Ryan Brehm, who has missed cuts in 14 of 17 starts this season, hit a par-3 on the 17th hole to share the lead after Thursday’s opening round of the PGA Valspar Championship.
The 36-year-old American, whose only PGA title came last March at the Puerto Rico Open, faced compatriot Adam Schenk and German Stephan Jaeger in a five-under-par 66 at Innisbrook’s Copperhead course in Palm Harbor, Florida. .
“We’ve been struggling for a while since then to try to find good form again,” Brehm said. “He’s been showing signs of good play, so we’re going to keep at it.”
Three-time Grand Slam winner Jordan Spieth, the 2015 Valpsar winner, shared fourth place after a bogey-free 67 with fellow Americans Maverick McNealy and 2009 US Open winner Lucas Glover.
Brehm won the 196-yard, par-3 17th hole with a 7-iron. It was his first PGA hole-in-one and the first PGA ace on the hole since Kris Blanks in the 2012 final round.
“I was a little surprised when I saw him go into the hole,” Brehm said. “But we got a good reaction. It was a lot of fun.
“I was really just trying to cover the front edge of the green, and we had the wind blowing from the right. We had 189 to cover the front edge and it probably flew almost 200 yards. So it was a lot of fun to see that thing seep through.”
Brehm birdied all four par-5 holes and made his only bogey on the par-4 sixth.
“We took care of the par 5s and that was good,” Brehm said. “I’ve had some ups and downs and never hit one offside. That’s a recipe for sticking with it.”
Jaeger, seeking his first PGA title, opened with a birdie, bogeyed the fourth par-3 and seventh par-4, but then birdied five of the next seven holes, four of them on putts from inside. six feet.
“I made good putts, I drove very well on the back nine, I gave myself a lot of chances to putt on the greens,” Jaeger said.
“These greens are pretty small, so if you hit them in the right places, you have a lot of short putts, you made the right putts and you scored on the par 5s.”
Back-nine starter Schenk, playing for the 10th straight week and chasing his first PGA title, sank a 51-foot birdie putt on the 18th in a streak of four consecutive birdies that began on the 17th, the other putts for birdie fell from eight feet
After hitting his only bogey on the fourth par-3, he sank an 11-foot birdie putt on the par-4 seventh, a 10-foot par putt on the eighth and ran up and down a bunker on the nine to stay level for The Lead.
– Good fortune, good golf –
“He just kicked really well,” Schenk said. “Lucky on the last hole. I hit a bunker shot that hit the pin. I was probably going eight feet and ended up only four feet away.”
Schenk, who played extensively before becoming a father next month, earned a career third-place finish at the 2021 Shriners Children’s Open.
Spieth, a back-nine starter, made three straight birdies starting on the par-5 14th hole, highlighted by a birdie putt from just over 57 feet on the par-3 15. He also made a 31-foot birdie putt on the sixth.
“I was able to drop a couple of long putts today to push myself to 4 under, which is a really good round,” Spieth said. “Playing 3-under 14-16 is a very good part of golf.”
American Sam Burns, who opened with a 69, is trying to become the first player to win the same PGA event three years in a row since Steve Stricker won the 2009-2011 John Deere Classic.