PALM HARBOR, FLORIDA — It’s been building, and now it is happening.
Tiger Woods shot a 3-under 68 Friday at the Valspar Championship to momentarily share the lead with a host of others, including Paul Casey, Brandt Snedeker and Ryan Palmer. After making a birdie on No. 5, Woods’ 14th hole of the day, he held his first outright lead in a PGA Tour event since the 2015 Wyndham Championship.
Woods finished the day in a tie for second, two strokes behind Corey Conners.
“I drove it well,” Woods said. “I hit a lot of good iron shots today, and I had some good speed on the putts. I thought I really did well today, over all.”
The round of four birdies and one lone bogey, which came on his final hole, was the best of his comeback thus far. He hit 8 of 13 fairways, 11 of 18 greens and struck the ball solidly throughout the day. When he had birdie opportunities, his putter cooperated.
After pars on Nos. 10 and 11 to start his round, Woods stuck two beautiful approaches on the par-4 12th and par-3 13th to grab quick birdies. He made mostly stress-free pars before hitting another close approach on No. 2 to setup his third birdie of the day.
On No. 5, Woods roasted a driver over 340 yards and hit an iron into the greenside bunker. He got up-and-down to take advantage of the par-5, giving himself the lead. He gave one stroke back on No. 9 when he mishit an iron right of the green and narrowly missed a 6-foot putt that would have given him a bogey-free round.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 9, 2018
A result like this has been coming. Woods finished in 12th place at the Honda Classic despite going 8-over for the week in the Bear Trap and flashed many positive signs during the week.
“I feel like I was playing well at Honda,” Woods said. “It was just a matter of cleaning up a few things here and there.”
It’s only 36 holes, but Woods will likely have a late tee time Saturday at the Valspar. He is looking for his 80th PGA Tour win, which would put him two behind Sam Snead for all-time wins on the PGA Tour.