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 is the second spherical that not too long ago 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.
“Mainly zero stress the entire day,” Bradley stated. “I do know that I will have some bogeys and a few stress coming. However as for at the moment, I performed so good and it feels good to go round a course like this and shoot that rating.”
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 the planet, did not make a birdie over his remaining 12 holes and needed to accept a 71. Johnson hasn’t completed within the prime 10 in simply over two months and first has to fret about making the reduce.
Justin 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, enjoying 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 reduce twice — together with in 2016, when he shared the 18-hole lead — and has cracked the highest 30.
This might be a special 12 months given the change in date. The match has been a part of the Florida swing in March since 2007. Due to a change within the calendar, it was moved to the final week in April this 12 months.
With hotter climate — temperatures had been pushing 90 — the course is getting extra water than common. Mixed with a little bit extra humidity, circumstances had been a little bit 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 opposite 9 par putts had been 20 inches or shorter.
“I did not actually come shut to creating a bogey, in order that was a extremely enjoyable day to be on the market and enjoying,” Bradley stated.
In a season of gamers ending lengthy stretches with out profitable, maybe Moore is in line to hitch the record. 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 harm, and it has been gradual coming again.
And his again was feeling a little bit tight the previous couple of days. The nice and cozy climate helped, and so did a conservative method.
“I could not try to do an excessive amount of. I could not try to overwork photographs and stuff like that,” he stated. “I simply needed to play it fairly impartial and simply type of hit extra three-quarter photographs all the way in which round, and that apparently labored. Perhaps I ought to try this extra typically.”
Paul Casey, attempting to change 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 3-peat has been talked about so much and will likely be talked about till I am achieved right here, and I simply wish to type of cling round, which is what I did at the moment,” Casey stated. “I definitely cannot win it at the moment, however I wish to cling round.”
The most effective 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 had been uncommon — he additionally made a birdie on the par-3 thirteenth — and he opened with a 74.