Defending champion Sam Burns shares lead at PGA Valspar after Day I

Defending champion Sam Burns of the United States plays a shot from a bunker on the 16th hole during the first round of the Valspar Championship on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club.

Miami: Defending champion Sam Burns closed with back-to-back birdies to match Venezuela’s Jhonattan Vegas, Canada’s Adam Hadwin and US compatriot David Lipsky for the lead after Thursday’s opening round of the US PGA Valspar Championship.

Burns, Vegas, Lipsky and Hadwin each fired seven-under par 64s at Innisbrook resort’s Copperhead course in Palm Harbour, Florida.

Only Lipsky, chasing his first US PGA title, had a bogey-free round, his longest birdie putt from just outside 10 feet.

“My iron play was excellent. I hit it close a lot,” Lipsky said. “I didn’t really leave myself too many stressful par saves. Drove it relatively straight and that’s a formula to go well.”

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The only first-round Valspar leader or co-leader to win the title was South Korean K.J. Choi in 2002. New Zealand’s Danny Lee and Americans Scott Stallings, Davis Riley and Richy Werenski shared fifth on 65.

World number 17 Burns won his only other PGA title last October at the Sanderson Farms Championship but has fond memories of last year’s victory.

“I’ll look back forever on that event, it being my first win,” Burns said. “Wins don’t happen out here often, so I think it’s good to reflect and just be extremely grateful.”

The 25-year-old American birdied three of four par-5 holes and all four par-3 holes, the last a tap-in at the 17th after putting an 8-iron shot inches from the cup. Burns made a 14-foot birdie putt at the 18th.

“I honestly thought I missed it,” Burns said. “It hit something and kind of shot a little right halfway. But it caught the right side.”

Hadwin, a 34-year-old back-nine starter who won the 2017 Valpsar title, birdied four of his last five holes. He sank a birdie from beyond 36 feet at the 18th, holed another from beyond 26 feet at the sixth and finished with a birdie putt from just inside 24 feet at the ninth.

“A lot of things went right to shoot 64 around this place,” Hadwin said. “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.

“Just a lot of good quality iron shots, working off the center of the greens to the pins, giving myself chances... This golf course rewards patience and I took advantage of that today.”

Two-time major winner Dustin Johnson opened with a 67 in his 300th PGA Tour start. “It could have been a couple better. I hit it really nicely, drove it pretty good, just struggled with the speed on the greens,” Johnson said. “They’re a little bit a lot slower than normal.”

South African Charl Schwartzel, the 2011 Masters champion and 2016 Valspar winner, holed out for eagle from 194 yards at the par-16th.

Selected scores
-7 Sam Burns (USA) 64

Adam Hadwin (Canada) 64

David Lipsky (USA) 64

Jhonattan Vegas (Venezuela) 64

-6 Danny Lee (New Zealand) 65

Davis Riley (USA) 65

Scott Stallings (USA) 65

Richy Werenski (USA) 65

-5 Kramer Hickok (USA) 66

Doc Redman (USA) 66

Justin Thomas (USA) 66

-4 Stewart Cink (USA) 67

Matthew Fitzpatrick (England) 67

Tommy Fleetwood (England) 67

Brice Garnett (USA) 67

Brian Harman (USA) 67

Dustin Johnson (USA) 67

Blake Kennedy (USA) 67

Brooks Koepka (USA) 67

Matt Kuchar (USA) 67

William McGirt (USA) 67

Matthew NeSmith (USA) 67

Louis Oosthuizen (South Africa) 67

Pat Perez (USA) 67

Chez Reavie (USA) 67

Xander Schauffele (USA) 67

Greyson Sigg (USA) 67

Webb Simpson (USA) 67

J.J. Spaun (USA) 67

Kevin Streelman (USA) 67

Sahith Theegala (USA) 67

Gary Woodland (USA) 67 

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