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  • Justin Rose missed significant practice time this offseason but is finding his touch again. (Greenwood/Getty Images) Justin Rose missed significant practice time this offseason but is finding his touch again. (Greenwood/Getty Images)

PALM HARBOR, Fla. – Hold off for now on any more questions about Justin Rose’s balky shoulder.

The reigning U.S. Open champion matched his best round since the first of the year with a 3-under 68 at the Valspar Championship. Rose capped the round with a final chip-in birdie that gave him a share of the lead early in the afternoon. That lead was gone by day's end, however, as Rose ended the day three shots behind leader Robert Garrigus.

“I feel like I’m getting competitive,” said Rose, whose round followed an even-par 71 in Thursday’s testy cold and wind. “This is the kind of golf course that tells you a lot about where you’re at. You can’t really get away with it around here.”

Rose also carded a 68 in the third round of the Northern Trust Open, his first event following an eight-week layoff to settle tendinitis in his right shoulder. He wound up in a tie for 45th at Riviera, but has placed himself firmly in the Valspar mix.

“To shoot even [par] and then 3-under with the weather we’ve had,” he said, “that means my game is looking pretty good.”

In both rounds, Rose finished with a flourish. He capped off Thursday’s round with birdies at Nos. 17 and 18 – two-thirds of the Copperhead course’s daunting “Snake Pit” – then used Friday’s chip-in to make up for a missed par save at No.8.

Consider it a dividend from the days when chipping and putting was all Rose could do while letting his shoulder settle down.

“The short game has been sharp,” he said. “I took advantage when I could. Technically, I feel very comfortable with where my chipping and short game is at.”

Though the Valspar is just Rose’s fourth event of 2014, it’ll be his next-to-last stop before the Masters. He’ll play the Arnold Palmer Invitational next week, then take two weeks off before heading to Augusta.

“It’s nice to feel like you’ve gained some confidence through the events you’ve played,” he said. “At least I’ve given myself a platform on which I can carry on and have a good week.”

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