PALM HARBOR, Fla. – Tiger Woods chipped in from behind the ninth green and the roar was unmistakable, the tree-rattling variety that belongs to only one player in golf. Moments later, Woods raised the putter in his left hand as another birdie putt dropped for a share of the lead at the Valspar Championship.
Corey Conners heard the whole round and it made him smile.
Never mind that Conners had six birdies in his round of 3-under 68 for a one-shot lead Saturday as he tries for his first PGA Tour victory. Even the players trying to beat Woods got swept up in the emotions of seeing him closer than ever to having a chance to win again.
“I can confirm he's back. The roars are back,” said Brandt Snedeker, who was along for the ride with Woods and matched his 67. “It's fun to hear the crowd going crazy again and realize how excited we are in having him back out here and play the way he is. He's playing great.”
Conners, the Canadian rookie in only his 17th start on the PGA Tour as a pro, saved par from the bunker on the par-3 17th and kept his cool when his ball moved slightly on the 18th green – no longer a penalty in those circumstances – before he tapped in for par.
He was at 9-under 204 and will play with Justin Rose (66), who joined Woods and Snedeker at one shot behind. For the second straight day, Woods and his thousands upon thousands of fans will be ahead of him.
So he at least knows what to expect.
“I kind of knew what was going on without even having to see it,” Conners said. “But it will be cool. It's fun seeing him out there today, and I'm sure he'll be battling hard tomorrow. But hopefully, I can play my game and have a good day.”
CHAMPIONS TOUR: In Newport Beach, California, Tom Pernice Jr. remained patient in cool, rainy and breezy conditions on Saturday and held onto a one-shot lead after two rounds of the Toshiba Classic.
Pernice shot a 1-under 70 with a sloppy bogey on the par-5 18th as the leaderboard began to bunch up at Newport Beach Country Club. Joe Durant, Scott McCarron and Vijay Singh were among the players who challenged Pernice throughout the afternoon, and 13 players were within four shots of the lead heading into the final round. The 58-year-old Pernice, a five-time winner on the PGA Tour Champions, was at 8-under 134. Durant, a winner three weeks ago at the Chubb Classic, shot 66 and was one shot back alongside McCarron (68), who missed a par putt from about 3 feet on the par-4 14th as part of an up-and-down back nine.
Singh shot 68 and joined Scott Verplank (69) at 6 under.
EUROPEAN TOUR: In New Delhi, home favorite Shubhankar Sharma shared the lead with Matt Wallace of England at the Indian Open after the third round. Sharma, who four days ago received a special invitation to play in the Masters at Augusta, shot level-par 72 with five birdies, three bogeys and a double bogey. He and Wallace, who also had a mixed round with four birdies and four bogeys in a 70, are on 7-under 209 overall. The Englishman eagled the par-4 No. 9.
Stephen Gallacher of Scotland had the best round of the day – a 67 – to rise 22 places to third, one stroke behind.