poised to hoist the Claret Jug. Unfortunately for him, a Saturday 70 and Sunday 73 led to a third-place finish.

And 11th was the best that Tiger could muster during the PGA Championship at Kiawah thanks to closing out 74 and 72 after beginning the week 69 and 71.

How does that add up for the full year? It's an 8-under score for Thursdays and Fridays at majors in 2012 and a 15-over total over the weekends. Last year, in that sense, was quite un-Tiger-like, and it's what made people wonder about his future as a dominating golfer.

None of this -- I repeat, none of this -- means that Tiger won't come out guns blazing during the weekend at Augusta and fry the rest of the competition. Woods' weird struggles on the weekend at majors last season could've been him getting his feet underneath him and adjusting to life post-Thanksgiving debacle. Maybe he wasn't healthy, physically or mentally. There's a whole pile of reasons why Tiger might not have been right last year.

He's right at the moment, though. Tiger has just three bogeys through 36 holes, the lowest Masters total of his career (he previously had a low of three bogeys in 36 holes in 2002, when he won). And one bogey Friday was a total fluke. Woods stroked a beautiful wedge into the green at 15 and looked to be eyeing a birdie and the lead by himself. He was hosed by freak contact with the flagstick that sent the ball spinning off the green and into the water.

"I was pretty pissed," Tiger said of the ball that hit the flag. "Looking like I was making birdie, and now I've got to struggle and grind to not drop two shots. I looked over at the drop area, and it wasn't very good. It was into the green, a tough shot. So I went back to where I was and actually took two yards further back and tried to hit my shot another two yards off what I felt I hit it."

The result was a stunning recovery and an impressive bogey.

And after a jarring back nine, if Tiger wants to win the jacket that everyone so desperately wants to give him every time he gets on a hot streak, he'll need to improve his weekend play significantly from what he did in 2012.

 
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