Friday, October 19, 2018

Tiger Woods rolls into a Valspar Championship Sunday chasing… Corey Conners

PALM HARBOR — Get ready for a wild final round of the Valspar Championship on Sunday.

Tiger Woods was one shot off the lead after 4-under-par 67 in the third round and his 8 under overall tied for second. That means Woods will be chasing 26-year-old Corey Conners, who for the third day led the tournament after shooting 3-under 68.

Also at 8 under was Brandt Snedeker and Justin Rose. Sam Burns and Patrick Reed hovered three shots back at 6 under.

"I've been in this position many times," said Woods, who has won 79 times on the PGA Tour, including 14 majors. "I've won my share of events. I know what it's like to be one back or in the lead."

Woods admitted that he does not know Conners. Conners admitted that Woods was one of his childhood golfing heroes. He played in the group behind Woods and Snedeker on Saturday. He will do so again in the final round, but this time he will be paired with Rose.

HIGHLIGHTS: Watch the best of Round 3 of the Valspar Championship.

"It was really cool; I grew up idolizing Tiger," Conners said. "There were times where there were roars and it put a smile on my face. It's great to have him back. It's really cool to see the people and roars he got. It was fun."

If Woods plays the way he did Saturday, there are sure to be more roars. He showed plenty of signs of his old self on the Copperhead course.

He dropped a long birdie putt on the par-4 third hole, which elicited a big smile. A birdie on the par-5 fifth hole got him to 6 under. Then came the par-4 ninth hole.

Woods sent his second shot over the green and into the deep rough. He landed the ball softly on the green and it trickled into the hole for birdie.

When he made the birdie on 10, he was briefly in the lead. The only hiccup came on the par-3 13th. His tee shot sailed over the green. His chip was short and went into the bunker. He blasted out to a foot of the hole and made bogey, his only one of the day. From there, he parred out.

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Woods hasn't won a tournament since 2013, when he won five times. He hasn't been this high up a leaderboard since the 2015 Wyndham Championship. Saturday's round was his 13th all season. Woods underwent spinal fusion surgery last year and has basically had to start over.

"It's like riding a bike, it's just a new bike," Woods said. "I don't have the same rotation that I used to and I never will again. I have to rely on a different feel, and I'm still learning. But I'm getting better."

There are no indications that Woods is at all bothered by his back.
Snedeker, who matched Woods with 67, said he looks like the Tiger of old.

"I can confirm that (Woods) is back; the roars are back," Snedeker said. "It's fun to hear the crowd going crazy again. You realize how excited we are to have him back and playing the way he is. He's playing great. I was able to feed off that energy today, which is probably why I played so good. I'm going to have to do that again because I'm sure the crowd will be crazy."

RELATED: Brandt Snedeker knows the secret to playing with Tiger Woods.

Woods said he is having fun for the first time in a long time. During the darkest days of his back woes he said it was hard to get out of bed and that he sometimes lived "minute to minute."

The game face is sure to be on when he tees off at 1:50 in the second-to-last group.

"I feel like I'm playing a little bit better, a little bit cleaner," Woods said. "It's been a pretty clean last couple of days. I've moved myself up the board. I know it's packed up there, but I've still got a shot.

"It's going to be a lot of fun. These people are really into it. They are fired up."

Contact Rodney Page at [email protected] Follow @rodneyhometeam.

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