Los Angeles Times

Brehm aces opening round for share of lead


Ryan Brehm turned a good round into a memorable one Thursday, making a hole-in-one on the par-three 17th hole at Innisbrook for a five-under 66 that led to a three-way share of the lead at the Valspar Championsh­ip at Palm Harbor, Fla.

Stephan Jaeger also had a 66, while Adam Schenk joined them with the low score in the afternoon on the Copperhead course.

Jordan Spieth, back at Innisbrook for the first time in five years, had a bogeyfree round and was particular­ly sharp with the putter, making birdie putts of 60 feet and 30 feet on his way to a 67. Also at 67 were former U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover and Maverick McNealy.

This is the first lead for Brehm since he won the Puerto Rico Open last year in his final start to try to keep a PGA Tour card. It hasn’t been the smoothest road since then. Brehm has made only three cuts this season — one of them at Kapalua — and is fresh off an 80 in the second round last week at the Players Championsh­ip.

“We’ve been grinding for a little while since then to try and find some good form again, and hopefully ... it’s been showing signs of good play,” he said.

His ace came with a sixiron from 196 yards, and he closed with a par. It was his 11th time in the 60s in 43 rounds on the PGA Tour this season.

Jaeger had seven birdies in the morning, which started with temperatur­es cold enough for some players to wear beanies and extra layers.

Schenk finished his round with a 10-foot par save on the par-three eighth hole, and then after going bunker to bunker on the ninth, made a par putt from five feet.

Tommy Fleetwood was at 68, while the group at 69 included two-time defending champion Sam Burns and Justin Thomas, at No. 10 the highest-ranked player in the field.

Scoring is never particular­ly low at Innisbrook, highly regarded as a tournament course with tree-lined fairways, elevation and not nearly as much water as so many courses in Florida.

“I’m not comfortabl­e out there at all, but I don’t think anybody really is — maybe Sam Burns; he’s won it a couple times,” Brehm said. “But I think it’s a good test of golf. Golf ’s not supposed to be easy, I don’t think, and the course does a good job of making you think.”

No one had a tougher start than U.S. Open champion Matt Fitzpatric­k.

On the third hole, Fitzpatric­k

pulled his tee shot out of play. His third shot from the tee found the water, and after a penalty drop, he came up short of the bunker and then from there, short of the green. It added to a nine, and he followed with consecutiv­e bogeys.

Hoag Classic starts

Bernhard Langer is in the field for the Hoag Classic and has another chance to try to win and break the PGA Tour Champions record for career victories when the tournament starts Friday at Newport Beach Country Club. He is tied with Hale Irwin at 45.

Also in the field is Padraig Harrington, who makes his first start on the Champions tour. He has been playing (and making the cut) on the European and PGA tours. This will be his first tournament since being elected to the 2024 class of the World Golf Hall of Fame.

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