WEEKEND TIGER HUNTS COMEBACK TITLE
PALM HARBOR, Fla. — The Tiger Woods Feel-Good Tour is officially in full swing. Woods's back feels good and he's back on the first page of the leaderboard at the Valspar Championship after a second straight sub-par round.
This isn't some aging rocker making a nostalgic tour for old-times sake. Woods, in just his 12th round of his latest comeback, fired a three-under 68 at Innisbrook Resort's demanding Copperhead Course and shared the 36-hole clubhouse lead at 140 with Brandt Snedeker, Paul Casey and Ryan Palmer among the morning wave finishers.
As of this writing, Canadian Corey Conners, in the afternoon wave, holds the outright lead at seven under.
Woods's latest comeback attempt appears on the verge of going "next level," as the kids say, if Woods can contend for his first win since the 2013 WGC Bridgestone Invitational. Count Phil Mickelson, winner of the WGC Mexico Championship, among those who thinks Woods could shock the world again.
"He’s always one-upped me,” Mickelson said on The Dan Patrick Show Thursday. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he went out and won this weekend to one-up me again.”
Only a bogey at his last hole of the day, the 9th, prevented Woods from shooting a bogey-free round, but he still managed to whip his fellow playing competitors, Henrik Stenson and Jordan Spieth, the last two British Open champions — by nine strokes.
"I'm up there," Woods said. "At least I'm there with a chance going into the weekend. Today was a good day."
Center of attention: Woods has drawn huge crowds to Innisbrook.
Woods's stellar play whipped his fans into a frenzy. After everything he's been through, he remains a beloved figure. When Woods committed to the tournament a week ago, tournament organizers added 30 extra shuttles buses, 90 more port-o-lets, and an extra admission gate. The swarming crowds were so large that they disrupted cell service. Fans who tried to lineup near the 10th tee more than 30 minutes before his tee time had to settle for 100 yards down the fairway to see along the rope line. Grown men and women were as giddy as school kids at recess to see him play again.
They welcomed him back with cheers of encouragement and some wore shirts with a silhouette of Woods's patented upper-cut fist pump above the words "Make Sundays Great Again." There were even a few dressed in tiger onesies. Bonnie Nieman ("Spelled like the department store, but I don't put out a Christmas catalog," she said) tracked Woods on the front nine and said, "This is the biggest thing to happen to Innisbrook since 1996." That's when Woods last played at the Copperhead Course, and his return inspired Nieman to bring her grandson, Addison. Spieth said it felt like a major championship out there.
How difficult was it to catch a glimpse of Woods on Friday? Emma Stenson, wife of Henrik, had taken daughter Lisa out of school so she could watch her father. She resorted to slipping inside the ropes for a better view, but it wasn't long before the Tour's security staff shooed her back among the great unwashed. "I'm very disappointed," she said.Read More...