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Kevin Streelman leads after first round of 2024 Valspar Championship

2024 Valspar Championship

Justin Thomas walks off of the first tee during the first round of the 2024 Valspar Championship. (Photo: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports)

Justin Thomas stepped up at the par-3, 192-yard eight hole, his 17th hole of the day, and drilled a 6-iron to 2 feet for birdie.

“It’s just a strength of my game, so that’s why I like it,” Thomas said of the Copperhead Course, a ball-striker’s paradise that seems ideally suited for the two-time major winner’s game.

Thomas, who has three top-10 finishes including a T-3 in 2022 at this tournament, capped off the day with an 11-foot birdie putt at No. 9, to shoot 3-under 68 in the opening round of the Valspar Championship.

Thomas, who is winless since the 2022 PGA Championship and coming off a down season in which he ranked No. 71 in the FedEx Cup standings and missed the playoffs for the first time in his career, had a scrappy first round. He was even after his first 10 holes, making a birdie at No. 14 and failing to get up and down from a bunker at No. 16, his lone bogey of the day. He got back into red figures by sinking a 20-foot birdie putt at No. 2, before his birdie-birdie finish. But he also failed to take advantage of the three par 5 holes on the course. 

“[My caddie] said after we made that par on 5, ‘Let’s try to get (birdies on) two of these last four’ kind of thing. That’s the thing about this course is if you do drive it well, you do have some pretty scorable clubs with how receptive the greens are right now. But they’re very difficult greens to read. They’re very grainy and it’s just kind of a lot of subtle slope or it’s a very big slope.”

And how did he drive off the tee in the first round? Thomas, who hit just 7 of 13 fairways and lost nearly a stroke to the field off the tee (ranked 120th out of a field of 152), didn’t sugarcoat it. 

“I didn’t feel like I drove it very well,” he said. “Actually, I know I didn’t drive it very well. I salvaged and scrambled really well.”

Thomas missed the cut last week at the Players Championship, but he’s recorded four top-12 finishes this season. He notched his ninth round of the season (out of 20) of making either one or zero bogeys after only having 13 such rounds all last season (18 percent). 


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