Justin Rose says it’s different when Tiger Woods is in contention.
It’s different when you’re playing with him or near him.
“It’s more intense, more electric,” was how Rose put it.
Things got intense and electric Saturday afternoon at Innisbrook with record-setting crowds straining for a chance to get a look at the 14-time major champion who hasn’t seen the Copperhead course for 21 years.
It got even more intense as Woods worked his way up the leaderboard on a day made for scoring.
“We had a great time,” Woods said of his day with playing partner Brandt Snedeker.
“The environment was incredible. Loud, very loud.”
Woods gave the multitudes good reason to get loud. He played a great front nine, shot three-under despite a missed eight-footer for birdie on the first hole. He made up for it with a vintage chip-in for birdie at the ninth that brought a deafening roar. “That was a good one,” Woods would later say.
He followed that birdie chip with a 22-footer for birdie at the 10th. For a moment, he turned back time.
But he missed golden opportunities at the 11th and 12th where he missed birdie putts from inside nine feet on both holes. You couldn’t help but think the old Tiger would have made those and the shortie at the first.
Didn’t matter, these people were in a frenzy, pulling the best Woods could give out of him.
“The people in Tampa have been so nice,” Woods pointed out.
The good part of the day was playing partner Brandt Snedeker was unphased. He equaled Woods 67 but he’s used to going out alongside the winner of 79 PGA Tour events.
“We were laughing about it because it seems Sneds has been paired with me a lot since I’ve come back,” Woods said.
After a day of hard work, both gave the crowd their fill with a pair of 67s.
The day was perfect for scoring — the wind laid down a bit, the overcast skies kept the greens from getting baked out.
At day’s end, both Woods and Snedeker were in at eight-under, a shot behind 54-hole leader Corey Conners, the unheralded kid who graduated from last year’s Web.com class.
“The people were into it. I think they got entertained today,” Woods said with a smile and he’s been smiling a lot this week.
“I’ve missed him,” said NBC’s Roger Maltbie, who spent his day watching Woods and Snedeker. “I’ve missed watching him play.”
Woods brings electricity, as he always has.
But now he’s back in contention with a chance to win on Sunday for the first time in nearly five years.
He’s chasing a kid who’s never been a 54-hole leader.
It’s game-on for Tiger Woods.