By Mark Lamport-Stokes
AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Totally overshadowed by the brilliant play of American young gun Jordan Spieth at this week's Masters has been the remarkable resurgence to form by Tiger Woods.
While Spieth has electrified the fans at Augusta National with a record-breaking total of 14-under-par 130 after 36 holes, Woods has resurrected a short game that just two months ago left many experts convinced he is suffering from the "chipping yips".
Though the 14-times major champion has been a little erratic off the tee in the first two rounds and has occasionally struggled with the pace of the greens, his short game has been rock solid as he carded scores of one-over 73 and 69.
"The completeness of Tiger Woods' game, especially around the greens, is perhaps one of the biggest surprises that I've seen in golf," said Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee.
"The pitching has been spot on. It hasn't been average, it hasn't been a little bit better than what we were expecting ... when you consider where he came from and where he is now, it is nothing short of miraculous."
The former world number one worked hard on retooling his swing while taking a two-month break from the PGA Tour. His short game has so far looked surprisingly sharp.
"He seems like in a really good place mentally and physically," said Woods' long-time friend Mark O'Meara, the 1998 Masters champion who played with Woods in practice earlier this week.
"I see more of the old Tiger Woods in my opinion. His pitching Monday and Tuesday, I didn't see any inclination of a guy that's struggling around the greens. What was going on before, I'm not sure.
"But he certainly looks like he's on his way back," O'Meara said of Woods, whose short game in his two tournaments earlier this year made him look more like a struggling amateur than one of golf's best ever exponents.
Woods has tumbled from top spot in the world rankings to a mind-boggling 111th, prompting many experts to question whether he would ever play again at a high level.
"It's amazing to see how far he has fallen," respected swing coach David Leadbetter told Reuters before Thursday's opening round.
"If Tiger can get to a point where he actually wins majors again from where he is right now, that would be remarkable. It would surpass everything he has done before."
(Editing by Gene Cherry)