5 Things: Cool in Tampa as four 68s lead
Thursday at Innisbrook was all about coping with the wind – and the foursome who did it best finished tied for the first-round lead of the Valspar Championship.
Greg Chalmers, Matt Every, Danny Lee and Pat Perez shot 3-under 68s to find the top of the leaderboard at Innisbrook's Copperhead course. Here are 5 Things to know about the day's events in Palm Harbor, Fla.
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1. COOL DAY'S WORK: Isn't this the Sunshine State? After two weeks of being spoiled in Palm Beach Gardens or Doral (or even farther southeast in Puerto Rico), Tampa put a chill in everyone's skin.
"I would have been satisfied with 2 over today," co-leader Every said. "It was tough. This morning you couldn't feel your hands. The wind was brutal."
Maybe it wasn't a five-stroke difference as Every hinted at. But as the sun warmed things up, afternoon players improved by nearly two strokes. That in and of itself is an improvement compared to last week's test at Trump National Doral, where winds persisted.
"Definitely the guys that teed off at 7:40, 7:50, they had the hardest of what we're going to see this week," co-leader Perez said. "I think so far we got the good side."
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2. TOUGH AND TOUGHER: The Copperhead course at Innisbrook is known for a premium on shotmaking, but for the first-round lead to be at 3-under 68? That's a first in this tournament's 14 installments.
To hear co-leader Lee tell it, though, that might not be too crazy – he quipped that his practice round Tuesday probably would have come in around 90 on the scorecard.
"I was shocked how hard it was," he said. "Without the wind and the cold weather, even . . . playing in nice weather, it's a very tough golf course."
The average for the day checked in at 72.6 for the par-71 course, with just 25 players in the 144-man field breaking par.
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3. DIFFERENT WAYS TO TAMPA BAY: It's easy to forget how different the PGA Tour schedule is from other pro athletes' years. The latest example lies in a handful of players' paths to the top of Thursday's leaderboard.
Lee, for instance, had missed six straight Tour cuts before his runner-up finish at last week's Puerto Rico Open earned him a spot for the Valspar.
Perez, on the other hand, had taken three weeks off after winning more than $1 million on the West Coast Swing; he had to shake off a little rust, as he hadn't worked a lot on his swing.
Peter Uihlein, in contention early and two shots back after a 70, is a European Tour member; the former Oklahoma State standout is looking to move from No. 73 in the world into the top 50 to earn a Masters spot.
But they all did better than Angel Cabrera's bag, as El Pato had to borrow clubs since his haven't arrived at all.
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4. SWING OF THINGS: As for their play Thursday, that too differed from one co-leader to another.
Every, the only one to play in the morning, thrived late. His putter heated up for the final four holes when the sun came out to help him convert three birdies of 15 feet or more on Nos. 6-8.
Lee was hot out of the gate, birdieing Nos. 11, 12 and 15 before touring the remaining 12 holes in even par.
Chalmers endured a bit of a roller-coaster round, starting bogey-birdie-birdie, going bogey-birdie again as he made the turn, then birdieing Nos. 4 and 6.
Perez played his first six holes in even par, then went on to scatter three birdies over his last 11 holes – including being the only co-leader to gain a stroke at No. 9 to end his round.
Their only common thread: All teed off at No. 10.
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5. SHORT SHOTS: The seven players tied for fifth, one shot back of the leaders? That's Nicolas Colsaerts, Tommy Gainey, Robert Garrigus, Bill Haas, James Hahn, Matteo Manassero and Michael Putnam; only Garrigus and Putnam played in the morning, each holding at least a share of the lead at some point. . . . Blake Adams shot 78, which was carded by Ben Martin as the day's worst score, but Adams had to WD with a hip injury. . . . The top player in the field according to OWGR, reigning U.S. Open champion Justin Rose, shot 71 and is T-26. . . . Harris English, the top FedEx Cup points earner in the field, shot 72 and is T-45. . . . The top player in the field according to the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings, Matt Kuchar, shot 73 and is T-70.
– Associated Press contributed