The rookie in front of Tiger Woods has nothing to lose


This was not 1997 or 2002 or 2008 or even 2013.

Conners, who had qualified for the £4.6m event on Monday, continues to defy the expects having now lead for all three rounds and adding a three-under par 68 to his opening scores of 67 and 69 to move to nine-under par on the Copperhead course at the Innisbrook Resort near Tampa on Florida's west coast.

Woods responded in style, blazing a drive 327 yards at the par-five 14th to set up a birdie that put him back at eight-under. "I'm going to try to beat all these guys. People I think they really got entertained today". I've won my share of events.

"I don't know if people understand how hard it was out there". But I have to execute. Although that won't happen Sunday, he'll get to see plenty of Woods while trying to win his first tournament on tour.

"I've played myself right up there in contention, so it'll be a fun Sunday", Woods said.

Conners still settled himself with a wedge he almost holed on No. 9 for a birdie of his own.

"That was sweet", Woods said. Conners will play out of the final twosome with Justin Rose. Chamblee believed Woods would not have risked the shot if his back were anything less than 100%.

Tiger Woods has made such a great recovery from last April's spinal fusion surgery that many might wonder why he did not have the procedure sooner. "Back to the good ol" days, for sure".

The 42-year-old superstar has managed to avoid the driving woes that caused him to miss the cut at the Genesis Open last month, the chipping problems that plagued him during previous returns from injury and the back pain that popped up seemingly every round in recent years. But Woods missed the putt low. I was living minute to minute.

This was just his eighth start since the beginning of 2016, and just the fifth in which he has made it to the weekend. The comeback that finally makes the "Tiger is back" joke seem like the new reality. He's playing a Top-10 nearly every single week he's played (like that) over the last five, six months.

Tiger will tee it up alongside countryman Brandt Snedeker for round three.

On Friday, Woods' short game remained strong, sinking a putt for a birdie to move into a tie for the lead. Woods smacked his hands into an oak as he let loose of the club during a bold escape from the trees, came within inches of an ace on the next hole, and most importantly was among 27 players - just under 20 percent of the field - to break par Thursday in the Valspar Championship.

"Once I played with him at Torrey and saw up close that he was playing, this doesn't surprise me at all, " Snedeker said.

Woods and Conners battled each other all day.

"I am not surprised one bit", said Sean Foley, Woods' former coach, who worked with the 14-time major champion from 2010 through 2014. A stinger 2-iron on 10, a hard cutting 3-wood on 16, a big, low drawing BB of a drive on 14, where his clubhead speed was clocked at 129.2 miles per hour, the fastest of any measured drive on tour this year.