Tiger Woods within striking distance of first win since 2013

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Tiger Woods within striking distance of first win since 2013

Conners shot 3-under 68 for a one-shot lead over Woods, Brandt Snedeker and Justin Rose at 9-under 204 as he goes after his first PGA Tour victory before a crowd rarely seen this side of a major.

Starting on Saturday two shots behind Canadian Corey Conners, Woods made birdies on this third and fifth holes before delighting the galleries when he did not require his putter as he made the turn.

Rose, the 2013 US Open champion, relished a final day battle with Woods in contention after witnessing the excitement around the former No.1 once more.

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. "I know it's packed up there but at least I got a shot". Rose is looking for his second victory of the 2017-18 PGA Tour season, while Snedeker is looking for his first win in over two years (and a bid to the 2018 Masters, which he is now not qualified for).

Lowry's even par round of 71 left him the best placed of the five-strong Irish field after the opening day's play at the Copperhead course at Innisbrook. Get me to focus real hard on every shot and did a good job of that today. Yeah, wasn't - didn't get too excited out there, try to stay level-headed and keep doing what I was doing.

Rose holed a 120-yard wedge for an eagle on the par-five 11th to add to four birdies and a bogey in his impressive round and he will be in the final pairing with Conners on Sunday.

Imagine the pre-Masters buzz as Woods and Phil Mickelson, who won last week's WGC-Mexico Championship for his first victory in over four years, motor down Magnolia Lane with true momentum. It was a moment that would have unnerved a lot of players playing right behind Woods. He dropped shots on the next two holes, going short into the wind on No. 12 and over the green with the wind at his back on No. 13. I drove it well, hit a lot of good iron shots.

While Woods isn't all the way back yet, notably struggling with his driver, his latest play has been the most encouraging development in years. "I've played half of them with Sneds", Woods told NBC sports.

Tiger was back in the arena, not just back playing solid golf on the PGA Tour but chasing an inexperienced leader trying to put himself in position to win on Sunday.

After pars on the 14th and 15th, Woods needed an incredible recovery on the 16th - blasting out from a cluster of trees to near the front of the green - to set up another save.

"It's something that I just find really cool", Conners said with a smile.

Woods' return to form following his back problems has been remarkable considering he only started hitting balls five months ago. “I was kind of getting a little frustrated, seeing the scores were decent. "He is Tiger Woods, so good play is never surprising".

"You feel like you're back ... back in the good old days, for sure", caddie Joe LaCava said.

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