Tiger Woods will need a Sunday comeback if he’s going to win his first PGA Tour tournament since August 2013 after firing a four-under 67 in the third round of the 2018 Valspar Championship at Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club in Palm Harbor, Florida.
Woods, who is eight under overall and one stroke behind leader Corey Conners, held a share of the lead at a couple of points during Saturday’s action. A bogey on the 13th sapped his momentum, however, and he couldn’t quite climb all the way back up the leaderboard down the stretch.
The 14-time major champion still enjoyed a strong performance for the third straight day with five birdies to go along with the single bogey.
Woods’ play this week has provided plenty of encouraging signs, regardless of whether or not he secures his 80th PGA Tour victory Sunday afternoon.
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.
He’s played sound, consistent golf to put himself in contention. While the enthusiastic galleries have provided a tremendous atmosphere, his play has often been boring—in a good way. He’s stayed out of trouble off the tee and played well with the irons to give himself a lot of easy pars.
There were a few moments throughout Saturday’s action where it looked like he might take the solo lead and start to pull away from the pack.
The PGA Tour highlighted his chip-in on No. 9 to tie for the top spot:
Tiger Woods chips in for birdie on No. 9 and is tied for the lead. 🐅
Woods added a second consecutive birdie at the 10th and then had birdie putts from within 10 feet on the next two holes. He failed to connect on either of them, while Conners made three birdies in a four-hole stretch to regain his advantage.
Tiger had a birdie look from just under 25 feet on the final hole to give himself a share of the lead and a spot in the final group, but he couldn’t connect. So he’ll play alongside Brandt Snedeker in the penultimate pairing for the second straight day.
Golf Channel’s Tiger Tracker provided the final stats from his round:
Final stat line from an impressive day: 8/13 fairways, 14/18 GIR, 28 putts.
Justin Ray of Golf Channel discussed how good Woods has been in these type of situations over the years:
This will be the 70th time Tiger Woods is at/within 1 of the lead after 54 holes on the PGA Tour. He has gone on to win 62 of the previous 69 instances (win percentage of 89.9). He’s never finished outside the top-5.
Ultimately, the fact the conversation has shifted from Woods’ health to his chance of winning an event with 18 holes to play is nothing short of amazing. There have been plenty of grimace-filled rounds over the past five years where it felt like his days of raising trophies were over.
Tiger might not win the Valspar Championship. In fact, the odds are probably against him given the strength of the other contenders on the crowded leaderboard. But he’s once again a legitimate factor, both for Sunday’s round and looking toward The Masters next month.