PALM HARBOR — The Valspar Championship field set a record Friday afternoon with its lowest cut mark (3 under) in tournament history; the previous low was 1 under.
This year’s field of 144 boasts 18 of the world’s top 50 golfers, including five of the top 10. After two rounds, fans will see one of the most competitive finishes with 16 of the top 50 still alive.
“To have as many prominent players make the cut that we have, it’s a great thing,” tournament director Tracy West said. “...We’re going to have a great next two days. But there’s still plenty of golf to play, so it’s anybody’s tournament.”
The tough field and challenging greens made it an interesting afternoon for world No. 2 Collin Morikawa (4 under) and No. 3 Viktor Hovland (3 under). The duo, who were grouped together in the afternoon wave, struggled at times on Innisbrook’s Copperhead Course.
Morikawa’s second-round score of 1-under 70 included four birdies and three bogeys, and put him in a tie for 38th.
“I’ve made a couple of mistakes” said Morikawa, 25. “The putting hasn’t been great. I feel like I’m driving it well off the tee, which is obviously helpful on the fairway, but you have to still make your putts and hopefully they can start dropping over the weekend.”
Hovland’s 1-under 70 included three birdies and a pair of bogeys. His final birdie on No. 17 was the stroke he needed to make it into the final rounds.
Players who didn’t make this year’s cut included: No. 86 Keegan Bradley (2-under 140), who placed second here last year; No. 104 Charl Schwartzel (3-over 145), who won the tournament in 2016; and amateur Jackson Suber, a Plant High alumnus and Tampa native who shot 2-over 144.
Suber, a sponsor exemption and senior at Ole Miss, hoped for a better score to end his PGA Tour debut, but was pleased with the overall experience.
“Once I realized I was outside the cut line on the last two (holes), but still having all my friends there not leaving, yelling for me and stuff, that’s a cool experience,” Suber said. “And it makes me feel good. I played solid (Friday) and didn’t have my best stuff, but still not far off, and to kind of see even not with my best stuff, I’m still hanging around there, it’s encouraging.”
Something extra for past champs
Gary Woodland was pleasantly surprised when he pulled into the players’ parking lot Tuesday to check in for the tournament. Trying to park his car, his eyes wandered down the row of personalized painted spots until they landed on his, complete with a Kansas Jayhawks basketball theme.
“It was really cool and something that I hadn’t seen anywhere else,” Woodland said. “...It’s nice to have that front parking spot and the extra decoration up there is nice.”
Tournament officials wanted to do something special for the previous winners who were returning to Innisbrook. So they honored winners like Woodland, who took the title in 2011, with creations from artists James Freeman Kitchens and “Miss Crit” Laura Spencer. The Valspar is the first tournament to do this, and West said it will continue the trend in years to come.
The artists, who were found with the help of the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum in St. Petersburg, used permanent paint so the spots will hold up year-around. The tournament is donating $10,000 to the museum as a thank you.
In addition to Woodland, six other former champs had unique parking spots: Sam Burns (2021), Paul Casey (2018, 2019) — who withdrew from the tournament Tuesday — Adam Hadwin (2017), Schwartzel (2016), Kevin Streelman (2013) and Luke Donald (2012).
Burns’ parking spot reflected his love for LSU, his alma mater. The artists painted a tiger’s eye and spelled out “L-S-U” using Louisiana’s boot-shaped state as the “L.”
“It was really well thought out,” Burns said. “They did a great job.”