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. 'Dream big' drives Lightning's Conacher brothers

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — Two words: Dream big.

    Cory Conacher includes them every time he signs an autograph for a young hockey fan.

    Tampa Bay Lightning forward Cory Conacher (89) on the ice during Lightning training camp in Brandon Friday morning (09/15/17).
  2. Aaron Hernandez had severe CTE; daughter sues NFL, Patriots

    Bucs

    BOSTON — Tests conducted on the brain of former football star Aaron Hernandez showed severe signs of the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy, and his attorney said Thursday that the player's daughter is suing the NFL and the New England Patriots for leading Hernandez to believe the sport …

    Aaron Hernandez's lawyer says the former New England Patriots tight end's brain showed severe signs of the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy. [AP photo]
  3. Bucs' Josh Robinson excited for return to Vikings

    Bucs

    For much of Josh Robinson's four seasons with the Vikings, there was excitement leading up to the arrival of the $1.1-billion U.S. Bank Stadium, which opened last season, just as Robinson signed with the …

    Josh Robinson (26) tackles Chicago punt returner Eddie Royal (19) during a game between the Bucs and Bears in 2016. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  4. For starters: Rays at Orioles, meeting up with ex-mate Tim Beckham

    Blogs

    UPDATE, 6:05: Cash gave both CF Kevin Kiermaier and SS Adeiny Hechavarria a day off, noting they have been playing pretty much everyday. ... That also gave them a chance to look more at two of their younger position players, OF Mallex Smith and INF Daniel Robertson. ... Cash said he was happy for Beckham that he …

    Tim Beckham made a smashing debut with the Orioles, hitting .394 with six homers and 19 RBIs in August.
  5. From the archives: Account of famed Riggs-King match heightens Tampa mob intrigue

    Tennis

    With the Sept. 29 opening of "Battle of the Sexes" — the movie starring Emma Stone and Steve Carrell about Billie Jean King's landmark 1973 tennis win over Bobby Riggs — we thought there might be renewed interest in this 2013 Peter Jamison story from the Tampa Bay Times.

    Emma Stone as Billie Jean King and Steve Carell as Bobby Riggs in "Battle of the Sexes."  [Melinda Sue Gordon, Fox Searchlight Pictures]