The Upshot, Valspar Championship, Rd. 2
March 14, 2014
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM
- Kevin Na is the lone player in the field who is bogey-free through 36 holes at Innisbrook. (Greenwood/Getty Images)
PALM HARBOR, Fla. – On one hand, Kevin Na could be a little frustrated at all the 10- to 15-foot birdie chances that keep threatening the hole but refuse to fall.
On the other hand, being the only entrant at the Valspar Championship without a bogey isn’t a bad consolation.
“My misses have been playable and I’ve been chipping it very well,” said Na, who capped Friday’s 3-under 68 with a chip-in from just in front of the green at No. 9.
“Footage-wise, I haven’t made a lot of putts,” Na added. “But I feel like I’m stroking it well, which is good. … You’ve just got to be honest with yourself. It’s hard to hit a lot of close shots out here. You’ve just got to stay patient.”
Though he enters the weekend three shots behind leader Robert Garrigus, Na has been the most consistent player on Innisbrook’s Copperhead layout. He spurned Thursday’s windy, cold conditions for a 70 that featured 17 pars and one birdie.
On Friday, he faced three birdie tries inside 20 feet after making the turn. But his only birdies came on the two par-5s, before watching his chip from 23 feet away at No. 9 make a beeline for the hole.
“It’s kind of weird how that works out,” Na said. “You hit a lot of putts that are good putts but don’t go in. You’re trying to make a putt – then when you least expect it you have a little chip-in.”
Na is seeking the second victory of his career, the other coming better than two years ago on home soil at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas.
Shot of the Day
Kevin Na holes 23-foot chip shot for Shot of the Day
Par-5 magic: Looking for the secret to Garrigus’ success this week at the Copperhead? Check out his par-5 scoring.
Garrigus has birdied his way through all four par-5s each day, including a couple of eye-opening efforts during Friday’s 66.
After finding his ball nestled against a root near the first green, the Scottsdale pro hit a flop shot that went perhaps 30 feet straight up in the air before touching down about 10 feet from the flag.
Then at No. 14, Garrigus said he “got a little crazy” with an approach shot he squeezed through about a 4-foot window in the trees and into the wind. He was left with a simple pitch up an incline to set up a 5-foot birdie.
“I’ve birdied every single one of them in all different ways, “Garrigus said. “I’ve hit wedges and hit it on the green and two putted, I’ve got it around the green and chipped up close. I really wasn’t thinking about it. I was kind of in the moment [and] just kept plugging.”
Unexpected numbers: Jim Furyk was genuinely surprised to hear that he hit more fairways and greens during Friday’s 69 – two apiece – as compared to Thursday’s opening 71.
Furyk found the fairway 11 times on Friday, with 13 greens in regulation. Though he enters the weekend five shots behind Garrigus, he’s only two strokes out of second.
“I thought I hit it better yesterday, to be honest with you,” he said. “I probably felt a little more comfortable, especially on my second side, yesterday with my golf swing. And I had a lot more confidence where the ball was going.”
On Friday, though, Furyk produced the week’s first birdie when he chipped in at the Copperhead’s par-5 first hole after coming up short and left with his approach shot.
“I’ve missed my share of fairways, missed my share of greens,” Furyk said. “But I’ve done a good job of getting the ball up and down. I’ve pitched the ball real well this week.”
Wake-up call: Michael Putnam admits to arriving at Innisbrook this week with something of a chip on his shoulder. The Washington native was top dog on the Web.com Tour last year, but has struggled while seeing others make a smoother transition.
Last week’s Puerto Rico Open was especially disconcerting, as three men who finished behind him last year swept the top spots at Trump International. Chesson Hadley won in his 12th PGA TOUR start, followed by Danny Lee and Ben Martin.
“Last week was kind of a kick in the butt,” said Putnam, whose opening 69 left him one shot out of the Valspar lead but slid back with a Friday 72.
“I went down to play Puerto Rico and obviously saw all my Web.com buddies play well – Chesson winning and Danny Lee and all those guys. It kind of fired me up for this week.”
Putnam still is looking for his first top-30 finish, with his best so far coming in a share of 32nd at the Sony Open in Hawaii.
Fowl play: Speaking of Hadley, he had in interesting moment with one of the local residents of the Copperhead course. See the video below:
Duck tries to chase Chesson Hadley's golf ball at Valspar
TV change: NBC will go longer with Saturday’s coverage from Innisbrook, creating a four-hour telecast that begins at 2 p.m. ET.
The added hour shifts over from Golf Channel, which now will air early play for just 60 minutes starting at 1 p.m. before switching to spotlight coverage from the Copperhead’s “Snake Pit” trio of Nos. 16-18.
Sunday coverage remains the same, with Golf Channel showing two hours starting at 1 p.m. before handing off to the NBC team.
Call of the Day: Will Haskett from PGA TOUR Radio on SirusXM and PGATOUR.COM calls Russell Knox's chip-in birdie putt at the par-3 4th in the second round of the 2014 Valspar Championship.
Live play-by-play coverage of the third round streams from 12-6 p.m. ET Saturday on PGATOUR.COM.
Stats corner: John Daly’s 90 on Friday extends a dubious streak for the two-time major champion – he’s posted a round of 80 or higher in every year since joining the PGA TOUR in 1991. Five have been 87 or worse. … Until Friday, the last TOUR player with a round that didn’t break 90 came at the Mayakoba Classic two years ago, when Zack Miller shot 92. … Even with temperatures warming up into the mid-70s and slightly calmer winds, Friday’s scoring average of 72.59 was only slightly better than Thursday. … A total of 84 players made the cut at 3-over 145, meaning another cut will be made Saturday. Twenty players squeaked through on the number, including former British Open champion Darren Clarke, two-time U.S. Open winner Retief Goosen and last year’s runner-up Boo Weekley.