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4-way tie for the lead at windy Innisbrook PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, March 13, 2014 8:00 PM

By DOUG FERGUSON

Associated Press

PALM HARBOR, Fla. — Matt Every made the best of the worst conditions Thursday at Innisbrook. Danny Lee, finally, seems to be playing good golf in any weather.

They were among a 4-way tie for the lead after the opening round of the Valspar Championship, a day so challenging that 3-under 68 was the highest score to lead after the first round in the 14-year history of this event.

Pat Perez and Greg Chalmers also had 68s to share the lead.

Every was the only one among the leaders to play in the morning, when the temperatures were in the mid-50s and felt even colder because of a strong wind. He had three birdies on his last four holes, all of them about 15 feet or longer, and was five shots better than he would have hoped when he teed off.

The temperature warmed under full sunshine in the afternoon, though that only helped a little. Only three players broke 70 in the morning, with the average score nearly 3½ shots over par. Eight players broke 70 in the afternoon, and the average for the day turned out to be 72.6.

Lee was in the last group; how he got to Tampa Bay explains why he was one of the leaders.

The former U.S. Amateur champion had missed every cut this year and six straight dating to the OHL Classic in Mexico last November. That changed last week in the Puerto Rico Open, when he posted all four rounds in the 60s to finish second to Chesson Hadley.

That got him into the field at Innisbrook, and Lee kept right on rolling.

He ran off three birdies in five holes to start his round and was the only player all day to reach 4 under with a birdie on the par-5 first. He dropped his only shot on No. 6 when he failed to get up-and-down from the bunker.

Only 25 players managed to break par.

Matteo Manassero, who didn’t break 74 in four rounds at Doral last week, was in the large group at 69 that included Nicolas Colsaerts and Bill Haas. Russell Knox, who lost in a 4-man playoff two weeks ago at the Honda Classic, was in the group at 70. John Merrick made bogey on his last two holes for a 70, while Peter Uihlein made birdie on two of his last three holes, including a 35-foot putt on his last hole, for a 70.

This is a big week for Uihlein, a European Tour member, who is No. 73 in the world. He has only two more tournaments to try to get into the top 50 in the world and become eligible for the Masters.

Justin Rose, at No. 7 the highest-ranked player in the world at Innisbrook, Luke Donald and 20-year-old Jordan Spieth were among those at 70.

More cold was expected this morning before the warming trend returns the rest of the week. That means Lee, Perez and the others could face wind and cold at the start of their second round.

Lee can only draw comparisons with his game, not the course or the conditions.

He had never been to the Copperhead course, regarded by many as perhaps the best tournament course in Florida. He played a practice round Tuesday and jokingly said he would have shot about a 90.

Every traded birdies and bogeys until a strong finish. He made birdie putts of 15 feet on the sixth and seventh holes, then made a 20-foot birdie putt on the par-3 eighth and he made par from a fairway bunker on his last hole.

Perez played well on the West Coast, earning nearly $1 million, then took three weeks off. He worked a little with his coach but felt some rust early, so he was happy to get around Innisbrook at 68. And he was lucky to be playing late.

DIVOTS: Angel Cabrera opened with a 72 with a backup set of clubs and rain gear belonging to swing coach Charlie Epps. Cabrera took one airline from Buenos Aires through Santiago and into Miami. The last he heard, his clubs and luggage were being shipped on another airline through Los Angeles. … Blake Adam withdrew with a hip injury after opening with a 78. Adams missed all but two tournaments last season with surgery on his left hip.

TROPHY HASSAN II

AGADIR, Morocco — Spain’s Alejandro Canizares shot a 10-under 62 in windy conditions at Golf du Palais Royal to take a 1-stroke lead after the first round of the Trophy Hassan II.

Canizares had 11 birdies and a bogey for the lowest score in his European Tour career. England’s Seve Benson was second after a 63 and American Connor Arendell and Sweden’s Magnus Carlsson followed at 65.

The Robert Trent Jones Sr.-designed Palais Royal sits inside the walls of the Royal Palace of Agadir. Other than the tournament, the course is used only by King Mohammed VI and his guests.

 

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