PALM HARBOR, FLORIDA (AP) – Sam Burns arrived at Innisbrook Resort late Monday night and spotted his face on everything from banners to billboards to hotel keys, the site of this week’s Valspar Championship. The defending champion’s mug is seemingly everywhere, and his parking place even has a bespoke paint job.
“I’m not sure who painted that,” he continued, “but they did a beautiful job with the eye of the Tiger there and then the state of Louisiana for the L in LSU.” “It was very well thought out, and they did a fantastic job.”
If Burns continues to burn down the Copperhead Course, they may be able to use the same signs next year. The 25-year-old Louisiana native birdied his final two holes to shoot 7-under 64 and tie for first place with Jhonattan Vegas of Venezuela, former Valspar champion Adam Hadwin (who birdied four of his final five holes), and rookie David Lipsky.
Burns birdied half the courses and had four deuces, including stuffing his tee shot to 2 feet on the par-3 13th and 17th holes, as well as three of the four par 5s.
Vegas got out to a fast start, shooting a 7-under 64 that included a 4-iron to 6-feet for eagle on the first hole, his 10th of the day. Despite playing in a strong wave that avoided the worst of the weather, Vegas was eliminated early from the Players Championship last week.
“But I still messed up 17,” Vegas said of his 78 in the second round at TPC Sawgrass.
He switched to an old set of Mizuno MP-4 irons and discovered that the Copperhead Course suited him better. Vegas, who has yet to finish in the top ten this season, improved his iron play by over two strokes and his putting by more than three strokes.
“Exactly what I required after the previous week. The game was present. “This morning, I took advantage of the fantastic weather,” Vegas remarked. “It’s a lovely day out here,” says the narrator. So, sure, fortunate to have shot a 64.”
The field painted the scoreboard red with birdies galore on a sunny day with low winds and soft greens from recent storms. Eighty-nine golfers in the field, including Ole Miss freshman Jackson Suber, broke par.
“Everyone was like, ‘That was the weirdest 7-under we’ve ever seen,'” Lipsky recalled while in the scoring tent. “I just sort of did everything you’re supposed to do, and then you play good when that happens.”
After 6-under 65s, Davis Riley, Danny Lee, Scott Stallings, and Richy Werenski were among a group a stroke behind the leaders.
“This place has always appealed to me,” Lee stated. “I wish I could play like this on a daily basis.” But it’s good to be back playing in normal settings; the last two weeks have been mentally and physically draining.”
Justin Thomas was one of the players that arrived exhausted after a grueling start-stop week at the Players Championship. He says he slept nearly 10 hours before his tee time on Thursday afternoon.
Thomas, who couldn’t buy a putt early on and was even par through his opening ten holes, stated, “I woke up and played like a zombie.” “I was rolling it precisely where I wanted it, just scorching the edge and lipping out some of them,” says the artist.
Jim “Bones” Mackay, his caddie, counseled him to be patient.
“If we can only get this cover off, we might be able to get some of them in,” Thomas speculated.
In a huge way, he did precisely that. At the par-5 14th, Thomas hit a high-cut 3-wood from 252 yards that halted 64 feet beyond the hole, then drained the putt. It was the third-longest putt he’d ever made on the PGA Tour.
Kevin Kisner, a playing competition, joked, “Clearly you’ve been hitting it too near to the hole today.”
The ball-striking of Thomas was excellent. In terms of Strokes Gained, he was the best in the field. From Tee to Green, and second in SG: Despite making the bomb at 14, I was rated 117th in putting, losing more than a stroke to the field. Thomas holed a 9-iron inside 2 feet for another birdie at No. 16 to finish the three-hole stretch beginning at 14 in 4 under par and sign for 66.
“The greens are quite tough to read because they are so delicate,” Thomas explained. “They’ll always be a little more chewed up in the afternoon,” she says, “but we’ll grab some fresh ones tomorrow morning and maybe fill it up.”