Valspar Championship: Jordan Spieth’s putter wakes up, Tommy Fleetwood chasing breakthrough win and more from Day 1
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 hot start thanks to his putter — we’ll cover that in a minute — while Ryan Brehm used an ace at the par-3 17th to vault 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 win on the PGA Tour, opened with a 4-under 67. This is McNealy’s first trip to Innisbrook, but he’s been impressed with the golf course so far.
“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, usually play a heavy West Coast Swing and Florida’s usually a little different but everyone kept saying, this doesn’t feel like a Florida golf course. I got out here and I saw pictures. It kind of looks like the golf course I grew up at, Sharon Heights and Stanford back in the Bay Area.”
We’ll see if those hometown feels carry him to success the rest of the way.
Sam Burns, who’s looking to win outside Tampa for the third year in a row, opened with a 2-under 69, as did Justin Thomas. Thomas finished one shot out of the playoff last season and 13th in 2021.
“I think for me it’s just trying to put together a solid week and a lot of winning is out of my control,” Burns said after signing his card. “So I just try to go out there and play the best that I can and add it up at the end.”
If you missed the action Thursday, no worries, we have you covered. Here’s everything you need to know from the first round of the Valspar Championship.
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Tommy Fleetwood sets himself 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, some way, Tommy Fleetwood has yet to add a PGA Tour win to his resume. He’s been a Ryder Cup hero, he’s won seven times worldwide but he continues to search for his maiden Tour victory.
After a 3-under 68 around the Copperhead Course Thursday, he’s in prime position to check that off his wish list.
Fleetwood started hot, birdieing his first two holes of the day thanks to a well-played par 5 at No. 1 and a dart from 172 yards at the second to two feet. He’d add one more before turning with a 3-under 33.
Another birdie for @TommyFleetwood1 🐦 pic.twitter.com/C2bw4DYais
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 16, 2023
Fleetwood traded a birdie at 10 for a bogey at 11 but bounced back with another circle at the par-5 14th. He failed to get up and down from the fringe on 18 to close with a bogey and a 3-under round.
This isn’t the first time he’s played well in Palm Harbor. Fleetwood, who’s coming off a top 30 at the Players, finished 16th here just last season.
Friday’s afternoon wave will have to contend with the worst of the weather. With a solid effort in the morning, Fleetwood should reside 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 ranked 114th in SG: Putting. His round Thursday may jump start the journey in improving that stat.
Spieth made 147 feet of putts on Day 1, including a 58-footer on the par-3 15th and a 31-foot effort at No. 6.
“Feeling comfortable with the speed control and just overall with the putter, it allowed — even if I was missing them, I felt like I could play to center of greens and not attack pins. That’s a different place than I’ve been living as I’ve been trying to get better and better with the putter,” he said.
The Texan was first in SG: Putting in round one.
'The Other J.T.'
J.T. Poston is a two-time winner on the PGA Tour. He’s the 54th-best golfer in the world. Yet, his name’s taken.
Jokes have been made for years that he’s the “other J.T.” on Tour because of Justin Thomas. It’s tough to compete with a guy who owns two Wanamaker trophies and rarely leaves the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
For the first two rounds, Poston and Thomas are paired together alongside Joel Dahmen. As is tradition at the Valspar Championship, caddies are allowed to wear their player’s nickname on their bibs throughout the week. Poston and his looper, Aaron Flener, decided to lean into the joke.
@JustinThomas34 clipped me today so I guess I’ll wear it the rest of the week. @AaronFlener pic.twitter.com/PwRl0FjfOj
— J.T. Poston (@JT_ThePostman) March 16, 2023
Shot of the day
Tough to beat an ace!
🚨 ACE FOR RYAN BREHM 🚨
Taking over the solo lead @ValsparChamp at 5-under! pic.twitter.com/2HgayRToMa
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 16, 2023
Friday's weather forecast
A pin flag at the 2022 Valspar Championship on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook in Palm Harbor, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)
According to Windy.com, winds are forecasted to reach the high teens Friday afternoon with gusts up to 30 MPH possible. The temperatures are expected to reach the high 70s.