Tiger Woods one shot off Valspar lead setting up sensational Sunday

PALM HARBOR, FL - MARCH 10: Tiger Woods reacts after a chip-in birdie on the ninth green during the third round of the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook Resort Copperhead Course on March 10, 2018 in Palm Harbor, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Tiger Woods one shot off Valspar lead setting up sensational Sunday


Tiger Woods one shot off Valspar lead setting up sensational Sunday


PALM HARBOR, Fla. – Tiger Woods has played consistently well for seven consecutive rounds. His swift resurgence leads up to Sunday at the Valspar Championship, where he’s just a shot back of leader Corey Conners entering the final round. 

Woods shot 4-under 67 Saturday in Round 3, his lowest score on Tour since 2015. There will be talk of some great revival at Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead Course and there has been in a competitive sense. But Woods’ game looked close to or as sharp for much of the Honda Classic two weeks ago.

The revival truly started at PGA National, more of a slow burn, the biggest difference this week being his lack of the big number. Woods hasn’t made double bogey through 54 holes at the Valspar but had three at the Honda, derailing momentum and his chances of winning the tournament.

Woods very much has a chance to win this tournament when he tees off at 1:50 p.m. ET with Brandt Snedeker, who is T-2 and 8 under with Woods and Justin Rose after a 4-under 67. Rose shot 5-under 66 with an eagle hole-out from 120 yards at the par-5 11th hole to get into Sunday’s final pairing with Conners at 2 p.m. ET. Conners, a 26-year-old Canadian who got into the field as an alternate, moved to 9 under with a 3-under 68 and will be going for the wire-to-wire victory.

“It feels good to be up here,” Woods said. “I’ve been in this position many times. I’ve won my share of events here and overseas, so I like to be one back or near the lead. I’ve been here before. I just need to execute.”

These will be invaluable reps for Woods, who gets more comfortable with what his fused back will allow him to do every single round. The old swing is gone and it’s never coming back. Still Woods proved Saturday that the new one is capable of creating similar results.

It seems like every chip he hits these days has a chance to go in, and he finally got a short, delicate one to drop from behind the green at nine. Even Snedeker had a huge grin on his face when the ball vanished into the cup.

“That was sweet,” Woods said. “We’ve been calling for one all year. I hit some good shots. I finally got one.”

He drained a putt from 22 feet for birdie at No. 10 underneath an overcast sky similar in color to his dark gray slacks and cap, contrasting Woods’ bright pink Nike shirt that helped him stand out in a crowd even more than normal.

About the crowd.

It can be tough to deal with for tournament employees and fellow competitors. It’s so loud and overpowering, a true mob just trying to get close to Woods for the same reasons all people want to be close to anyone who makes them feel good or experience something that makes them feel like they matter.

Woods hit a good iron off the tee at No. 12 to the middle of the fairway and the fans at the Hooters Owls Nest, which surrounds the green, were so loud he had to pause for a moment before he hit his second shot to let the applause die down.

Woods stuck his approach to 8 feet and the fans began chanting his name as he walked closer and closer to the green. Closer to them.

“Ti-Ger! Ti-Ger! Ti-Ger!”

Lights omitting from the tents which surround the 12th green provided a stadium-like feel against the dark sky. Tiger was back in the arena, not just back playing solid golf on the PGA Tour but chasing an inexperienced leader trying to put himself in position to win on Sunday.

This mattered.

“You feel like you’re back … back in the good old days, for sure,” caddie Joe LaCava said.

Woods knows better than anyone those days aren’t sure to last, but the progress he’s made and the work he’s put in have led to this moment. He’s waited five years for a day like Sunday.

“I’m excited,” Woods said. “I’ve been ready to go.”


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