The Fresh Coat - Thursday March 10

11 Mar

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Large crowds highlighted the first day of the Valspar Championship presented by BB&T, even as strong, gusting winds sent some scores soaring on the difficult Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor.

Friday’s cut could challenge the tournament record of +3 (three times), as the breezy conditions, especially in the morning, made the always-tough Copperhead very resistant to scoring on Thursday. The 73.222 scoring average was the third-highest for any round in tournament history and the highest in a first round.

Two players who defied the conditions were the winner of the 2011 PGA Championship, Keegan Bradley, and veterans Ken Duke and Charles Howell III who carded four-under-par 67s.

Bradley is returning to the Copperhead after a five-year absence, although he also remembered his time on the course as a 13-year-old caddie for his father Mark Bradley who played in the 1998 JCPenney Classic with Keegan’s aunt Pat Bradley. “I thought it was so cool. It’s fun to be back out there.”

Duke is playing in the tournament for the ninth time. He finished one-shot out of the four-man playoff in 2012 (won by Luke Donald).

Howell III had a gallery that included his friend former Buccaneers great Ronde Barber. Howell, a native of August, Georga, said afterwards he saw a reminder that The Masters is a month and he has not qualified for his hometown event since 2012.

Retief Goosen, a two-time champion on the Copperhead, was among the total of just 24 players who broke par with a 70. But it was a tough day for the nine other former champions in the field, as defending champ Jordan Spieth shot 76, Sean O’Hair had to withdraw due to a neck injury and none broke par.

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After play was completed Thursday, country music giants Rascal Flatts performed a rousing concert on the Osprey Driving Range in the 2nd VALSPAR Live! event. A crowd of approximately 12,500 attended.

There were not any holes-in-one in the first round, but Blayne Barber did eagle the par-4 12th hole. It marked the fifth eagle in tournament history at the hole…With the wind blowing so strongly, the water at the par-3 13th hole was hit frequently. There were 16 scores of double bogey or higher at 13 on Thursday and just 47 at the other 17 holes combined…Greg Yates, a sponsor exemption by virtue of his victory in the 2015 Valspar Collegiate Invitational while at Texas A&M, shot 69.

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Live coverage of the Valspar Championship on the Golf Channel will begin at 3 p.m. on Friday with Spieth’s bid to make the cut (he tees off Hole #1 at 12:57) sure to be featured.

In addition, there will be plenty of action in the morning, some of it featured on PGA TOUR LIVE’s exclusive early-round coverage of two Featured Groups from 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. ET. The groups featured are Russell Knox-Justin Thomas-Jason Dufner and Matt Kuchar-Louis Oosthuizen-Ernie Els.

Following the featured group coverage, PGA TOUR LIVE will switch to complimentary featured hole coverage (No. 15 and No. 17) on Thursday and Friday from 3-6 p.m. Visit pgatourlive.com for more information.

Fans can register for a free seven-day trial at PGATOURLIVE.COM or download from the Apple App Store or Google Play.

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