(Reuters) - Tiger Woods, in only his fourth start since returning from injury, moved into a tie for second place at the halfway point of the Valspar Championship in Florida on Friday.

Woods, who underwent spinal fusion surgery last April, shot a three-under-par 68 that left him two strokes behind leader Corey Conners after the second round at the Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor.

PGA Tour rookie Conners only got into the event as an alternate but leads the way after carding a 69 for a six-under 136 total. The Canadian would have been further ahead but for a double-bogey on his 13th hole, where he three-putted from short range.

The tournament lost two of its biggest names on Friday with world number four Jordan Spieth (71) and four-time major champion Rory McIlroy (73) missing the cut, both bowing out at five-over 147.


For Woods, however, Friday was "a good day," despite the 42-year-old carding his lone bogey of the round at his final hole, the par-four ninth, where his six-foot par putt grazed the hole.

"I'm up there," Woods told PGATour.com.

"I keep getting a little bit better, here and there, making little subtle tweaks," he said.

"I've done that from tournament to tournament. I just need to get a little tournament time in and I think I've done that.

"I'm starting to get a better feel for it. I'm finding the rhythm of the round. I'm hitting shots. I don't have trouble posting scores."

For Woods, playing in what is likely to be his penultimate event ahead of the April 5-8 U.S. Masters, the round marked another encouraging outing by a player whose previous comeback attempts have been short-lived due to recurring back injuries.

The 14-times major champion returned to the PGA Tour in January, finishing equal 23rd at Torrey Pines in San Diego.

He subsequently missed the cut at Riviera in Los Angeles but enjoyed his most promising result since 2015 when he finished 12th at the Honda Classic in Florida two weeks ago.

Woods was joined on four-under 138 by fellow Americans Brandt Snedeker (68), Ryan Palmer (66) and Kelly Kraft (70) and Englishman Paul Casey (68).

(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Additional reporting by Frank Pingue; Editing by Christian Radnedge/Peter Rutherford)

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