Conners calm, collected in lead with Tiger right behind at Valspar

Woods has made an encouraging start to the year

He literally had no idea he led the tournament for a stretch Friday, saying that every time he looked at one of the electronic scoreboards, it was showing information about one of his playing partners. He played in a Monday qualifier, but failed to qualify.

Woods returned to the PGA Tour in January, finishing equal 23rd at Torrey Pines in San Diego. Or at least not yet.

The former world number one is one shot off the lead held by Canadian Corey Conners after shooting a four-under-par 67 at Innisbrook to move to eight under. Still, he hung on. "But [I] just try to stay focused on my game". Sunday's at the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook will be his biggest in years. And to have seen him under these circumstances, near the weekend lead, with major season approaching, was something approaching transcendent - even for those who saw it from up close. But it also might not. All that to say, this is new territory for him.

Woods, looking fitter than he has in years after overcoming several back surgeries, carded a four-under 67 at Palm Harbor on Saturday to remain in a tie for second place. And Conners will do so again Sunday alongside Rose (2 p.m. ET). That's not true of Snedeker and Rose, but they too have a lot at stake.

Scotland's Russell Knox matched Rose's 66 with an eagle and three birdies in his bogey-free round to jump up to four under.

"Today was a good day", Woods said.

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. You play in group in front of him is probably the toughest because everyone is trying to gain a vantage point. "I was laughing. It's just him to a tee. Should work out well". "He is Tiger Woods, so good play is never surprising".

"I can confirm he's back". Am I going to feel what I did for the last four, five years?

"I feel like I am playing a bit better and a lot cleaner as I missed the green with a sand wedge in my hand on Friday and taking a lost hole bogey".

"I've kept myself high up the board and I know I was tied at one stage, I am now only one back and I've got a good shot tomorrow". "Do it again tomorrow, probably be crazier tomorrow".

"I just froze there", Cousins told the Times. So Woods reached into Cousins' bag and continued playing.

"Obviously got into the field late, and kind of came in here with nothing to lose". "I felt really good about my game for the last little while and just wanted to get another opportunity to play, and fortunately able to get that opportunity this week and had a good week so far".

"I was freezing out there", he said.

I think we all probably are.

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