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Back or not, Tiger makes strong statement in Round 2

by | CBSSports.com National Columnist
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AUGUSTA, Ga. -- On the warmest day, on a day when all seemed quiet and predictable, on a day when the Masters looked like it was headed to a cast of the young and the unknown, Tiger Woods made a lot of people look awfully stupid.

One of those people is me but that isn't hard to do. Many have written his obituary. Many smarter than me (which isn't difficult, either). The people who've said Woods was toast ... look stupid. The people who said he slept with so many pancake house waitresses his game became syrupy ... look stupid. The people who said he was dead ... stupid.

An improbable, ground shaking charge by Woods in which he birdied six of eight holes during one stretch to finish with a 66. That run put his handsome smirk right in contention.

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Woods woke up the gallery that just one day earlier seemed thin and uninterested. The roars were back. The passion -- from him and the people watching him -- was crackling again.

When Woods sank a birdie putt on 18, tying him for third, he got the loudest ovation of the day.

"I played myself back into the tournament," he said.

This isn't to say Woods is going to win or that he's baaaccck. Who the hell knows? Saying that would be as premature as the idiots who said he was done after a year of ugly stories and bad golf.

But this? This was shocking and considering the man applying the voltage was Woods, who has provided numerous shocks to the system on and off the course, that's saying something. And don't think other golfers aren't finally paying attention to Woods, after spending months watching him haul his significant cargo of mediocrity across the tour, and reading more about his alimony payments than golf winnings.

They're watching all right, even if they want to act as if they aren't.

When leader Rory McIlroy was asked about Woods' charge, he became defensive. It was almost comical. It was like old times.

"I'll just be concentrating on the golf course," McIlroy said when queried about Woods. "If you start thinking about anyone else here, you can -- if you let your mind wander at all, it can cost you a couple of shots. I'll be focusing on my targets and focusing on where I want my ball to go on the greens, and that's all I can do. I don't really care what anyone else does. I don't need to know. So it will be great for the tournament if he's up there. But I'm two shots ahead and I'm in a better position."

When asked if he was confident he could win a major at the ripe age of 21, McIlroy responded: "Yeah, I feel -- I look down [at] everyone in this field, and at some point or another, I've beaten them before. So there's no reason why I can't beat them again."

Wow.

What's been missing from Woods is fight. If there was any indicator the fight may have returned it's this: he answered every bogey with a birdie.

Is he back? We don't know. When meeting with the media, he was at times arrogant and short. Another sign Woods might be Woods again.

We don't know if he is, but damn, this was one hell of a statement for the affirmative.

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