Tiger Woods back in swing for Augusta

FacebookPinterestMike Ehrmann  Getty Images Woods hopes to show further improvement in his game this week at the Valspar Championship

Woods was nearly flawless, only a bogey at his final hole, the par-four ninth at Innisbrook Resort north of Tampa, Florida, preventing him from holding the outright clubhouse lead.

Yet here we are.

The 26-year-old Conners was only an alternate for the tournament at the start of the week. 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.

Tiger Woods plays his second shot on the 18th hole during the second round of the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook Resort Copperhead Course on March 9, 2018 in Palm Harbor, Florida. It all started there for Woods, who clearly feels better than he has in years.

Asked if he missed this feeling during his latest absence from the game, Woods said, "No".

His sharp short game was on full display when he chipped in for birdie from 30 feet away in the greenside rough at the par-four ninth, his ball rolling neatly into the middle of the cup.

"I putted really, really well on the back nine", Rose said. "Shots he's trying to hit, he's pulling them off".

"I was playing well all day".

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.

Lurking one stroke behind Conners is former world No. 1 Woods, who continued his solid weekend with a third-round 67 to put himself in a tie for second with England's Justin Rose (66) and Brandt Snedeker (67). Not that he minded.

He has a simple strategy for today: "I'll try to really focus on breathing". "A couple big roars put a smile on my face". He now has played with Woods four times this year (Farmers Insurance and Honda Classic twice).

Rose said his eagle "ignited things" for him. "I kind of knew what to expect out there with a lot of people and lot of people watching, but I felt comfortable. 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".

This is the 70th time Woods will be tied or within one of the lead entering the final round; he won on 62 of those occasions.

"I've played myself right into contention, so it should be a fun Sunday", said Woods, who is chasing an 80th US PGA Tour title.

None, though, loom as large as Woods. He has gone on to win 62 of the previous 69 instances (win percentage of 89.9). Combine that with Phil Mickelson's victory last week at the WGC-Mexico and it looks like maybe golf's old guys aren't ready to surrender the stage just yet. "It's fun to hear the crowd going insane again and realize how excited we are in having him back out here and play the way he is". I played well, Sneds played well. It's going to be fun, lot of fun, and these [fans] have been great.

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