Woods, Conners hoping for different endings

by Gary Shelton on March 11, 2018 · 0 comments

in general, Golf

Just like old times, Woods is within striking distance./CARMEN MANDATO

Just like old times, Woods is within striking distance./CARMEN MANDATO

Sunday, 3 a.m.

Woods shot a 67 on Saturday./CARMEN MANDATO

Woods shot a 67 on Saturday./CARMEN MANDATO

According to the tale of the tape, this one shouldn't even be close.

Tiger Woods has owned golf. He's been its face, its soul, its energy. He has won more money than you could count. The galleries all chant his name. The television cameras all love his face.

And Corey Conners? Well, he's the other guy. The one who used to play hockey. Him.

Conners just got here, you know. He's never won anytime, probably because he's never been close.

And yet, this week, the nobody leads the PGA's resident somebody.

Woods is one back going into the final day at Valspar./CARMEN MANDATO

Woods is one back going into the final day at Valspar./CARMEN MANDATO

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Conners has led the Valspar from Day One./CARMEN MANDATO

Conners has led the Valspar from Day One./CARMEN MANDATO

Think about it. Woods has won more than $110 million on tour, and maybe that much in endorsements. Conner has won $205,000 and change, which isn't bad coin for just-another-guy, but it hasn't exactly pasted his name all over the back nine, you know?

And, yet, look at the leaderboard of the Valspar, and you will see that Conners still leads Woods (and Justin Rose and Brandt Snedeker) by one shot. For all the fans, for all the cheers, this tournament still is paced by Conner, a golfer who didn't even get into the field until Monday afternoon.

Can an unknown like Conners upset the mighty Tiger?/CARMEN MANDATO

Can an unknown like Conners upset the mighty Tiger?/CARMEN MANDATO

Oh, the fans still love Tiger, of course. They love familiarity, and Woods leads the world in it. He shot a 68 Saturday, and he trails Conner by one stroke going into the final day.

But the truth of it is that there are two stories going on in the Valspar. One is the kid from nowhere. One is the star who was relegated there by injury.

"I wouldn't have known him," Woods said. "Close to a third of the guys I don't know anymore out here at the given events, just because when I was out -- you know, for instance, Jon Rahm was still in college.

"So, now there have been a few guys really stepped up and played well but I've been gone. I haven't got to know some of these guys and Corey is one of them. I don't know a lot about him. There's been a lot of change because of the Web and the guys -- I missed the last couple years so with that included it's been interesting. I don't know how old Corey is but I'm sure he's one of the young guys, too."

Justin Rose is tied for second, too./CARMEN MANDATO

Justin Rose is tied for second, too./CARMEN MANDATO

How many Corey Conners have there been for Woods over the years? Still, it wouldn't be the worst story in the world if Conners could hold off this happening of Woods for one more day.

"It was really cool," Conners said. "Obviously, I grew up watching Tiger and kind of idolized Tiger and seeing that today was really cool. Couple big roars and put a smile on my face. It's kind of just great to have him back and obviously playing well. Really cool to see the people and the roars that he got, it was fun. I definitely knew what was happening up in front."

Conners had a bit of trouble on the 18th. When he was taking his practice putts, the ball inadvertently moved. He had to call in a Marshall before it was

Paul Casey fell to five shots off the pace./CARMEN MANDATO

Paul Casey fell to five shots off the pace./CARMEN MANDATO

determined there would be no penalty because he didn't cause the movement.

"It happens," Conners said. "I was just kind of getting ready to have some practice strokes and saw it move a little bit. I knew the rule, but I thought I'd make sure to get the official over and make sure I didn't do anything silly."

For Woods, the tournament has been a love-fest. Fans continue to cram into his gallery and scream.

"It's loud," he said. "Very, very loud. The people in Tampa are really into it and been incredible. So nice and just been into it and into this event and I played myself right there in contention so it will be a fun Sunday."

All the years. All the surgeries. All the headlines. And here he is, once again, with a shot at a title. For Woods, that has to feel pretty good.

"Try and beat all the guys," Woods said of his plan. "I need to play well tomorrow. This is a bunched up leaderboard where Scotty (Adam Scott) was pretty much way out of it and shot 5-under par and played himself right back in the tournament. Lot of guys can do that tomorrow. Hopefully I can be one of those guys and post a good number."

Snedeker keeps being paired with Tiger./CARMEN MANDATO

Snedeker keeps being paired with Tiger./CARMEN MANDATO

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