Paul Casey and Austin Cook share the lead at 5-under 66 at the Valspar Championship. Here's everything you need to follow Round 3 from Innisbrook Resort. Round 3 tee times Round 3 leaderboard HOW TO FOLLOW TELEVISION: Thursday-Friday, 2-6 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday-Sunday, 1-3 p.m. (GC), 3-6 p.m. (NBC). PGA TOUR LIVE: Thursday-Friday, 7:45 a.m.-6 p.m. ET (featured groups). Saturday-Sunday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. (featured groups), 3-6 p.m. (featured holes). International subscribers (via GOLFTV): Thursday-Friday, 11:45 to 22:00 GMT. Saturday-Sunday, 13:00 to 22:00. RADIO: Thursday-Friday, noon-6 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, 1-6 p.m. (PGA TOUR Radio on SiriusXM and PGATOUR.COM). NOTABLE GROUPS (ALL TIMES ET) Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia: 8:50 a.m. ET (No. 1) Russell Knox, Peter Uihlein: 9 a.m. ET (No. 1) Brandt Snedeker, Bubba Watson: 12:50 p.m. (No. 1) Rory Sabbatini, Jon Rahm: 1 p.m. (No. 1) MUST READS Stricker, an equipment loyalist, tries to embrace some new gear Riding high off a hot PLAYERS finish, Snedeker looks to pounce at Copperhead Perry not giving up on his '19 Farewell Tour For Bhatia, 17, Valspar a great taste of bigger days to come Luke Donald flashes old form at Innisbrook Female tournament directors no longer a novelty CALL OF THE DAY
23 Mar 2019
PALM HARBOR, Fla. – Brandt Snedeker has a fair amount of names between him and the top of the leaderboard at the Valspar Championship – 14, if you are counting – but he’s lurking. Traditionally at the demanding Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort, that’s a good position in which to be heading to the weekend. After opening with a pair of 1-under 70s, Snedeker feels he is close to finding real good form once again, having tied for fifth last weekend against the best field in golf at THE PLAYERS Championship. Back with instructor Todd Anderson once again, Snedeker, a nine-time PGA TOUR champion at age 38, has worked diligently to eliminate the left side of the golf course, misses that had troubled him for the last three seasons. Taking his “old” feels from the range to the course can been challenging, but he says he is getting closer each day. “Anytime that I start hitting shots left, I know the (right) arm is getting high in the backswing and the clubface is getting shut and I’m trying to hold on for dear life at that point,” he said. “If I can get that clubface more open in the backswing, it allows me to feel that I can release it harder and go.” And Snedeker appears ready to go. There were two ways he could view how he played a week at ago on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. He could be pleased with a very good finish (his best since losing in a three-way playoff at the season-opening Safeway Open) or could rue what might have been. After all, Snedeker was 4 over par through eight holes of his Thursday round (he rallied to shoot 69), and 3 over through eight holes one day later (he shot 72). On Sunday he bogeyed his final hole to shoot 69, having missed some good opportunities on 15 and 17 on his way to the clubhouse. But overall, his play in the heat of a Sunday at TPC Sawgrass marked a nice step. “I’m old enough and experienced enough now to not get so caught up on what happened on Sunday, knowing I hit a lot of great shots down the stretch, had a lot of putts to get up there tied for the lead and just didn’t make them,” he said. “Looking back on the week, I know the reason that it didn’t happen for me is that Thursday and Friday were kind of ‘suspect.’" “I try to take out the positives, that I was really, really close. I always think the great players out here find ways to win. It doesn’t matter how you start out, it’s how you finish, right? I look at last week and said I need to find a way to finish.” He did say his solid finish brought with it an added bonus: Snedeker arrived to the Copperhead this week carrying plenty of confidence. Though he has struggled at times with his ballstriking, his short game – old faithful – has pulled through nicely, and he’s right there on the weekend, trailing the leaders by only four shots. “I don’t think I’d have made the cut this week as bad as I hit it the first two days if I didn’t have that confidence building from last week,” Snedeker said. “I know that I’m one swing thought away now from something clicking. The golf course is playing really, really tough, and when it does that it’s great for me. Everybody starts missing greens and it turns into a short-game contest, and that’s right up my alley. I just need to hit a few more quality shots and take a few more chances, and I’ll be right there.”
