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Golf: Tiger shares early lead at Valspar Championship

MIAMI (AFP) – Tiger Woods fired a three-under par 68 on Friday to share the clubhouse lead in the second round of the Valspar Championship, his fourth tournament since returning from spinal surgery last April.

The former world number one was almost flawless, only a bogey at his final hole, the par-four ninth at Innisbrook Resort north of Tampa, Florida, preventing him from holding the outright clubhouse lead.

Instead his four-under total of 138 tied him atop the leaderboard with England s Paul Casey and fellow Americans Brandt Snedeker and Ryan Palmer.

Canadian rookie Corey Conners, who held the overnight lead on four-under, had yet to tee off when Woods walked off the course.

Woods began the day in a tie for eighth, three shots off the lead.

He drained six-foot birdie putts at 12 and 13 and rolled in an 11-footer for another birdie at the par-four second hole.

In a greenside bunker at the par-five fifth, Woods blasted out to five feet and made the putt for a birdie that moved him to five-under for the tournament and put him alone atop the leaderboard.

He saved par at the seventh with an 11-foot putt, but his five-foot par attempt at his final hole wouldn t fall.

Still it was heady stuff to see the 14-time major champion s name atop the leaderboard less than a month before the first major of the year, the Masters.

Woods said in January, when he returned to the PGA Tour at Torrey Pines, that the early stages of his latest comeback would all be aimed at Augusta National, where he has won four green jackets but hasn t played since 2015.

The 42-year-old finished tied for 23rd at Torrey Pines, then missed the cut at Riviera in Los Angeles before a 12th-placed finish at the Honda Classic two weeks ago.

He s expected to tee it up at the Arnold Palmer Invitational next week in his final Masters tuneup.

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