PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- Here are a few observations after Thursday's first round of the Valspar Championship, where Keegan Bradley, Charles Howell III and Ken Duke own the lead after matching 67s. For more on Round 1 at the Copperhead Course, click here for the Daily Wrap-up.
1. GOOD VIBRATIONS: Keegan Bradley was 13 years old the first time he set foot on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort. The teen was there to caddie for his dad, Mark, who was playing with his sister, World Golf Hall of Famer Pat Bradley, in the JCPenney Classic.
"I thought it was so cool," Keegan recalled.
Thursday at the Valspar Championship was great fun, too.
The 67 Bradley shot was his lowest score of 2016 and helped reaffirm the hard work Bradley has put in with his new coach, Darren May, a pro at The Bears Club who also teaches Camilo Villegas. The two started working together after the first of the year.
"He's got some very progressive ways of practicing," Bradley said. "He's got this every-ball-counts kind of mentality and it's very regimented practice routines, which are pretty interesting. ... We've been working hard. It's good to see some good scores."
Particularly after Bradley missed the cut in four of the five events he's played in 2016. The 2011 PGA champ, who hasn't won since the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational the following year, is ready to start contending again.
"It's no fun playing poorly out here," Bradley said. "I see all my buddies up there doing well and it feels not fun to feel like you're on the outside looking in."
One player Bradley does like to see playing well is Adam Scott, who won the last two PGA TOUR events. Like Bradley, Scott had to transition from an anchored putter to a short version. To see the Aussie prosper gives him a boost.
"It's awesome," Bradley said. "I was surprised how much that felt good for me. To see him win twice and make some putts, that actually really did get me motivated, made me feel good. So, thanks for that."
Keegan Bradley amongst a three-way tie at the Valspar Championship
2. IDEAL DRAW: When Charles Howell stepped to the first tee at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday the wind was "humming pretty good." By the time he hit the back nine, though, the breezes had subsided a bit, and Howell surprised himself by making his way around Copperhead without a bogey, one of just three players to accomplish the feat.
"This golf course is so difficult and there's trouble everywhere," said Howell, who added he probably got the better part of the draw on Thursday. "I don't expect tomorrow to be a bogey-free day, but (I'll) just try to hang in there.
"... I'm quite sure it's going to be windy again tomorrow as well. So, anything around par, if you can sneak a couple birdies in, you're ahead."
Howell, who says Copperhead has always felt a little "major-esque" to him, was steady on Thursday and took full advantage of his opportunities. Three of his four birdies came from inside 4 feet, including a 9-inch tap-in at the par-3 eighth, while he drained a 46-footer at the 11th, a 575-yard par 5.
The Augusta, Georgia, native is running out of time to get back into his hometown major, the Masters Tournament. So he needs to end an eight-year winless drought or move into the top 50 in the Official Golf World Ranking on March 28, 2016. (He's currently No. 128).
Thursday marked the eighth time this season that Howell, who has seven top-20s in 11 starts, has opened with a round in the 60s. He's got three top-10s at the Valspar Championship, too, including a T2 in 2009 and a share of 10th last year.
"You never really know what to expect," Howell said. "I've had a lot of nice finishes (this year), but I haven't been really up near the top. So it was nice to get off to a good start here on a place like this.
"I'm not sure what the rest of the week will hold, but to actually play a nice round today on a tough golf course is good for my confidence."
3. DUKE MISTAKE-FREE: His round wasn't perfect by any means. He only hit eight fairways and just 10 greens in regulation.
But Ken Duke managed to maneuver his way around a windswept Copperhead layout without making a bogey to earn his share of the lead with Bradley and Howell. Plus, he showed a flair for the dramatic, chipping in for birdies at the 15th and 18th holes.
The 67 wasn't Duke's lowest of the year -- he shot two strokes better on Friday at The Honda Classic -- but it did mark just the third time in 12 rounds that he'd broken 70.
"We didn't try to get too aggressive and just tried to keep it in front of us," Duke said. "Lot of golf to be played, but it's always good to get off to a good start."
Duke, who won the 2013 Travelers Championship, went to see his long-time instructor, the World Golf Hall of Famer Bob Toski, last week. He feels like the work paid dividends on Thursday.
"I like (the Copperhead Course) because I hit it straight and you have to hit it straight here," Duke said. "I flight the ball and I have to flight it here because of the wind. ... (I've) got to be patient."
QUOTE OF THE DAYWhat good is kicking the door other than hurting my foot and (having to) withdraw? I'm kidding. No, I'll be fine.
CALL OF THE DAY
Blayne Barber’s superb approach hops in for eagle at the Valspar Championship.
Free play-by-play coverage of the second round streams from 12-6 p.m. ET Friday on PGATOUR.COM.
SHOT OF THE DAY
Shot of the Day
Blayne Barber's one-hop eagle is the Shot of the Day
Very tricky day at @ValsparChamp, Windy all day. Solid start even though im +1. Quick pizza & bed. I'm up in 11 hours with a 6.50 tee time.— Ian Poulter (@IanJamesPoulter) March 10, 2016
Thanks alot y'all.. Tough course but I think i may be onto something. Hope to continue nicely tmrw— Will Wilcox (@willwilcoxgolf) March 10, 2016
Tough here at the @Valsparchamp this morning. Gusting winds and a tough track. Couple of late bogeys after hanging tough all day. +3— Graeme McDowell (@Graeme_McDowell) March 10, 2016
Gotta love old school courses like Tampa. In my opinion one of the best on tour. Short courses can still be tough.....— John Peterson (@JohnPetersonLSU) March 10, 2016
This course is hard. ⛳️ pic.twitter.com/4Nz5iW082H— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 10, 2016