22 Mar 2019
PALM HARBOR, Fla. - Paul Casey drove into Innisbrook and saw his picture on posters and programs, just what he needed to forget the cut he missed last week. He played Friday as though he wants those photos to stay here. Casey holed a 30-foot eagle putt on the 599-yard fifth hole and made short birdie putts on the other three par 5s on his way to a 5-under 66, giving him a share of the lead with Austin Cook among the early starters Friday in the Valspar Championship. No one has ever won back-to-back at the Valspar Championship since it became a PGA TOUR event in 2000. "I've never defended a professional event. I would love to do that," Casey said. "Mentally last year I was hoping I would win, wanting to win. This year, knowing that I have won around here, I have a slightly different approach to it, and I played today quite aggressively and tried to take advantage of the golf course that I knew was going to get very, very tough this afternoon." Casey and Cook, who shot a 67, were at 6-under 136. Scott Stallings (68) and Sungjae Im (67) were one shot behind, while Dustin Johnson overcame a rough patch early in his round with five birdies on the front nine to salvage a 69. Johnson was two shots behind on a Copperhead course he hasn't seen in nine years. Joel Dahmen and Sepp Straka, who shared the 18-hole lead at 5 under, were among those playing in the afternoon. Casey last year ended eight years without winning on the PGA TOUR when he closed with a 65 and had to wait to see if Tiger Woods and Patrick Reed could catch him. It was the centerpiece of a resurgence for Casey, a 41-year-old from England who is back among the top 16 in the FedExCup standings. He opened in the morning calm with a 10-foot birdie putt and did the rest of his damage on the par 5s. The eagle putt followed a blind shot over a hill on the longest hole at Innisbrook. He went bunker-to-bunker on his final hole at No. 9 and made bogey to slip into a tie with Cook. "Everybody is going to make bogeys. If you can just minimize those, it puts you in a good position," Casey said. He spent the opening two rounds with Johnson, who had to maximize his birdies after his start. Johnson thought he might have had too much club on the par-3 13th and was stunned to learn that it had come up short enough to catch the slope and roll down toward the water, leading to double bogey. On the next hole, a par 5 where he had to lay up from the rough, Johnson had a 104-yard wedge for his third shot that traveled only about 50 yards. There was a reason for that. "As soon as he hit it, he said, `Just don't go in a divot,'" said Austin Johnson, his brother and caddie. It found a divot. "It was big," Johnson said, holding his hands about a foot part, which might have been a slight exaggeration. "I mean, it was long. It was deep. It wasn't... I don't think it was from a professional." He managed to get that up-and-down by making a 5-footer to avoid losing another shot. Johnson started the front nine with four birdies in five holes, including one birdie putt from 35 feet on No. 3, and is back in the game. Gary Woodland also played with them and three-putted from 7 feet for double bogey on his last hole for a 71 that was almost certain to miss the cut. Woodland had the longest active cut streak on the PGA TOUR at 22, last going home on the weekend at THE PLAYERS Championship last May. On the other side of the course was 17-year-old Akshay Bhatia in his PGA TOUR debut. Playing on a sponsor exemption, he was at 3 under for the day and even par for the tournament through eight holes until a muffed chip and a missed putt led to double bogey at No. 9 that killed his momentum. Bhatia bogeyed his last two holes for a 72 and finished at 4-over 146 to miss the cut. He plans to turn pro later this year after the Walker Cup if he makes the team. The cheers he heard in some corners of Innisbrook were inspiring, especially behind the 12th green, where the rowdy fans chanted his first name to make it sound like the "Ole" cheer at the Ryder Cup. "It was sick. That was dope," Bhatia said, adding that he hopes he can hear that at the Ryder Cup "in five, six years down the road."
