You’d figure a guy who has never led a PGA Tour event might get a little nervous with guys like Justin Rose and Tiger Woods breathing down his neck.
If Corey Conners was nervous Saturday at Innisbrook, he certainly didn’t show it.
Conners, who didn’t have a place in the tournament until late last Monday, kept his poise all afternoon and at day’s end, was the leader of the Valspar Championship for the third straight day.
A late bogey at the difficult 16th hole dropped him out of double figures under par but a par-par finish was good enough for a 68, nine-under par and a one shot lead over Justin Rose, Brandt Snedeker and yes — Tiger Woods.
The 26-year-old Canadian showed no sign of nerves as he went out and birdied three of his first four holes to start the round, pulling comfortably away from Woods and the rest of the guys chasing him. But he brought them all back into the picture with back-to-back bogeys at the sixth and seventh holes. But Conners, playing in only his 21st event on the PGA Tour, bounced back with birdies at the ninth, 11th and 12th to get to 10-under and stayed there until his drive at 16 strayed left and his approach came up well short.
Conners will play in the final group Sunday with Olympic Gold Medalist Justin Rose. Rose was having a pretty quiet day until he jarred a wedge shot at the par five 11th for eagle then birdied the 12th. Another at the par three 15th got him in with 66 and was the first to post eight-under.
“It ignited my day,” Rose said of the wedge shot into 11. “I putted really, really well on the back nine, it was a fun nine for me,” he said after shooting 31 coming home.
Woods had a bogey-free round going. A 22-foot birdie putt at the 10th got him to eight-under and he’d miss great opportunities for birdie from inside nine feet at both the 11th and 12th holes. Woods’ only bogey came at the par three 13th where he air-mailed the green and left himself in a spot where it was virtually impossible to make par. He tried a huge flop shot but it came up short in the trap in front of him. He got up-and-down from there for four.
After a monster drive at the 14th, Woods reached the green in two with a long iron then two-putted for birdie and pared his way into the clubhouse for a 67.
Brandt Snedeker, playing with Woods, equaled Tiger’s 67 and will play with him again Sunday in the next-to-last group.