Woods wows Australia to lead the field for the first time in a year


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The Independent Online

Whatever else Tiger Woods goes on to achieve in the remnants of this golfing year he can at least say he topped an overnight leaderboard in 2011.

The former world No 1 resumed his challenge for the Australian Open this morning having prised a one-shot advantage at the halfway point.

Of course, the cries of "he's back" have been heard before in the calamitous two years since his infidelities were exposed.

But there was something about the 35-year-old's five-under 67 whichgave that grand statement added validity. One shot in particular would have had the thousands at the Lakes in Sydney convinced they were witnessing the resurrection of a master.

It came on the penultimate hole of a round that took him to nine-under. On the 550-yard par-five eighth, he was faced with 275 yards from a hanging lie with the breeze stiffening into his face. His playing partner, the 23-year-old Aussie Jason Day, had taken on the putting surface but his ball dipped into a bunker. There were no such problems for Woods, who played a low three wood with a little right to left, bumping it into the heart of the green.

"I just stood there going 'Wow'," was Day's response.

"It was howling in my face and I had to start it into the bunker and just hammer it," said Woods. "And I did. It was the best shot I've hit so far. It felt good."

In truth, for that second, Tiger felt like the old Tiger again, even though he was to miss the eagle putt. The question was whether he could maintain the form. Since his status as an icon was smashed, Woods has threatened toregain it on several occasions but each time cracks have appeared in what was for so long sport's most most durable psyche.

He has to look back to last December, and his own tournament the Chevron World Challenge, for a time when he last topped the leaderboard at the end of a day's play.

"At Chevron I hit it with one shot," he said. "I hit basically a draw for the entire week. Right now I am able to move the ball both ways. I haven't been able to do that for a long time."

Day, who lies third, two shots behind Woods, was certainly impressed. "Tiger is playing great," he said. "He is hitting the ball very solid. Golf needs Tiger Woods."