Augusta -Tiger Woods said he welcomed the arrival of a new generation of gifted young players, but insisted he would have no mercy on them as he tries to close in on a fifth Masters title.
The 36-year-old former world No.1 bounded back into contention at Augusta National on Friday with a stunning nine birdies en route to a six-under 66.
That left him in a tie for third place with South Korea's K.J. Choi but three behind 21-year-old leader Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland and two back of 23-year-old Australian Jason Day.
Both of them have said that watching the young Woods emerge into super-stardom by winning the 1997 Masters by 12 strokes had inspired them to pursue a career in golf.
McIlroy was seven at the time and Day nine, an observation that had Woods shaking his head and smiling ruefully at the passing of the years.
"It's the next generation," he said.
"It's good to see these guys out here playing and that much enthusiasm and that much zest for the game.
"It's not just these guys. Don't forget Ryo (Ishikawa) as well. It's a whole crop of guys that are that age.
"That generation is going to be a fun one to watch and how it matures over the next 10, 15 years."
The fun, though, he insisted will not extend to this weekend.
It made no difference to him who was lying ahead of him going into Masters weekend at Augusta National, his intention was to mow them down.
"I'm just trying to put myself in the mix come Sunday," Woods said.
"It's irrelevant who is there. My whole job is to get myself there with a chance with nine holes to go.
"That's what we have always done. I've been successful at it in the past by doing it that way."
Woods last triumphed here in 2005 when his monster, curling chip in at the 16th and the ensuing celebrations with caddie Steve Williams became worldwide television highlights. He eventually defeated Chris DiMarco in a playoff.
Three years later, Woods won the most recent of his 14 majors at the US Open at Torrey Pines after which his career slumped, firstly due to a crippling knee injury that required surgery, and then over the infidelity that wrecked his marriage.
On his return to competition here last year he placed fourth, but was never really in contention for the top prize as Phil Mickelson dominated the final day.
This time around, tournament favorite Mickelson is five strokes back.
And none of the six players currently ahead of Woods in the world rankings are ahead of him on the leaderboard.
"I'm looking forward to it. I'm definitely looking forward to it," Woods said.
"I played myself back in the tournament, I'm three back, and we have got a long way to go. It's going to be fun."
134 - Rory McIlroy (NIR) 65-69
136 - Jason Day (AUS) 72-64
137 - K.J. Choi (KOR) 67-70, Tiger Woods (USA) 71-66
138 - Geoff Ogilvy (AUS) 69-69, Alvaro Quiros (ESP) 65-73
139 - Yang Yong-Eun (KOR) 67-72, Ricky Barnes (USA) 68-71, Fred Couples (USA) 71-68, Rickie Fowler (USA) 70-69, Lee Westwood (ENG) 72-69
140 - Charl Schwartzel (RSA) 69-71, Luke Donald (ENG) 72-68, Jim Furyk (USA) 72-68, Ross Fisher (ENG) 69-71, Brandt Snedeker (USA) 69-71, Sergio Garcia (ESP) 69-71
141 - Angel Cabrera (ARG) 71-70, David Toms (USA) 72-69
142 - Trevor Immelman (RSA) 69-73, Steve Stricker (USA) 72-70, Paul Casey (ENG) 70-72, Phil Mickelson (USA) 70-72, Gary Woodland (USA) 69-73, Dustin Johnson (USA) 74-68, Adam Scott (AUS) 72-70, Bo Van Pelt (USA) 73-69, Ryo Ishikawa (JPN) 71-71, Robert Karlsson (SWE) 72-70
143 - Charley Hoffman (USA) 74-69, Ryan Moore (USA) 70-73, Ian Poulter 74-69, Alexander Cejka (GER) 72-71, Ryan Palmer (USA) 71-72, Martin Laird (SCO) 74-69, Matt Kuchar (USA) 68-75
144 - Miguel Angel Jimenez (ESP) 71-73, Edoardo Molinari (ITA) 74-70, Bubba Watson (USA) 73-71, Justin Rose (GBR) 73-71, Nick Watney (USA) 72-72, Bill Haas (USA) 74-70
145 - Kim Kyung-Tae (KOR) 70-75, Hideki Matsuyama (JPN) 72-73, Steve Marino (USA) 74-71, Camilo Villegas (COL) 70-75, Jeff Overton (USA) 73-72, Aaron Baddeley (AUS) 75-70, Ernie Els (RSA) 75-70
Failed to make the cut
146 - Lucas Glover (USA) 75-71, Zach Johnson (USA) 73-73, Anthony Kim (USA) 73-73, Stuart Cink (USA) 71-75, Sean O'Hair (USA) 70-76, Tim Clark (RSA) 73-73, Hunter Mahan (USA) 75-71, Francesco Molinari (ITA) 75-71, Robert Allenby (AUS) 75-71
147 - Stuart Appleby (AUS) 75-72, Jerry Kelly (USA) 74-73. Kevin Na (USA) 73-74, Mark Wilson (USA) 76-71, Graeme McDowell (NIR) 74-73
148 - D.A. Points (USA) 72-76, Ben Crane (USA) 73-75, Peter Hanson (SWE) 72-76, Lion Kim (USA) 76-72. Jason Bohn (USA) 73-75, Yuta Ikeda (JPN) 74-74, Jhonattan Vegas (VEN) 72-76, David Chung (USA) 72-76, Heath Slocum (USA) 72-76, Carl Pettersson (SWE) 75-73, Retief Goosen (RSA) 70-78
149 - Kevin Streelman (USA) 75-74, Louis Oosthuizen (RSA) 75-74, Peter Uihlen (USA) 72-77, Anders Hansen (DEN) 72-77, Gregory Havret (FRA) 70-79, Hiroyuki Fujita (JPN) 70-79, Padraig Harrington (IRL) 77-72
150 - Jose Maria Olazabal (ESP) 73-77, Mark O'Meara (USA) 77-73, Larry Mize (USA) 73-77, Rory Sabbatini (RSA) 74-76, Jin Jeong (KOR) 73-77, Martin Kaymer (GER) 78-72
151 - Craig Stadler (USA) 80-71, Tom Watson (USA) 79-72, Jonathan Byrd (USA) 73-78, Arjun Atwal (IND) 80-71
152 - Nathan Smith (USA) 75-77, Davis Love (USA) 75-77
153 - Sandy Lyle (SCO) 73-80
154 - Vijay Singh (FIJ) 76-78
155 - Ian Woosnam (WAL) 78-77, Ben Crenshaw (USA) 78-77, Mike Weir (CAN) 76-79
157 - Henrik Stenson (SWE) 83-74