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Hadwin, Burns, Vegas and Lipsky share PGA Valspar lead

MIAMI (AFP) – Defending champion Sam Burns closed with back-to-back birdies to match Venezuela’s Jhonattan Vegas, Canada’s Adam Hadwin and United States (US) compatriot David Lipsky for the lead after Thursday’s opening round of the US PGA Valspar Championship.

Burns, Vegas, Lipsky and Hadwin each fired seven-under par 64s at Innisbrook resort’s Copperhead course in Palm Harbor, Florida.

Only Lipsky, chasing his first US PGA title, had a bogey-free round, his longest birdie putt from just outside 10 feet.

“My iron play was excellent. I hit it close a lot,” Lipsky said. “I didn’t really leave myself too many stressful par saves. Drove it relatively straight and that’s a formula to go well.”

The only first-round Valspar leader or co-leader to win the title was South Korean KJ Choi
in 2002.

New Zealand’s Danny Lee and Americans Scott Stallings, Davis Riley and Richy Werenski shared fifth on 65.

World number 17 Burns won his only other PGA title last October at the Sanderson Farms Championship but has fond memories of last year’s victory.

“I’ll look back forever on that event, it being my first win,” Burns said. “Wins don’t happen out here often, so I think it’s good to reflect and just be extremely grateful.”

The 25-year-old American birdied three of four par-five holes and all four par-three holes, the last a tap-in at the 17th after putting an eight-iron shot inches from the cup. Burns made a 14-foot birdie putt at the 18th.

“I honestly thought I missed it,” Burns said. “It hit something and kind of shot a little right halfway. But it caught the right side.”

Hadwin, a 34-year-old back-nine starter who won the 2017 Valpsar title, birdied four of his last five holes. He sank a birdie from beyond 36 feet at the 18th, holed another from beyond 26 feet at the sixth and finished with a birdie putt from just inside 24 feet at the ninth.

“A lot of things went right to shoot 64 around this place,” Hadwin said. “Just a lot of good consistent golf. I wouldn’t say that I felt great off the tee, but I was never in any trouble. I hit it really well.”