Defending Champ Burns Shares Valspar Lead With Vegas, Hadwin, Lipsky at 64

Defending champion Sam Burns picked up right where he left off last season in the Valspar Championship. 

The 25-year-old Burns (pictured), who claimed his first PGA Tour victory last year in the Valspar, birdied the last two holes to shoot 7-under-par 64 and tie Jhonattan Vegas of Venezuela, Adam Hadwin of Canada and David Lipsky for the lead after one round on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club in Palm Harbor, Fla. 

“The thing about last year is it has nothing to do with this year,” said Burns, who later last year won the Sanderson Farms Championship. “So many things are different. There’s not much correlation between the two. … I’ll look back forever on that event, it being my first win. Wins don’t happen out here often. 

“ … It’s OK to be frustrated. I think it’s just what do you do with that frustration? Do you let it carry over to the next shot or do you address it, flush it and move on? I think that’s the most important thing.” 

Burns was frustrated when he made his second bogey of the day on the 16th hole before he finished with the last two of his nine birdies, including five on the back nine. 

Vegas, bouncing back after missing the cut in the Players Championship after he hit two balls into the water on the famed par-3 17th hole with the island green in round two, sank a six-foot eagle putt on the first hole and added six birdies, while Hadwin birdied four of the last five holes and Lipsky made four birdies on the front and three on the back in his bogey-free round. 

“My iron play was excellent today,” said Lipsky, who has won four times around the world but not on the PGA Tour. “I hit it close a lot. I didn’t really leave myself too many stressful par saves, really. Hit it close when I missed the green. Drove it relatively straight and I think that is a formula to go well. 

“ … I didn’t have a plan (for his career). I just wanted to play wherever I could, to be honest. Obviously, this is where I wanted to be, and it’s been a long journey to get here. But it’s been a lot of fun along the way. I’ve had a lot of adventures and I’ve really refined my game.” 

Said Vegas: “Absolutely great. Exactly what I needed after last week. Game was there. I took advantage of the great conditions this morning. Greens are a little softer, not much wind, absolutely a perfect day out here.” 

Hadwin, who won the 2017 Valspar: “A lot of things went right to shoot 64 around this place. Just a lot of good consistent golf. I wouldn’t say that I felt great off the tee, but I was never in any trouble. I hit it really well. … This golf course I think rewards patience and I took advantage of that today.” 

Danny Lee of New Zealand birdied four of his first five holes in a 65 and is tied for fifth with Scott Stallings, who birdied three of his first four holes and his last, Richy Werenski, who had three birdies on each nine in a bogey-free round, and Davis Riley, who sank a 17-foot eagle putt on the 11th hole and added his fifth birdie at No. 18. 

Eighth-ranked Justin Thomas was even par through nine holes, but holed an improbable 64-foot eagle putt at No. 14 and added three birdies on the back nine to tie for ninth at 66 with Kramer Hickock, who birdied four of the first five holes in a bogey-free round, and Doc Redman, who birdied the last two holes in another flawless round. 

Tenth-ranked Dustin Johnson followed up his 63 in the final round of the Players with a 67 and is in a tie for 12th that includes Olympic Gold Medalist and ninth-ranked Xander Schauffele of La Jolla and San Diego State, while second-ranked Collin Morikawa of La Canada Flintridge and Cal is tied for 33rd at 68, and third-ranked Viktor Hovland of Norway shot 69 and is tied for 50th. 

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