Tiger Woods made everybody remember the electricity he can bring.
Woods used a mid-round surge Saturday at the Valspar Championship to move into a share of the lead, once again sending the golf world into a frenzy as he birdied his way to the top of the leaderboard.
He fell back a little by day’s end, posting a 4-under 67 to reach the clubhouse at Innisbrook’s Copperhead Course with an 8-under total. But we said a little. Woods enters the final round tied for second and just one off the lead held by Corey Conners.
And regardless, nobody can deny the energy the 14-time major champion brought Saturday.
Woods, 42, struggled to start the third round, missing a pair of fairways and hitting one sloppy approach in the first three holes. But he managed to open par-par. Then after a superb approach from the rough to 20 feet at the par-4 third, Woods drained the birdie putt to get his round rolling.
Another birdie followed at the par-5 fifth after Woods nearly chipped in for eagle. He’d actually lost ground, moving from two back at the start of the round to three behind, as Conners birdied three of his first four holes to move to 9 under.
But the action was about to ratchet up to remarkable levels.
Conners made back-to-back bogeys to fall back to 7 under and let Woods back within one. And then a vintage Tiger moment.
From beyond the green at the par-4 ninth, Woods faced a delicate chip down the slope. What’d he do?
How about feathering one beautifully, landing the ball 20 feet short of the cup and letting it trickle all the way there and drop for an astonishing birdie?
The lightning strike gave Woods an opening 3-under 33, pushed him to 7 under and moved him into a share of the lead.
Conners proceeded to birdie the ninth to take back the top spot, but Woods kept ramping things up by rolling in a 22-footer for birdie at the par-4 10th to make it back-to-back birdies and return to the co-lead at 8 under.
Already the excitement was off the charts, and the place appeared truly ready to explode when Woods wedged to 7 feet at the par-5 11th and faced that birdie putt to move to 9 under and into the solo lead. But Woods missed the putt low.
An 8-footer for birdie at the next hit the lip and stayed out. By the time Woods had bogeyed the par-3 13th, Conners had made back-to-back birdies to move three ahead of him at 10 under.
As Woods threatened to fade on a day that brought so much promise in the middle of the round, he dug in.
He launched a driver 327 yards down the fairway at the par-5 14th – with a ridiculous swing speed of 129 mph on the action – and found the green in two. A two-putt from roughly 50 feet meant a bounceback birdie to move back to 8 under.
Solid pars at 15, 16 and 17 followed, and Woods was back within one as he played the final hole after a Conners bogey at the par-4 16th.
At the par-4 18th, Woods had a 24-footer for birdie but ran it by. He cleaned up the comebacker for a par and a 67.
On the day, Woods hit 8/13 fairways, found 14/18 greens in regulation and took 28 putts.
Woods will be in the penultimate group Sunday and one shot back. He’s looking for his first PGA Tour win since the 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and his 80th overall.
He continues to contend for the first time in a PGA Tour event since the 2015 Wyndham Championship.
Remember, Woods is in his fourth official PGA Tour start back in his comeback. And he has a legitimate chance to win with 18 holes to go.
His speed is back, his swing looks sharp, he’s scoring well and he’s creating vintage Tiger runs. There’s so much to like and be excited about. Now can Woods close out on Sunday?
That remains to be seen. But he’s put himself in position, and that itself is entertaining enough heading into the final round.