Woods benefiting from 'subtle tweaks' after taking share of Valspar lead

FacebookPinterestMike Ehrmann  Getty Images Woods hopes to show further improvement in his game this week at the Valspar Championship

Shane Lowry carded a one-under 70 and is one under for the tournament, seven shots off the lead.

Added to an opening one under par, Woods sits on four under through 36 holes and in an early tie for the lead.

On Sunday at the Valspar Championship, they'll get their fill.

"He's getting better every round".

"It's something that I just find really cool", Conners said with a smile. I've moved myself up the board. "That's how hard it is".

By contrast, Rory McIlroy's Masters preparations suffered another blow as he finished Thursday on three over par.

Another birdie followed at the par-5 fifth after Woods almost chipped in for eagle. Only six other players had a higher score.

Golf's dominant figure for much of the past two decades, Woods was the centre of attention once again at Palm Harbor on Saturday, with huge crowds gathering to see if the former world number one could continue a hugely encouraging week. Another golfer one shot back is American golfer Brandt Snedeker, who has a Canadian connection because he used to have a Canadian Scott Vail as his caddie. It was just inconsistent, it was tough to get a bead on which way it was coming from. He tapped in for a birdie and his best start in almost three years. "My disc was still intact so we're trying to save the disc and I just never know with the future". I did a lot of guessing, I guessed pretty good. The Englishman eagled the par-4 No. 9. "I need to get a little bit more tournament time, and I think I've done that and I'm starting to get a better feel for it".

It's been 54 months since Woods' last victory at the 2013 WGC - Bridgestone Invitational and the now 42-year old is set to dispel any criticism, and not that he has not already done in 13 rounds this new season, with what would be a 80th PGA Tour success.

Woods is playing his fourth PGA Tour event since returning from fusion surgery on his lower back, his fourth surgery since the spring of 2014. "As I was walking off nine it showed 68 and that was at four (under)". He also came up well short on the 12th into a strong wind.

"It's just him to a tee", Snedeker said.

He backed that up with a long birdie putt on the 10th to join Conners at eight under. He got to 2 under after consecutive birdies on 10 and 11, but gave then right back on the next two holes.

The only unnerving moment came at the 16th, when he tugged his iron off the tee into the trees. And then Woods missed again.

He did hold the lead on his own at one point before the closing bogey dropped him back.

129.2 miles per hour club head speed on this drive.

"It didn't feel very good", he said.

At the par-4 18th, Woods had a 24-footer for birdie but ran it by.

Woods said he is having fun for the first time in a long time.

"Once I played with him at Torrey and saw up close that he was playing, this doesn't surprise me at all, " Snedeker said. "We can all see that".