It’s impossible to avoid a creeping sense of the uncanny when taking stock of the current Australian Open leaderboard.
We’ve grown accustomed to Tiger’s absence from leaderboards, incurious to his many and varied “comebacks”, and yet, when two days of immaculate golf drag him to the centre of proceedings, we can’t but cast our expectations in terms of his former glories.
Woods looked in imperious form during the Friday’s second round at The Lakes, setting seven birdies alongside two bogeys en route to a five-under-par 67 and an aggregate total of nine-under-par.
The American’s nearest challenger is straight-hitting home favourite Peter O’Malley, a two-decade veteran of the European Tour, who charged to the halfway-mark with a flawless second round of 66, enough for a 36-hole total of eight-under-par.
Jason Day, who played the opening rounds in the company of Woods, lies a shot further back, having paired his opening 69 with an impressive 68, his card’s only blemish coming at the par-four second.
The travails of the leading trio stood as the lone highlights on a day of otherwise muted scoring. Bubba Watson improved his overnight position with a round of 70, while Fred Couples, Dustin Johnson and Nick Watney each failed to break par.
Adam Scott, by far the most popular of the home challengers, endured another turbulent day on the links. His 71 strokes included an improbable five birdies and an eagle. The Queensland native currently sits on the periphery of proceedings, a full five shots adrift of the former World Number One.
Acting like a difficult climb at the mid-point of a cycling race, blustery conditions at The Lakes have, it appears, begun to the slow, attritional business of streamlining the list of worthy challengers.
From such a position, the Tiger Woods of three years ago would have been nigh-on unassailable. For the Tiger Woods of today, however, bruised and battered by a years of humiliation and ignominy, victory looks an altogether more exacting challenge.