Keegan Bradley played the way he did when he won the 2011 PGA Championship.
The 34-year-old Bradley carded a bogey-free, 7-under-par 64 to take a two-stroke lead over five players after one round of the Valspar Championship on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, Fla.
“Best round of the year,” said Bradley, who has won four times on the PGA Tour. “Today was just an all-around great day. Basically zero stress the whole day. I didn’t really come close to making a bogey, so that was a really fun day to be out there. It feels good to go around a course like this and shoot that score. This is a tough track, demands a lot, ball striking-wise, and I did that today.
“After I won (the 2018 BMW Championship), my putting went into a pretty big dip and I had to kind of work my way out of it again. So I feel like I’m on the other side of that right now. As long as I putt strokes gained around zero, I’m going to be up there. So when I have a day where I’m positive or a week that I’m positive, I’ve got a good chance.”
Bradley birdied two of the first four holes, but really turned it on coming home, making five birdies in the last seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine.
Max Homa of Valencia and Cal, where he won the 2013 NCAA Division I Men’s Championship, collected five birdies on the front nine and three in the last five holes to overcome three bogeys in a 66 and is tied for second with Emiliano Grillo of Argentina, Ryan Moore, Hank Lebioda and Patton Kizzire.
Sam Burns sank a five-foot eagle putt at No. 1 while starting his back nine en route to a 67 and is tied for seventh with Abraham Ancer of Mexico, Jason Kokrak, Ted Potter Jr., Scott Stallings, Kramer Hickock and Scott Brown.
Potter and Stallings also eagled the first hole.
Two-time defending champion Paul Casey of England, who didn’t get to defend his title last year because the tournament was cancelled because of the Coronavirus pandemic, is tied for 14th at 68.
“A three-peat has been talked about a lot and will be talked about until I’m done here, and I just want to kind of hang around, which is what I did today,” said Casey, who has won three times on the PGA Tour and 21 times as a pro. “I certainly can’t win it today, but I want to hang around.
“It’s nice to finally be back, two years after I wanted to get back to defend. The golf course is as good and as tough as it has ever been, and I played a nice solid round of golf. I got rid of the scarecrow early on and just played some good golf afterwards.
“It’s a tough thing to do a hat-trick … so we’ll see what happens. “
Second-ranked Justin Thomas sank a 13-foot birdie putt on the last hole to finish off a 69 and is tied for 28th, seventh-ranked Patrick Reed totaled 70 and is tied for 45th, and top-ranked Dustin Johnson is tied for 66th at 71.
Eighth-ranked Tyrrell Hatton of England withdrew on Wednesday after he tested positive for Covid-19.
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