Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Robert Garrigus leads at PGA Tour Valspar Championship

PALM HARBOR — Robert Garrigus had it all planned. If he didn't make the Valspar Championship cut, he would spend the weekend fishing in Tampa Bay area lakes.

Those plans got canceled Friday after Garrigus turned in the low round of the day, 5-under 66, on Innisbrook's Copperhead Course and took the second-round lead at 7-under 135.

Garrigus was three shots ahead of Kevin Na, giving him the largest 36-hole lead in the tournament's 14 years. He was four shots ahead of four others, including reigning U.S. Open champion Justin Rose.

"I guess I got to play golf this weekend," Garrigus said.

He is in today's final group thanks to steady iron play and a hot putter. For the second straight day, Garrigus birdied all four of the par 5s. His only bogey came on the par-4 10th hole, but he followed that with a birdie on the par-5 11th.

"I'm rolling the putts in that I'm supposed to roll in," he said. "I'm thinking well. That's a huge deal. You've got to make your putts."

Garrigus' round was also saved by his second shot on the par-4 16th hole. He drove into the pine straw on the right side of the fairway. But his second shot cleared the trees and landed within 10 feet of the hole. He tapped in for par.

"I probably hit one of the top five shots of my life there," Garrigus said. "I hit a low cut 5 iron and rose it up over the pine tree and cut it 40 yards and hit it to 10 feet. Lot of fun to pull it off."

He wasn't shocked by the shot, however.

"I've spent half my life in the trees," Garrigus said. "I knew exactly what I had to do."

Na, who shot 3-under 68, is the only player in the field without a bogey. He continued his consistent play with three birdies and 15 pars Friday.

His round ended with a chip-in birdie on the par-4 ninth hole.

"I drove it well, and my misses were playable," Na said. "I made a lot of good par putts. I haven't made too many birdie putts, but I've made my par putts.

"Hopefully I can keep that up. The key is to keep my bad shots in play and my good shots close."

Rose (68), Pat Perez (71), former Gator Matt Every (71) and Matteo Manassero (70) were grouped at 3 under. Every and Perez were among four tied for the lead after the first round. Both had up-and-down rounds but managed to get back to par by the end of the day.

Perez had double bogeys on the sixth and seventh holes to fall to 1 under. He scratched back with two birdies on the back nine to stay in contention.

"I got it to 5 under and was trying to move up the board, and then all of a sudden … " Perez said. "I just had to keep grinding it out."

First-round co-leader Greg Chalmers shot 72 and was in a group of five at 2 under. The other co-leader, Danny Lee, shot 79 and missed the cut of 3 over by two shots.

Also at 2 under was the 2010 champion at Innisbrook, Jim Furyk (69).

Garrigus lost in a playoff at Innisbrook to Luke Donald in 2012. His only PGA Tour win is the Children's Miracle Network Classic in Orlando in 2010. Garrigus offered a simple explanation for how he got it.

"It's the fishing," he said.

Garrigus, 36, said he didn't look at the scoreboard all day. He really didn't care if he was in the lead. He just wants to be there in the final round.

"It doesn't mean much until Sunday afternoon," he said.

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