The rookie in front of Tiger Woods has nothing to lose

FacebookPinterestMike Ehrmann  Getty Images Woods hopes to show further improvement in his game this week at the Valspar Championship

Woods made four birdies, got a few good bounces and kept a clean card until the last hole Friday for a 3-under 68 that gave him a share of the early lead at the Valspar Championship.

The very sight of Woods - neon pink shirt, gray trousers and cap, white shoes - was rare enough anymore to have been considered gawk-worthy on its own, his every move chronicled by hundreds of smartphone cameras. There's so many guys played their way back up into this tournament.

"It feels good to be up here", Woods said.

To be determined was whether Woods remained part of the lead by the end of the second round, where the weather was warmer and the wind more manageable.

Tiger Woods pumps his fist after making a birdie putt on the 10th during the third round of the Valspar Championship golf tournament at Innisbrook Resort - Copperhead Course.

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"I feel good. I feel like I was playing well at (the Honda Classic in late February)", he continued.

"I'm finding the rhythm of the round, hitting shots, I don't have a problem posting scores".

"Loud. Very, very loud", Woods said about the gallery.

Birdies at the ninth and 10th followed but he stalled briefly after a bogey four at the par-three 13th.

It seems like every chip he hits these days has a chance to go in, and he finally got a short, delicate one to drop from behind the green at nine. "I said to my caddie, 'Have you ever seen those crowds?' Eight-deep back there".

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Over 54 remarkable holes here, with expectations starting low and swelling higher, Woods has proven he can still play. He rolled in a 20-foot birdie at the 12th and added another at 15.

"I started smiling, " Snedeker said. And to have seen him under these circumstances, near the weekend lead, with major season approaching, was something approaching transcendent - even for those who saw it from up close.

He will look to complete an extraordinary wire-to-wire win Sunday when he plays alongside 2013 U.S. Open champion Justin Rose in the day's final pairing.

Meanwhile, it's hard to believe how quickly Woods got his game back to a title-contending level.

"Another round of 66 like that tomorrow will be great to take to the Arnold Palmer and then a great showing at Bay Hill could get me into the Match-Play and hopefully then onto Augusta", said Knox.

Tiger Woods briefly grabs lead at Valspar
But he made back-to-back bogeys at the 12th and 13th before playing the remaining five holes in 1 under. Thursday was the first time since 2015 that Woods broke par in the opening round of a PGA Tour event.

In a tweet following the third round, Golf Channel's senior researcher, Justin Ray, provided a reminder of Woods' outstanding record when in contention on Sunday.

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