Thoughts on Tiger

Tiger Woods left everyone at Augusta National Golf Club -- yes, even most people in the press building -- buzzing with his second-round 66 that vaulted him into contention Friday for his fifth Masters green jacket with 36 holes to play.

It figures to be an exciting weekend with Woods going up against Rory McIlroy and some of the top young players in the game to see if he can secure his 15th major championship, and first since the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.

Hey, not so fast.

Let's not forget that Woods has dazzled us before during this winless stretch, most recently in the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach where he carded a third-round 66 to stand five shots behind 54-hole leader Dustin Johnson.

Here's what the Inquirer said in the next day's newspaper:

"Amid a flurry of missed putts and so-so shotmaking for the first two rounds of the U.S. Open, Tiger Woods finally reminded everyone Saturday what he's capable of doing when the spotlight is at its brightest."

Yes, he's capable of doing it for one round. His second round at Augusta National Friday was vintage Woods. As ESPN commentator Andy North said, he was comitting himself fully to every shot instead of trying to remember the keys to his new swing from his work with Sean Foley, the instructor for Sean O'Hair and other PGA Tour pros.

But at Pebble Beach, Woods shot a 75 in the final round and wound up tied for fourth, three strokes behind winner Graeme McDowell.

Woods entered the Masters having played 12 rounds thus far this year, with six of them under par. He had a 69-69 start in the tour event at Torrey Pines but followed with a 74-75 finish.

He closed with a 66 at the Doral in the final round of the World Golf Championship and tied for 10th, but followed with a tie for 24th two weeks later at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, a course where he had won six times.

So maybe Woods' fans have to temper their optimism going into the weekend to see if he can keep the good feelings of Friday going. He struck the ball and putted Friday better than he has all year, and must sustain that with all the talented players at or near the top of the leader board.

Can he do it for one more day? It should be fascinating to watch.

--Joe Juliano