1. Sports

Cold, wind greet golfers early for first round at Innisbrook

Scores are close to par as first group at Valspar deals with strong winds and cold temperatures.
The weather isn't as welcoming as in the past for Day 1 of the Valspar Championship. (Jim Damaske, Times)
The weather isn't as welcoming as in the past for Day 1 of the Valspar Championship. (Jim Damaske, Times)
Published Mar. 8, 2018
Updated Mar. 8, 2018

A trip to Florida usually offers a break from wintry weather, but golfers with early tee times for Thursday's opening round at the Valspar Championship were greeted with colder weather than the area has enjoyed lately.

"The wind blew hard this morning, and cold," said South Korea's Whee Kim, who finished among the early leaders with a 3-under 69. "It was like 50 degrees and blew like 20 miles (per hour), sometimes gusts at 25, so it feels like 40 degrees in the morning."

Kim had missed the cut in his last six tournaments, so a strong start, especially under the conditions, was a welcome change. The half of the field with early starts Thursday get a break on Friday — instead of a 7:01 a.m. tee time, Kim and his group tee off at 11:51, so warmer if nothing else.

Stewart Cink, who tied for 27th at last year's Valspar, finished his round tied for eighth with a 1-under 71 and considered it one of his best rounds of the season under difficult circumstances.

"You go to all this trouble to hit the ball the right distance with the right club and the proper shot and you execute well, and you're rewarded with a bunch of 20-footers with about 5 feet of break," Cink said of the unforgiving course. "On this course, you're just not rewarded at all by hitting a lot of good shots. You can't just accept the ball pin high. You have to come in from below the hole, or otherwise you'll be playing defense."

With nearly all of the 72 morning rounds completed, only one had finished better than 3-under — Canada's Corey Connors, who birdied four of his first eight holes, was at 5-under entering his final two holes.

Much of the opening-round excitement was reserved for the afternoon, with Tiger Woods (making his Valspar debut) and Jordan Spieth teeing off together in a group at 12:46 p.m.