It was a busy day at Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead course for the first round of the Valspar Championship in Palm Harbor, Florida.
Jordan Spieth got off to a good start thanks to his putter – we’ll cover that in a minute – while Ryan Brehm used an ace at the par-3 17 to jump to the top of the leaderboard at 5-under. Stephan Jaeger and Adam Schenk sit with Brehm after matching 66s.
Maverick McNealy, who is still searching for his first PGA Tour victory, opened with a four-under-par 67. This is McNealy’s first trip to Innisbrook, but he has so far been impressed with the golf course.
“I’ve heard from so many players that this is just a fantastic golf course,” he said after his round. “I’m a west coast guy, I’ve played, I usually play a heavy west coast swing and Florida is usually a little different, but everyone was saying this doesn’t feel like a Florida golf course. I came out here and saw photos. It looks like the golf course I grew up on, Sharon Heights and Stanford in the Bay Area.”
We’ll see if those local sensations lead him to success the rest of the way.
Sam Burns, who is looking to win outside of Tampa for the third straight year, started with a 2-under 69, as did Justin Thomas. Thomas finished within a shot of the playoffs last season and 13 in 2021.
“I think for me it’s just trying to put together a solid week and winning a lot is out of my control,” Burns said after signing his card. “So I just try to go out there and play the best I can and score at the end.”
If you missed the action on Thursday, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here’s everything you need to know about the first round of the Valspar Championship.
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Tommy Fleetwood gears up for a title push
Tommy Fleetwood of England lines up a putt on the 13th green during the first round of the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club on March 16, 2023 in Palm Harbor, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)
Somehow, Tommy Fleetwood has yet to add a PGA Tour victory to his resume. He has been a Ryder Cup hero, winning seven times around the world but still looking for his first Tour win.
After a 3-under 68 at the Copperhead course on Thursday, he’s in prime position to cross that off his bucket list.
Fleetwood started hot, birdieing his first two holes of the day thanks to a well-played par 5 at No. 1 and a 172-yard drive at the second from two feet. He would add one more before turning with 33, three under par.
Fleetwood traded a birdie at 10 for a bogey at 11, but rallied with another circle at the par-5 14. He couldn’t get up and down the fringe at 18 to close with a bogey and a three-under round. .
This isn’t the first time he’s played well in Palm Harbor. Fleetwood, who is coming off of being in the top 30 at Players, finished 16th here last season.
The wave on Friday afternoon will have to deal with the worst of the weather. With a solid effort in the morning, Fleetwood should settle near the top of the board.
Jordan Spieth’s putter finally cooperated
Jordan Spieth lines up a putt on the ninth green during the first round of the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club on March 16, 2023 in Palm Harbor, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)
Entering the week, Jordan Spieth was ranked 114th in SG:Putting. His round on Thursday can boost the ride to improve that stat.
Spieth putts 147 feet on Day 1, including a 58-footer at the par-3 15 and a 31-footer effort at No. 6.
“Getting comfortable with the speed control and generally the putter, allowed me, even if I missed them, to feel like I could play in the center of the greens and not attack the pins. That is a different place than I have been living as I have been trying to get better and better with the putter,” he said.
The Texan was first in SG: Putting in the first round.
‘The other JT’
JT Poston is a two-time winner on the PGA Tour. He is the 54th best golfer in the world. However, his name is taken.
Jokes have been made for years that he is the “other JT” on Tour because of Justin Thomas. It’s hard to compete with a guy who owns two Wanamaker trophies and rarely breaks out of the top 10 in the Official World Golf Rankings.
For the first two rounds, Poston and Thomas are paired up with Joel Dahmen. As is the tradition at the Valspar Championship, caddies are allowed to wear their player’s nickname on their number throughout the week. Poston and his looper, Aaron Flener, decided to fall back on the prank.
shot of the day
Hard to beat an ace!
Friday weather forecast
A banner at the 2022 Valspar Championship at Copperhead Field at Innisbrook in Palm Harbor, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)
According to Windy.com, winds are forecast to reach 10 degrees Friday afternoon with gusts up to 30 MPH possible. Temperatures are expected to reach 70 degrees.
The story originally appeared on GolfWeek