Tiger Woods comfortable contending after near-miss at Valspar Championship

All eyes and phone cameras were on Tiger Woods during the third round of the PGA event in Florida

Thousands lined the fairway at every hole Woods played and his galleries dwarfed those for the rest of the field with attendance at a tournament that a year ago drew 112,000 soaring to more than 150,000 for his first appearance.

"It's been too long", the 40-year-old Englishman said after ending a nine-year PGA Tour victory drought following his maiden success at the 2009 Houston Open.

He got his stiffest challenge from Tolles, who was bogey-free before he three-putted the tough par-3 17th.

With the 42-year-old making the ideal read and then executing; his ball curled deliciously into the centre of the cup as the gallery went berserk.

"I played great golf".

Woods, a 14-time major victor, finished joint-second in Florida as Englishman Paul Casey won his second PGA Tour title.

He would finish at 2 over for the day, 4 under for the tournament.

Woods, playing just his fourth PGA Tour event since his latest back surgery, briefly held a share of the lead after an opening-hole birdie but bogeyed the fourth and struggled to make further inroads.

Reed holed a 20-footer at the eighth to join the tie at the top, only for Casey to move ahead by holing a monster putt from off the 13th green and making a string of pars along the closing stretch.

Someone always played better - until Sunday.

Right now, Woods is tied for second, one shot behind leader Corey Conners, who had a 68. The 21-year-old from India shot a 75 to tie for seventh, seven shots behind. His last victory came at the 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Each week has been a little better.

That could mean win No. 9 at Bay Hill in a week or, gasp, win No. 5 at Augusta National four weeks from Sunday. I didn't feel like I missed any opportunities last season for wins because I purely didn't putt good enough, no strokes gained on the weekend. I'm a fan of golf as much as I am a player. "It was one of those days I kept getting half-clubs". He pulled a wedge into the left rough on No. 11 and three-putted from 80 feet on No. 14. Woods took care of business on the 17th when he sank a 44-foot putt for birdie. He is an eight-time victor at Bay Hill, and the euphoria over his return is sure to reach even higher decibels. "I've got some things to do, but I hadn't played Arnold's tournament in a couple years now". I'm finding the rhythm of the rounds, I'm hitting shots, I don't have a problem posting scores. "A couple putts here and there, it could have been a different story". He twirled his club when the ball was in the air.

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