Conners has 54-hole lead, Tiger in hunt at Valspar Championship

Corey Conners is in the lead through 54 holes at the Valspar Championship, but Tiger Woods is lurking in the shadows.

Conners carded a 3-under-par 68 on Saturday to claim a one stroke lead at 9-under 204 after the third round at Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead Course in Palm Harbor, Fla.

The 26-year-old Canadian, a wire-to-wire leader in the tournament so far, had six birdies and a trio of bogeys Saturday. Conners, ranked 608th in the Official World Golf Ranking, is in search of his first professional victory.

“Came out and tried to have as much fun as possible,” Conners said. “I kind of knew what to expect out there with a lot of people and lot of people watching, but I felt comfortable. Tried to get relaxed as early as possible and fortunately got off to a good start and kind of settled me down nicely. Kept things pretty solid throughout the round.”

Lurking one stroke behind Conners is former world No. 1 Woods, who continued his solid weekend with a third-round 67 to put himself in a tie for second with England’s Justin Rose (66) and Brandt Snedeker (67).

Woods, who opened 70-68 and rolled in five birdies against one bogey on Saturday, will continue to play with Snedeker in the second-to-last group Sunday. He is seeking his first PGA Tour victory since the 2013 WGC Bridgestone Invitational.

The 14-time major champion has been playing himself back into shape following four back surgeries. Woods is playing in his fourth official event this season, with his best finish being 12th place in the Honda Classic last month.

“I think I’ve played, what, 13 rounds coming back? I think I’ve played half of them with Sneds,” the 42-year-old Woods told NBC after his round. “We were joking about that most of the day. We had a good time. The environment was incredible.”

Woods’ highlight of the day was a 20-foot, 10-inch birdie putt on the par-4 third hole. It was the longest putt made by any golfer at the event through 39 holes.

Entering the day, Woods’ third-round scoring average on Tour dating back to 1992 was 69.6 — best among players with a minimum of 37 rounds.

“I’ve played myself right up there in contention, so it’ll be a fun Sunday,” Woods said.

Sam Burns (67) and Patrick Reed (67) are both three strokes back of the lead and tied for fifth. South Africans Rory Sabbatini (67) and Tyrone Van Aswegen (68), Ryan Palmer (70) and Kelly Kraft (70) are all four back in a tie for seventh to round out the top 10.

Defending Valspar champion Adam Hadwin of Canada (71) finished the day eight shots back in a tie for 28th.

–Field Level Media

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