'Magician' Tiger Woods has re-made his game and is suddenly playing his best golf in years

  • Tiger Woods came within one shot of the lead on Friday at the Valspar Championship.

  • While Woods' play on the first day was up-and-down, he finished tied for eighth.

  • Golf Channel's Brandel Chamblee called Woods a "magician" and said Woods has re-created his game.

  • While Woods isn't all the way back yet, notably struggling with his driver, his latest play has been the most encouraging development in years.

Tiger Woods' latest comeback attempt is off and running and looking more encouraging than any of his bids in recent years.

As of Friday morning, Woods moved into a tie for the lead at the Valspar Championship, shooting three-under through 11 holes.

Woods' first day at Valspar had a bit of everything as he finished one-under, tied for eighth, and three shots off the lead. He seemed to waffle between birdies and bogeys and was inaccurate at finding the fairways. Yet to expert observers, Woods looked different — and better — than he has in years.

"He's just re-created himself. I don't even recognize him anymore," Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee told ESPN's "Golic and Wingo" on Friday.

"He's not driving the ball great, that's for sure. That's not there, that hasn't come back. But my goodness, he's turned into Seve Ballesteros — he's a magician out there."

The conditions didn't help on Thursday — Woods said, "I don't know if these people really understand how hard it was out there trying to pull a club, trying to figure out the wind direction, the gusts." Yet his short game looked good and he even had a few vintage Tiger shots, smacking the flag on the second shot from a fairway.

According to Chamblee, the two biggest concerns about Woods heading into the tournament were his back and his scrambling ability. In recent years, Woods has struggled to get back on track after missing the green, but on Thursday, it was his short game that looked strongest.

Chamblee also noted that Woods foraged into the thick to retrieve a ball, taking a risky shot to get it back onto the fairway. Chamblee believed Woods would not have risked the shot if his back was anything less than 100%.

Chamblee insisted that if Woods wants to contend again, he'll have to improve with his driver. Given his history of back issues, and how early Woods still is into his comeback, that may be a later development.

However, considering Woods' roller-coaster ride over the past two years, from comebacks to positive rounds to more injuries and recoveries, his latest stretch of golf has been his best since arguably 2014.

"I'm sure he went home last night and said, 'Eh, that was kind of stinky,'" Chamblee said. "And he was in eighth place. So his bad golf is good ... He's capable of playing bad golf and being in contention. Which means when he has that hot round, he'll be right up near the lead. I think he's still proven that he scares people."

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