Published: Sat, March 10, 2018
Sports | By Spencer Underwood

Tiger Woods "revved up" after start at Valspar Championship

Tiger Woods

That was seven shots off the lead held by Canada's Corey Conners and also four adrift of Woods, whose action-packed 70 featured a vintage - and highly risky - escape from trouble on the 16th.

Last week's WGC-Mexico Championship was a bit of a reprieve for players in between two demanding Florida tournaments. He was champion here in 2015 and is ranked in the top 10 for scoring average (actual), strokes gained around the green and tee to green, but just needs to get the putter going (currently ranked 163).

Woods got within two shots of the lead by ripping a long iron from the top collar of a bunker on the par-5 11th and using the slope to chip close for a tap-in birdie.

It made for an awkward stance to say the least and Woods would make contact with the tree as he made his escape, but luckily there was no serious injury.

"Today was a good day". Into the wind it felt like we were hitting walls.

The crowd nearly erupted moments later when Woods hit a near-perfect high fade with a five-iron at the 200-yard 17th, his ball landing softly on the front of the green and missing the hole by a mere inch or two, setting up his fifth birdie of the day in an opening one-under 70.

Legitimately competing for a tournament championship is yet another step for Woods on his journey back. "... Can't believe it nearly went in".

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Woods endured a rollercoaster round in Palm Harbor, Florida, with five birdies and four bogeys.

Closing his opening nine with a scrambling par on the rugged, uphill 18th, Woods made the turn at three under for the tournament. 12 and 13, but he responded by turning in an impressive showing at the Snake Pit.

Woods is now 388 in the world rankings. On his follow-through, though, Woods' club hit a tree and he was forced to let go of it.

'I thought it was great, ' said Woods at his pre-tournament press conference.

Woods somehow was able to hook the ball away from the water and chase it up near the green, giving himself an up-and-down opportunity for par that he converted. He then almost aced the par-3 17th before making an easy birdie to get back to red numbers.

"It'll be a little busy playing in front of Tiger this week, but it's exciting", he said.

Seven of the nine PGA Tour winners of 2018 are sitting out this week, including last week's victor Phil Mickelson - who ended a five year drought with his first victory since the 2013 Open at Muirfield.

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