PALM HARBOR, Fla. – Keegan Bradley cannot recall having a better time than he did Thursday at Innisbrook. He missed just one inexperienced. His longest par putt was simply over 4 ft. It added to a 7-under 64 and one other nice begin within the Valspar Championship.
It’s the second spherical that just lately has given Bradley matches on the Copperhead course.
Bradley ran off 4 birdies over his final 5 holes, ending with a 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th and a two-shot lead on a day of low scoring not usually seen at this PGA Tour cease.
“Basically zero stress the whole day,” Bradley mentioned. “I know that I’m going to have some bogeys and some stress coming. But as for today, I played so good and it feels good to go around a course like this and shoot that score.”
Riviera winner Max Homa had eight birdies and was in a big group at 66 that included Emiliano Grillo and Ryan Moore.
It wasn’t a breeze for everybody. Dustin Johnson, the No. 1 participant on this planet, did not make a birdie over his remaining 12 holes and had to accept a 71. Johnson hasn’t completed within the prime 10 in simply over two months and first has to fear about making the lower.
(*64*) Thomas celebrated his twenty eighth birthday by opening with an eagle and coming inches away from a hole-in-one, however he stalled on the again 9 and shot 69.
Phil Mickelson, taking part in at Innisbrook for the primary time since 2004, shot 73.
As for Bradley, that is the fifth straight time he has began the Valspar Championship in a tie for sixth or higher. He has missed the lower twice – together with in 2016, when he shared the 18-hole lead – and has cracked the highest 30.
This might be a distinct 12 months given the change in date. The match has been a part of the Florida swing in March since 2007. Because of a change within the calendar, it was moved to the final week in April this 12 months.
With hotter climate – temperatures have been pushing 90 – the course is getting extra water than typical. Combined with slightly extra humidity, situations have been slightly softer.
Bradley had his sport dialed in from the beginning, and particularly on the end. He made birdie the one time he missed a inexperienced, simply quick on the par-3 fifteenth. He had the 4-foot par putt and one other one from simply over 3 ft. The different 9 par putts have been 20 inches or shorter.
“I didn’t really come close to making a bogey, so that was a really fun day to be out there and playing,” Bradley mentioned.
In a season of gamers ending lengthy stretches with out profitable, maybe Moore is in line to be a part of the listing. The final of his 5 PGA Tour wins was in 2016, the 12 months he performed within the Ryder Cup. He missed the final 4 months of 2020 with a again damage, and it has been gradual coming again.
And his again was feeling slightly tight the previous couple of days. The heat climate helped, and so did a conservative method.
“I couldn’t try and do too much. I couldn’t try and overwork shots and stuff like that,” he mentioned. “I just had to play it pretty neutral and just kind of hit more three-quarter shots all the way around, and that apparently worked. Maybe I should do that more often.”
Paul Casey, attempting to turn into solely the fourth participant within the final 40 years to win the identical match three straight occasions (Tiger Woods did it on six events), overcame a tough begin with a 68. He additionally got here inches away from an ace on the fourth gap, with one fan leaping out of his chair prematurely. It caught the lip. He made a 2.
“A three-peat has been talked about a lot and will be talked about until I’m done here, and I just want to kind of hang around, which is what I did today,” Casey mentioned. “I certainly can’t win it today, but I want to hang around.”
The greatest begin – it felt like that, anyway – belonged to Michael Visacki, who obtained loads of fame firstly of the week along with his 20-foot putt to win a playoff in a Monday qualifier and earn his first begin in a PGA Tour occasion. He was sobbing when he shared the information along with his father. He was smiling when he bought up-and-down for birdie on the par-5 first gap.
Highlights have been uncommon – he additionally made a birdie on the par-3 thirteenth – and he opened with a 74.