Steve Stricker, who is a part-time player on the PGA Tour these days, carded a 5-under-par 66 to tie Will MacKenzie for the lead midway through the Valspar Championship on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, Fla.
The 49-year-old Stricker, who has missed the cut in three of his five starts this year, holed his second shot with a 7-iron from 150 yards for an eagle on the 10th hole and added four birdies–making his lone bogey at the eighth hole.
“I’ve been playing quite a bit and I needed to, because my game was not good and I was not tournament ready,” said Stricker, who has won 12 times on the PGA Tour, but not since the 2012 Hyundai Tournament of Champions the year he cut back on his schedule.
“That’s the struggle with not playing a lot, is I can do OK on the range, but to bring it out on the golf course under tournament conditions is another thing. I’m getting there. That’s the exciting part. I’m starting to hit some quality shots under the gun and making some putts under the gun.”
MacKenzie, who has two PGA Tour victories but whose best finish in 11 tournaments this season was a tie for 51st in the Honda Classic, birdied four of the first seven holes and then sank a 37-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to post a 67.
Daniel Berger, the 2015 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, made his only bogey on the final hole of a 67 and was one stroke back in a tie for third with Graham DeLaet of Canada, who eagled the first hole to kick-start a 66, and Bill Haas, who collected five birdies in a 67.
Retief Goosen of South Africa, the 2009 Valspar champion, birdied the last two holes for a 69 to wind up two shots back in a tie for sixth with Scott Brown (69), Justin Thomas (67), Ryan Moore (69), Charles Howell III (72) and Jerry Kelly (69).
Top-ranked Jordan Spieth, the defending champion, bounced back from a 76 with a 68 and was seven strokes behind in a tie for 43rd, while first-round co-leader Keegan Bradley followed a 67 by carding three double bogeys in a 79 and missed the cut by one shot.