Golf: Lee holds first round lead

Danny Lee. Photo / Getty Images
Danny Lee. Photo / Getty Images

Danny Lee has continued his recent run of fine form to share the lead after the opening round of the PGA Tour's Valspar Championship in Palm Harbour, Florida.

Starting on the back nine, the 23-year-old birdied the 11th, 12th and 15th to move into a share of first at the turn. Another birdie on the par five 1st hole saw Lee take the sole lead at four-under before he recorded his only bogey of the day at the 6th hole.

He finished with a three-under 68 to share the lead with America's Matt Every, Pat Perez and Australian Greg Chalmers.

Last week Lee recorded his best finish on the PGA Tour with a second at Puerto Rico Open.

Lee banked the biggest payday of his career last week when he earned US$378,000 (NZD$446,000), easily beating his win of the WNB Classic on the Web.Com Tour in 2012 where he earned US$124,000.

The winner's cheque at the Valspar Championship is US$1,026,000.

Lee was in the last group, and how he got to Tampa Bay explains why he was one of the leaders.

The former U.S. Amateur champion had missed every cut this year, and six straight dating to the OHL Classic in Mexico last November. That changed last week in the Puerto Rico Open, when he posted all four rounds in the 60s to finish second to Chesson Hadley.

That got him into the field at Innisbrook, and Lee kept right on rolling.

"I gained a lot of confidence after last week playing with the finish in Puerto Rico,'' Lee said. "It really helped me a lot with that confidence stuff, and I'm hitting it really well right now. My ball striking is the best it's ever been, especially with the putting. I got the new claw grip still working great, which is fantastic.''

Only 25 players managed to break par.

More cold was expected tomorrow before the warming trend returns the rest of the week. That means Lee, Perez and the others could face wind and cold at the start of their second round.

Lee can only draw comparisons with his game, not the course or the conditions.

He had never been to the Copperhead course, regarded by many as perhaps the best tournament course in Florida. He played a practice round Tuesday and jokingly said he would have shot about a 90.

"I was shocked how hard it was,'' he said. "Without the wind and the cold weather even we're playing in nice weather it's a very tough golf course.''

Every traded birdies and bogeys until a strong finish. He made birdie putts of 15 feet on the sixth and seventh holes, and then made a 20-foot birdie putt on the par-3 eighth and he made par from a fairway bunker on his last hole.

"I've played enough to know the first round doesn't matter that much,'' Every said. "This place is just going to be about not making doubles and taking yourself out of the tournament.''

- With AP

- NZ Herald

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