Dahmen, Straka share Valspar lead

As is typical for a tournament following a marquee event, lesser-known names dominated the first page of the leaderboard after the first round of the Valspar Championship on Thursday.
Joel Dahmen, ranked 160th in the world, and No. 365 Sepp Straka of Austria share the lead after shooting 5-under-par 66s on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, Fla.
They are one shot clear of Kevin Kisner, former world No. 1 Luke Donald from England and Scotland’s Russell Knox. Knox holed out from 275 yards for an albatross on the par-5 11th hole as part of a four-hole stretch in which he went 5 under.
A group of Americans at 3-under par is headlined by Keegan Bradley. He is joined by Brian Stuard, Denny McCarthy, Roberto Castro and Shawn Stefani, who bogeyed his final hole.
Top-ranked Dustin Johnson was 3 under through eight holes, but his charge up the leaderboard was stalled by a bogey on No. 9. He shot even par on the back nine to close in a tie for 11th at 2 under along with Bubba Watson, Jim Furyk and a host of other players.
Defending champion Paul Casey is another shot back after carding a 1-under 70.
Patrick Reed will have to rally on Friday to extend his streak of worldwide cuts made to 16 after opening with a 6-over 77.
Dahmen entered 2019 ranked 206, sandwiched four consecutive missed cuts with a T9 at the Farmers Insurance Open and The Players Championship. Starting on the back nine Thursday, he birdied three of his first four holes before a bogey at No. 15. Dahmen carded three more birdies over his final six holes to get to 5 under.
Also part of the morning wave, Straka posted a clean card, with three of his five birdies coming in a four-hole stretch on the front nine. The Web.com Tour graduate has missed six of nine cuts this season, but did post top-20 finishes at the Farmers and the Puerto Rico Open.
Donald, 41, has slipped to 919th in the world while recovering from a herniated disc in his back. The 2012 event champion has played only five events worldwide – making one cut – since tying for 64th at last year’s Valspar.
“It’s been a bit of a struggle the last year,” said Donald, per Golfweek.com. “Obviously struggling with some back stuff and working hard at it, but backs are tricky, and they take a little bit of time. Honestly my goal this week is to play four rounds and feel pretty good at the end of four rounds and then keep going.
“To play well is a nice bonus.”
NOTES: This event is the anchor leg of the Florida Swing. … Copperhead has ranked as one of the two toughest par-71 courses among non-majors each of the past six years. … Furyk has made the cut in all nine attempts. … Johnson is making his first appearance since 2010. He missed the cut in both previous attempts. … The three-hole closing stretch is known as “The Snake Pit,” with none of the holes averaging under par since the tournament debuted in ’10.
–Field Level Media

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