Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Rookie leads Tampa Bay Championship

PALM HARBOR — On a day wind and cold kept scores high, one of the more unlikely players in the field to go low did on Innisbrook's Copperhead Course to grab the first-round lead of the Tampa Bay Championship on Thursday.

PGA Tour rookie Shawn Stefani shot 6-under 65 to take a two-shot lead over second-year pro Brian Harman.

"It was a good day for me," Stefani, 31, said. "I hit some really good shots. I love the golf course. It fits my eye."

It was Stefani's first competitive round on the Copperhead Course. He played in a Monday pro-am and got in nine holes Wednesday morning before playing it Thursday afternoon.

The result was a bogey-free round that included three birdies on each of the front nine and back nine. Stefani's 65 tied his lowest round of the season, which came last week at the Puerto Rico Open.

"I've been playing well this year and really didn't play badly when I missed cuts," said Stefani, who has missed three of six cuts. "You've got to hit good shots out here. It's a shot-makers' course."

Harman played the Copperhead Course last year for the first time at this event and missed the cut after an opening-round 74.

This year in his first-round 67 he was much more consistent. He made five birdies and had only one bogey, which was on the ninth hole (his 18th).

"I'm a year older now, and I guess I'm a little more patient," Harman, 26, said. "I realize that I don't have to make birdie on every hole. Sometimes par can be a really good score out here."

Harris English can attest to that. He was 5 under heading to the 18th hole, but his approach shot on the par 4 buried in the greenside bunker. He blasted out, then three-putted for a double bogey to drop into a three-way tie for third at 3-under 68 with Brendan Steele and Tag Ridings.

Steele was a little more consistent. He had only one bogey and four birdies to get into early contention.

"It's definitely as good as I've played this year, for sure," said Steele, whose best 2013 finish is a tie for sixth at the Phoenix Open two weeks ago.

This is the first time Stefani had an overnight lead on the tour. His best position after any round had been a tie for 22nd after the second round of the Sony Open, the second event of the year in January. The Texas native won twice on the Web.com Tour in 2012, which allowed him to earn his PGA card.

Before 2012 Stefani bounced around minor-league circuits such as the Adams Tour and the Hooters Tour. Now the former Lamar University standout finds himself in the lead at a tournament that has never had a rookie champion.

"Everybody hits their strides at different times," Stefani said. "I've always been kind of a patient guy. I know it will come eventually. I've worked hard, and I've never been afraid to work hard. Lately I've been working on the mental part of the game."

>>fast facts

Number of the day

25 Players, out of 156, who broke par Thursday. That's 16 percent of the field.

Rookie leads Tampa Bay Championship 03/14/13 [Last modified: Friday, March 15, 2013 9:36am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Bucs raise prices for single tickets to marquee games

    Blogs

    The Bucs will have single-game tickets for 2017 home games on sale July 28, with a new wrinkle: the best games will cost more for fans.

    Bucs fans cheer Jameis Winston after a victory in their final home game of the 2016 season. Individual tickets for the Bucs' three most coveted home games (against the Patriots, Bears and Giants) will cost more in 2017.
  2. RHP Alex Cobb feeling safer as Rays make playoff push

    The Heater

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Alex Cobb (53) throwing in the fourth inning of the game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Tampa Bay Rays at LECOM Park in Bradenton, Fla. on Tuesday, March 21, 2017.
  3. HomeTeam 100: Players 61-70

    Footballpreps

    Jefferson wide receiver Dontavius Smith during the game between Jefferson High School and Jesuit High School at Jesuit on Friday, Sept. 16, 2016, in Tampa, Fla.
  4. A second chance at life, away from the game he loved

    The Heater

    Dylan Delso, a catcher for the Tampa Bay Rays' Gulf Coast League team, displays his scar at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Fla., on Tuesday, June 20, 2017. On June 25, 2016 Delso fell backward down a flight of stairs, suffering a nearly fatal head injury that put him in a coma for eight days. He's finally back on the baseball field after a miraculous recovery.
  5. Rays morning after: Steven Souza Jr.'s status is a major concern

    Blogs

    The Rays will know more about the status of RF Steven Souza Jr. later today after reviewing results of a scheduled MRI and exam of the left hip he strained in Wednesday's game on an awkward slide into second.

    Steven Souza Jr. strained his left hip in Wednesday's game on an awkward slide into second.