Tiger Woods still in the hunt at Valspar Championship


Tiger Woods still in the hunt at Valspar Championship

Corey Conners - a PGA Tour rookie - leads on nine under, but Woods, Justin Rose and Brandt Snedeker make up an imposing trio just one stroke behind with 18 holes to play.

Woods showed flashes of his brilliant best in an opening 70 in what is just his fourth PGA Tour event since undergoing spinal fusion surgery - his fourth back operation in three years - last April. It was nothing short of a medical Hail Mary.

"I can confirm", Snedeker, Woods' playing partner Saturday, said, "he's back".

Yet here we are. After just 13 rounds this year, he is on the precipice of one of the greatest comeback stories in all of sports, not just golf.

The 14-time major victor is on eight under, one behind Canadian Corey Conners, who carded a three-under 68. Instead of wilting under the pressure of a spot on the leaderboard alongside Tiger Woods, the Canadian steeled his nerves and shot a 3-under 68 that included six birdies.

Woods returned to the PGA Tour in January, finishing equal 23rd at Torrey Pines in San Diego. He followed it with a "smoking" 4-iron onto the front of the green on the par 5. "All day I've been saying 'I don't even see them".

Tiger did what Tiger does and drained it and then delivered a fist pump because... YES! The crowd swelled to eight deep, and it was vocal. It seemed like the entire golf world was following Woods, who was playing in the group in front of Conners. Not that he minded.

"Of course, I will", he said smiling.

"It's really cool, " Conners said. "A couple big roars put a smile on my face". Those in the second group had made peace with the notion they would never see it again.

Spieth missed the cut for the second time this year.

Rose said his eagle "ignited things" for him.

The galleries swelled with each hole, and among the constant, predictable chatter and screams came an occasional cry of "I love you, Tiger", from the mouths of women, men and children alike. "Just kind of vintage Tiger". Woods had scored better in every round until Saturday. "The more time he has, he's going to feel better".

Still, Woods is trying to temper expectations, as he has all year.

He will look to complete an extraordinary wire-to-wire win Sunday when he plays alongside 2013 U.S. Open champion Justin Rose in the day's final pairing. It's a situation that's caused many players in the past to succumb to the pressure.

None, though, loom as large as Woods.

There are far more questions than answers about what to expect Sunday.

"We were semi-joking back at the house that I hit so many good chips that haven't gone in yet, " Woods said. "At least I'm there with a chance going into the weekend". Obviously it's not. I really remember that and all those good feelings.



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