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The Tour Report

April 8 2011

7:59 PM

Suddenly, everyone's talking Tiger

By Melanie Hauser, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent AUGUSTA, GA -- He came down the winding stairs in the clubhouse, took a right and got ready to head to the first tee when … he found his way partially blocked by two men -- in Green Jackets -- chatting. Tiger Woods hesitated, saw a seam and slipped behind them, around the sterling silver Augusta National trophy next to the landing and he was off.
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Not too long ago, everyone would have been watching. People would have stopped talking, stepped back and cleared a path. Friday afternoon, Tiger was just another player on his way to the tee. Five-plus hours later? He had everyone talking. A second-round 66. Second-best round of the day. Putts diving in the hole. A bit of magic and just 26 putts; 7 under in his last 11 holes. Nine birdies. Three shots back of leader Rory McIlroy and one back of Jason Day going into the weekend. Suddenly, everyone is watching. And now they’re wondering if the four-time Masters champion can back it up. “I just kept staying patient,'' he said, “I was trying to get to under par at the turn and piece something together. Got hot.’’ Seriously hot. And that included a save at the 11 th hole when he hit an “awful” drive that nicked the calf of Fox Sports International Senior Vice President Jack Stanfield – “I kept walking,’’ Stanfield said. “Tiger never knew” – to a decent second shot, a putt he hit from memory, not feel and a par save that rode the wind straight into the hole. “I’m three back,’’ he said, “I’ve played myself back into the championship.’’ The key? He said his swing has felt the best it has since he started working with Sean Foley, but the keys? Putts and patience – give or take a major grimace or two out there. “I think it’s how patient I was,’’ he said. “ think that was the key.  We are in a major championship.  You have to stay patient.’’ He's tied with K.J. Choi, the man he played four rounds with here last year. He's got former U.S. Open Geoff Ogilvy and up-and-comer Alvaro Quiros right behind him. And he’s got the kids – McIlroy,  Day and Rickie Fowler – right there with him, too. When reminded that his win in 1997 was the inspiration that pushed McIlroy, Fowler and Day  -- ages 7, 8 and 9 years old, respectively, at the time – to want to play here some day, Tiger shook his head and chuckled. Yes, he felt old. “They’re the next generation – and don’t forget Ryo (Ishikawa),’’ Tiger said. “It’s good to see them with this much enthusiasm.   It's a whole crop of guys that are that age.  That generation is going to be a fun one to watch and how it matures over the next 10, 15 years.’’ And in the next two days. He threw out another low round at Pebble Beach nine months ago. A third-round 66 that had everyone buzzing. An exclamation point on the 18th green Saturday morning. A closing 75 that gave him a tie for fourth behind eventual U.S. Open champ Graeme McDowell. Will this be another one step forward, two back? Another Pebble? A so-so weekend like St. Andrews? Or is this it? A great followup to his closing 66 at the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship? The questions were flying. Can he keep this up? "The whole idea was to peak for this, this event,'' he said. "We try to peak four times a year, and it was nice to go through the learning curve and some of the changes that Sean and I had to make in the game.  It was good and positive and here we are." Could he feel the crowd? "Absolutely.  Absolutely,'' he said.  "We definitely could feel that.  It was fun." Can he do it? "I'm just trying to put myself in the mix come Sunday,'' he said. " It's irrelevant who is there.  My whole job is to get myself there with a chance with nine holes to go." “We've got a long way to go,’’ he said. “The forecast is supposed to get a little bit warmer.  The ball is going to start flying probably a little bit.  I saw the dots for tomorrow.  There are some good pins out there tomorrow.  You know, we'll see what they do on the greens; see if they firm them up or not. “… I think this is, what, the lowest cut in Masters history, isn't it?  I mean, there's so many guys with a chance to play themselves into the tournament tomorrow. “ He grinned. He didn't have to say a word. We've seen it before. He's ready to have, as he says, some fun.   Click here to view Woods’ scorecard