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March 27, 2013

Is Tiger Woods back?

(Continued)

Haven’t we heard this before?

Remember, Woods won Bay Hill a year ago and was declared the favorite to win a fifth green jacket at the Masters. Instead, he never broke par and wound up with his highest score as a pro at Augusta National and tied for 40th. He won the Memorial in his final event before the U.S. Open, and then shared the 36-hole lead at Olympic Club. He failed to finish in the top 20.

It’s easy to get caught up in the hype because we know how good he was and believe he can be that good — if not better — again.

This latest win at Bay Hill, however, was different. It gave Woods consecutive wins for the first time since August 2009. Asked the last time he felt this good going into the Masters, he said, “It’s been a few years.”

“I think it shows that my game is consistent,” Woods said. “It’s at a high level.”

Woods lost part of his mystique when he stopped making putts. Now he seems to make everything. Fowler learned that on the 12th hole Monday after making a 40-foot birdie putt to get within two shots of Woods, only to stand on the edge of the green and watch Woods match it with a 25-footer of his own.

The last time Woods won back-to-back tournaments heading into Augusta was in 2001, the year he won the Masters to complete his unprecedented sweep of the majors. Winning cannot be overstated, even for a guy who has won more than anyone in PGA Tour history except for Sam Snead.

Woods walked into his winner’s press conference with his cellphone in hand, scrolling down to read the messages, most of them from his staff. Rory McIlroy, whom he replaced at No. 1 in the world, sent him a text Tuesday morning.

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