He was in his best position yet going into a Masters weekend, two strokes behind the leaders, in his highly-anticipated return from the five-month self-imposed hiatus that followed the sex scandal that engulfed him. And this is someone who's already won the tournament four times.
Woods' play was raising eyebrows - like those of CBS Sports golf analyst Verne Lundquist, who's covering his 26th Masters.
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Lundquist, a member of the National Sportscaster and Sportswriters Hall of Fame, is a part of Masters lore himself, with the famous call of Woods' astounding chip shot during the Masters final round in 2005, the shot that propelled Woods to his fourth green jacket. It hovered seemingly forever on the lip of the cup, then went in.
Lundquist says he's "wavering somewhere between surprise and shock," at how Woods is doing so far. "I didn't know what to expect," he told "Early Show Saturday Edition" co-anchor Chris Wragge. "I don't think any of us did. I don't know that Tiger himself even knew.
"And that appearance on the first tee on Thursday afternoon was really mesmerizing. I really do believe that the almost raucous reception he got at the first tee, almost overwhelmingly positive, set a tone for him for the day, and then he whacked his first drive right down the middle and he just proceeded on. And, to whatever degree he can be considered the Tiger of old, certainly within the ropes (on the course), he was that day."
The gallery, Lundquist says, "sounded a little bit like a football crowd. There were some guys who I think had had something other than iced tea standing in the background, and they were rather (loud) in their response to him, but I think he responded to that. From what I could tell, as he proceeded through the round, that degree of acceptance continued, it began to build. And it settled him down and then he proceeded to shoot a 68. And then yesterday follows it up with a 70. And here we are. … He's in third place."
Wragge noted that the questions at Woods' post-play news conferences have been almost exclusively about golf, not the scandal.
Lundquist said, "That was really particularly relevant (Friday) afternoon. He shoots the 70. He finished early in the afternoon ... and then he went in the press conference with 200 or so journalists and there was not one question about anything other than what had transpired between 10:30 (Friday) yesterday morning and 3:00 (Friday) afternoon (while he was on course).
"Look -- nobody's ever going to forget this. He's going live with this blemish on his career for the rest of his life, his reputation, but to whatever degree possible, this attempt, this first attempt at rehabilitation, has been really successful so far."
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