Bradley opens up two-shot lead after first day at Valspar Championship

By Sports Desk April 29, 2021

Former PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley rattled off four birdies from the last five holes to open up a two-shot lead on the opening day of the Valspar Championship at Palm Harbor on Thursday.

The 34-year-old American, who is currently ranked 63rd, missed only one green on a day of low scoring as he carded a seven-under 64.

Bradley hit two birdies on the front nine, before accelerating on the back nine with five birdies from his final seven holes to claim a good lead ahead of five players tied in second.

"I know that I'm going to have some bogeys and some stress coming," Bradley said. "But as for today, I played so good and it feels good to go around a course like this and shoot that score."

Argentina's Emiliano Grillo along with American quartet Ryan Moore, Hank Lebioda, Max Homa and Patton Kizzire finished with five-under 66s to sit behind Bradley on the leaderboard.

World number two Justin Thomas is five back after a two-under 69 despite an eagle on the first, with three bogeys slowing him up.

Top ranked Dustin Johnson finished the opening day further back with an even 71, where he had a mixed front nine with three birdies and two bogeys, while Phil Mickelson shot 73 to start.

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    "It's tough, you know, to finish like that," he said. "A really good week, but I didn't play really well today.

    "I just needed to do a couple more birdies, and hit it a little bit better to win.

    "I'm just happy with how the week turned out – on Monday I just wanted to make the cut, and on Sunday I wanted to win. I'll take this and learn for the future."

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    "[The drive] wasn't a good stroke, but I just wasn't thinking about the water. I thought it was weird that it went in [the water]. 

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    "Bones [caddie Jim 'Bones' Mackay] did an unbelievable job of just keeping me in the moment and I just tried to play the golf course for what it is.

    "This place is so tough. It was funny – I was asked earlier in the week about what lead is safe and I said 'no lead' because this place is so tough. But if you hit the fairways you can make birdies, and I stayed so patient. 

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    Later when speaking to Sky Sports, Thomas reflected on just how difficult it is to win a major after some questioned if he would finish his career with just the one, and admitted he did not check the leaderboard all day.

    "It is very, very special," he said. "Anytime you win is obviously great, but getting it done different ways teaches you a lot. 

    "This golf course is tough. Winning tournaments is tough. Winning a major is tough.

    "I just tried to stay patient, and I felt when I somehow got myself in the play-off it was time to get after it and get it done.

    "I did not look at the leaderboard today – Bones did an unbelievable job of just keeping me in the moment. We were just out playing Southern Hills on a beautiful day, on a Sunday.

    "I could kind of feel through the energy in the crowd that I had a chance, and I know that all the players up ahead of me are great players, but had not won a major, and it is a big moment. 

    "I know I am very nervous, so I know they are very nervous, and I just tried to tell myself that all I can do is control what I can and if it's good enough, great, if not, so be it.

    "It is awesome. it is so nice to hear two-time [champion] instead of one-time."

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