NASSAU (Bahamas) • As Tiger Woods began a charge that catapulted him to the top of the Hero World Challenge leaderboard, the only people on the golf course at Albany who seemed not to be following his every stroke were the three volunteers working the scoreboard off to the side of the fourth green.
He birdied two of the first three holes to arrive at the par-four fourth hole one stroke behind the first-round leader, Tommy Fleetwood. But his name appeared nowhere on the scoreboard, an oversight that became glaring after he sank a four-foot birdie putt to secure a share of the lead.
With every hole on the front nine that Woods played in the second round on Friday, it seemed as if another year melted away. By the time he found the green on the par-five ninth with his second shot and made an 18-foot eagle putt, he looked like the Woods from 2009 once more.
Playing only his second competitive round in 302 days, he covered the front nine in five-under 31. He cooled off on the back, making one birdie and two bogeys to finish with a four-under 68. He described the round as successful, and said: "I built on what I did yesterday."
It was the first time since Aug 23, 2015, that Woods, who opened with a 69, recorded back-to-back sub-70 rounds. He is tied for fifth on 137, five strokes behind Charley Hoffman (63).
Woods, who had spinal-fusion surgery in April, added that he experienced no soreness after his first round. And though he swallowed at least one painkiller with a swig of water as he made his way around the course, he said it was not because he was feeling pain.
"It's what my surgeon says to do," he explained, adding: "These are all new things I've had to learn. This is a new body that I'm getting used to.
"We've got two more days and I think a good solid round should get me up in there."
BACK ON THE PROWL?
Could it be? Is Tiger actually back? I want to believe.
DONOVAN BAILEY, the retired Canadian sprinter who won two golds at the 1996 Olympics, was among the many global sports personalities enthralled by Tiger Woods' amazing front nine on Friday, which gave him the lead for a while.
The loudest roar of the day came when his eagle putt at No. 9 dropped. Less than a minute later came the second-loudest cheer, as the volunteers manually moved his name to the top of the leaderboard behind the ninth green.
The magic-carpet ride on the front nine captivated Woods watchers from all over the globe.
Double Olympic champion, Canadian sprinter Donovan Bailey tweeted: "Could it be? Is Tiger actually back? I want to believe."
English golfer Chris Wood tweeted: "He's only leading.." followed by three "crying for joy" and two clapping emojis.
From athletes like Michael Phelps and Stephen Curry to entertainers like Irish singer Niall Horan, the world seems to be Woods' gallery this week.
"It's pretty neat," the 41-year-old said. "I think it's very flattering, very humbling, that so many people really enjoyed what I've done throughout my first 20 years on the Tour."
Hoffman laughed at the assertion he may become public enemy No. 1 by denying Woods what would be an extraordinary Albany victory.
"To be completely honest, I said at the beginning of the week I hope he wins," the 40-year-old said.
With two rounds to play, Woods has winning on his mind. It is the surest sign that he is feeling like his old self.
NYTIMES, THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS
HERO WORLD CHALLENGE
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