Ryan Brehm hit the shot of the day on the middle hole of “The Snake Pit” and it gave him the best score of the round.
Brehm (pictured), who has missed the cut in 14 of his last 17 events, made a hole in one from 194 yards on the 17th hole en route to a five-under-par 66 and is tied for the lead with Stephan Jaeger of Germany and Adam Schenk after the first round of the Valspar Championship on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, Fla.
“It kind of surprised me when I saw it go in the hole, honestly,” said Brehm, whose only PGA Tour victory came in the 2022 Puerto Rico Open. “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 that was down off of the right. I think we had 189 to cover the front edge and it probably flew almost 200 yards. So it was pretty fun to see that thing trickle in.
“My wife and I talk about it all the time. I’m glad she was here because she’s like: ‘I’ve never seen you have (an ace). And ironically, in the Monday Pro-Am, I rinsed one on 13 for my first shot, grabbed a different club, teed it up and jarred it for a par.
“So it must be something about this week.”
Brehm, who has five victories on lower pro tours, made two birdies on each nine and had his only bogey on the sixth hole, where he missed the green with his second shot and eventually missed a 21-foot putt for par.
Jaeger, who has won six times on the Korn Ferry Tour, had three birdies on the front nine and four on the back, including a 30-foot putt on the last hole to go against two bogeys on the front nine in his 66.
“I hit some good putts, drove it really nice on the back nine, gave myself a lot of chances to hit it on the greens,” said Jaeger, whose best result on the PGA Tour was a tie for fifth in the 2022 Rocket Mortgage Classic. “These greens are pretty small, so if you’ve hit ’em in the right spots, you’ve got a lot of short putts in, and I just kind of made the right putts and scored on the par-5s, which was nice. I didn’t do a good job with that last week, so I’m happy I did that (today).
“It started on No. 8. It was like 243 and I hit a 7-wood to about four feet and made it. I think I was one-over at the time. So it just kind of gave me some momentum. I know this is a golf course, you shoot a couple under, you’re normally in a pretty good spot. I ended up birdieing No. 9 to get to one-under and birdied 11, so just kind of kept on building. Birdied another par-5 on the back. So really solid, kind of kept it in front of me and made some putts.”
Schenk, who has won twice on lower tours but is seeking his first PGA Tour victory, was one of the last players on the course and made four straight birdies through the turn, added one more on each nine in his 66.
A lone bogey at No. 4 when he hit into a greenside bunker cost him sole possession of the lead.
“I just putted really well,” said Schenk, whose tie for third in the 2021 Shriners Children’s Open is his best result on the PGA Tour. “I was fortunate on the last hole. I hit a bunker shot that hit the pin. Probably going to go eight feet by and ended up only four feet or six feet, whatever it was.
“So I had some good fortune, some good golf. Not a lot could have gone that much better. So it’s one those rounds that could have been one- or two-under par that ended up five-under par. You take the days like this and run with them.”
Jordan Spieth, the 2015 Valspar champion, had three birdies in a row on his front nine in a bogey-free 67 and is tied for fourth with 2009 U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover, who collected seven birdies, and Maverick McNealy of Portola Valley and Stanford, who had five birdies against a single bogey at No. 18.
Tommy Fleetwood of England birdied three of the first six holes on his way to a 68 and is tied for seventh with Kramer Hickock, who had five birdies in the first 11 holes; Byeong Hun An of South Korea, who played bogey-free; Patton Kizzire, who had two birdies on each nine, and Alex Smalley, who had three birdies in four holes on the back nine.
Two-time defending Valspar champion Sam Burns made four birdies in seven holes on his front nine in a 69 and is in a tie for 12th that includes 10th-ranked Justin Thomas, who overcame a double-bogey 7 on the 14th hole, and 2017 winner Adam Hadwin of Canada, who had two birdies on his back nine in a bogey-free round.
Akshay Bhatia, a 21-year-old from Northridge who has won four times on lower tours and earned Special Temporary Member status on the PGA Tour with a runner-up finish at the 2023 Puerto Rico Open, is tied for 21st following a 70 that included six birdies and five bogeys.
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