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Valspar field adjusts from quick turnaround at The Players Championship

More than half of the players who tee off Thursday at Innisbrook also got in at least one round of The Players, which wrapped up Monday.
Defending champ Sam Burns plays a shot at the Valspar Championship Pro-Am on Wednesday in Palm Harbor.
Defending champ Sam Burns plays a shot at the Valspar Championship Pro-Am on Wednesday in Palm Harbor. [ ARIELLE BADER | Special to the Times ]
Published Mar. 16|Updated Mar. 17

PALM HARBOR — The past week has been nothing but a blur for defending Valspar Championship champion Sam Burns.

He hasn’t had a lot of time to prepare for the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook following The Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach.

Burns finished the final round at The Players on Monday after play was suspended Friday and Saturday for inclement weather. After tying for 26th at 4-under 284, he drove to Palm Harbor that night.

Related: Tampa’s Jackson Suber ready for PGA debut at Valspar Championship

Now he and many other players in the field are trying to reset mentally in a shortened week.

After The Players’ tumultuous schedule, Burns struggled Wednesday to remember the days.

“Playing (last) Thursday, then not playing for two days, playing my second round on Saturday or Sunday, wow, Sunday. Man, I still can’t even remember,” Burns said after the Valspar pro-am. “It’s been a crazy last five or six days.”

Justin Thomas is playing on a short week at the Valspar, as he was in The Players Championship field that did not finish up until Monday thanks to inclement weather.
Justin Thomas is playing on a short week at the Valspar, as he was in The Players Championship field that did not finish up until Monday thanks to inclement weather. [ ARIELLE BADER | Special to the Times ]

Of the 144 players competing this weekend at the Valspar, 34 played in Monday’s final round at The Players. Another 52 missed the cut.

And since Friday’s deadline to enter the Valspar, 10 golfers who competed in The Players had withdrawn, including Paul Casey, who won the Valspar title in 2018 and 2019, and who finished third in The Players, two shots behind winner Cameron Smith at 11-under 277.

Burns understands their need for rest.

Related: Valspar Championship: 3 things to know before PGA event returns to Innisbrook

“Mentally, not playing for two rounds, the golf course changes a lot,” Burns said. “And then, physically, I played 54 holes in a couple days, so I think that was really challenging.”

Justin Thomas, ranked eighth in the world, finished The Players tied for 33rd at 3 under and agreed the quick turnaround isn’t ideal.

He came out to Innisbrook on Tuesday morning and putted for a few hours to get used to the speed of the greens.

“Definitely a little bit of fatigue there,” said Thomas, though he is pleased with his 1:03 p.m. tee time today. “It’s not a normal week of prep, but at the same time, I feel like I’m playing pretty well, so hopefully that will just kind of continue the momentum-type thing.”

Collin Morikawa was able to get a normal week in ahead of the Valspar. The world No. 2 missed the 2-over cut at The Players by two strokes.

Collin Morikawa lines up a putt at Wednesday's Valspar Championship pro-am.
Collin Morikawa lines up a putt at Wednesday's Valspar Championship pro-am. [ ARIELLE BADER | Special to the Times ]

But even with a little more down time, Morikawa doesn’t see it as an advantage.

“The guys out here are so good that even if you gave us one day, and a lot of the guys have played this course … they would still know how to figure out the course,” Morikawa said. “They would know what’s in front of them. … I think when you show up on a Thursday, the guys that really want to win and that are ready, they will be ready.”

Burns is having a solid season. In October, he won his second PGA Tour career tournament at the Sanderson Farms Championship in Jackson, Miss. Since then, he has finished in the top five in three other tournaments.

And he is thrilled to be back at the site of his first tour victory.

Related: Valspar Championship expected to return to pre-pandemic format

“Getting here, it’s always a place I love coming back to,” Burns said, “and I’m just really excited for (Thursday).

Valspar Championship

Thursday-Sunday, Innisbrook Copperhead Course, Palm Harbor

Gates open at 7 a.m. all week.

TV: 2 p.m. Thursday-Friday, Golf Channel; 1 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, Golf Channel; 3 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, NBC

More: Tickets and other info, visit valsparchampionship.com

Contact Mari Faiello at mfaiello@tampabay.com. Follow @faiello_mari.

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