22 Mar 2019
PALM HARBOR, Fla. – Some players want to change equipment every time the wind shifts, enamored with the newest clubs and technology. And then there are traditionalists such as battle-tested warhorse Steve Stricker. It’s only mildly surprising that he is not still swinging hickory shafts. Stricker, splitting time between the PGA TOUR and PGA Tour Champions this season, is a creature of habit, a man loyal to his tools, who finds what he likes and resists change with every fiber of his being. Stricker, 52, has carried the same trusty putter, an Odyssey White Hot 2, for 17 seasons. Last year, he noticed the shaft was slightly bent, the putter's grip area “all pitted out” from years of practice green work and residual wear and tear from a concoction of sweat and sunscreen. When he brought the putter to technicians on the PGA TOUR to change out the shaft, they studied the white face insert and suggested that Stricker might want to run a credit card across it to check for flatness. “And sure enough,” Stricker said Friday at the Valspar Championship, “there’s an indentation in the face.” Too much use, and too many made putts. A backup was built for him that he temporarily put into play before he was informed by Brandt Snedeker that a new face insert actually could be installed on the original. So Stricker had one put in, and this week marked the first time he and his faithful 17-year-old flatstick were reunited. So that was that with his putter, though he said he didn’t roll the ball particularly great (62 putts) over two days at Innisbrook’s Copperhead Course. Stricker shot 73-71 and missed the cut by a shot. “It wasn’t the putter,” he said. “It was the puttee.” But the putter wasn’t the last of his equipment challenges. He wanted to pull his old trusty KBS shafts out of his iron set (the heads are older model, Titleist 710 AP2s), but soon learned that all the tips of the shafts were bent from overuse and time. (He said the shafts dated to 2011 or 2012). “They said, ‘We can’t use these shafts,’” Stricker said. So at Valspar, he not only had new shafts in his irons (Project X, 6.5 flex) but even had different heads, too (Titleist 718 CBs). Stricker’s wife, Nicki, who caddied for him this week at Valspar, rightly told her husband that he probably needs to start changing equipment more frequently. “Yeah,” Stricker said somewhat reluctantly, “I guess that it shows that I should change out and pay attention a little bit more.” Suffice to say, the old stuff still worked pretty good. Stricker won three of his seven starts on the PGA TOUR Champions last season. You don’t mess with success.
22 Mar 2019
PALM HARBOR, Fla. – Elton John is on a farewell tour in 2019. So is rocker Bob Seger. And don’t forget golfer Kenny Perry. He may not be selling t-shirts to tournament attendees, but he is the midst of one last go-around, too. Perry, 58, firmly established as a force on the PGA TOUR Champions (where he has won 10 times, including the 2017 U.S. Senior Open), decided to use his career top-50 earnings exemption this season to go back and compete at some of his favorite PGA TOUR spots. Innisbrook’s Copperhead is one of those tracks he loves, with Perry having played here 10 times since 2000. Friday, he was inside the cutline at the Valspar Championship with two holes to play before a double-bogey at the par-3 eighth (his 17th) would send him home early once again. For those keeping track, that’s five starts and no made cuts this season for Perry, who a decade ago on the PGA TOUR still was a cash machine. You know what? He may be 0-for-5, but Perry nonetheless is managing to enjoy himself. When Jim Furyk, soon to be 49, talked earlier this week about staying competitive on the regular tour beyond his 50th birthday, he pointed to Perry, with a heaping of respect and a dash of amazement. “When I think back,” Furyk said, “Kenny Perry was a stud at 48, 49. He was playing on Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup teams and not only playing on those teams, he was one of our best players on those teams.” But Perry said Friday at Valspar that competing against the young guns on lengthy PGA TOUR layouts – Innisbrook’s Copperhead this week is a par 71 measuring 7,340 yards – is something he doesn’t possess the firepower to do any longer. “My results tell me that I can’t play out here,” Perry, a 14-time winner who has made 648 PGA TOUR starts and has more than $32 million in career earnings, said after a second-round 72 left him at 3-over 145. “I don’t hit it far enough and I don’t spin the ball enough. I mean, I’m playing with Louis Oosthuizen, and his ball is spinning and dancing all over the place out there.” When Perry won the U.S. Senior Open two years ago, he talked about struggling to find the motivation needed to get him playing good golf again. Asked if competing against the best players in the world was motivating him, he said, “Honestly, it probably works the other way for me. It just tells me that I can’t play out here. That’s OK. I love being out here, and love watching friends of mine like Scott Stallings and Justin Thomas compete. I’ve almost become a fan. I’m 58, and I still love to compete.” Perry will return to the PGA TOUR Champions next week when it visits Biloxi, Miss., but he’ll soon be back for more action on the PGA TOUR. He wants to play Colonial, where he’s won, and Memorial, where he’s won, and possibly Hilton Head. “I’m definitely playing the 3M, too,” he said, referencing the first-year PGA TOUR event in Minneapolis at TPC Twin Cities, which has undergone some significant changes to better challenge PGA TOUR professionals. “I’ve won that event three times on the PGA TOUR Champions – though it won’t on the same golf course.”
22 Mar 2019