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. Pro Bowl returning to Orlando in 2018

    Bucs

    ORLANDO — The Pro Bowl will return to Orlando in 2018 for the second straight year.

    Bucs  wide receiver Mike Evans runs a route as Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. defends during the first quarter of the AFC-NFC Pro Bowl in January at Camping World Stadium in Orlando. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  2. Erasmo Ramirez makes his third start of the season.
  3. If Tony Dungy sticks around, he'll broadcast the 2021 Tampa Super Bowl for NBC

    Bucs

    Lost in the Super Tuesday news of the Super Bowl coming back to Tampa was this nugget:

    Pictured, from left, Dan Patrick, co-Host, Tony Dungy, studio analyst, Aaron Rodgers. [Ben Cohen/NBC]
  4. Tragedy, tenacity helped shape Ridgewood valedictorian Johannah Cummines

    Volleyball Preps

    NEW PORT RICHEY — Even if her daily routine didn't permit calories to melt off, Johannah Cummines would deserve to pick anything on the menu.

    Ridgewood High senior Johannah Cummines and mom Chenell. Cummines is headed to Florida Atlantic, where she will play beach volleyball. (Photo courtesy of Johannah Cummines)
  5. Bucs Roberto Aguayo kicks off 2017 on the wrong foot

    Blogs

    The goal posts still seem to be moving for Roberto Aguayo.

    The Bucs woebegone place-kicker, who is in a battle with veteran Nick Folk, went 1-for-4 in field goal tries from 35-40 yards Tuesday on a set of narrow uprights, the first day of full squad Organized Team Activities.

    If that weren’t …

    Roberto Aguayo went 1-for-4 in field goal tries from 35-40 yards Tuesday on a set of narrow uprights.