Paul Casey shares Valspar lead with Austin Cook
Paul Casey drove into Innisbrook in Palm Harbor, Fla., and saw his picture on posters and programs, just what he needed to forget the cut he missed last week.
He played Friday as though he wants those photos to stay there.
Casey holed a 30-foot eagle putt on the 599-yard fifth hole and made short birdie putts on the other three par 5s on his way to a 5-under-par 66, giving him a share of the lead with Austin Cook in the Valspar Championship.
No one has ever won back-to-back at the Valspar Championship since it became a PGA Tour event in 2000.
‘‘I've never defended a professional event. I would love to do that,’’ Casey said. ‘‘Mentally last year I was hoping I would win, wanting to win. This year, knowing that I have won around here, I have a slightly different approach to it, and I played today quite aggressively and tried to take advantage of the golf course that I knew was going to get very, very tough this afternoon.’’
Casey and Cook, who shot a 67, were at 6-under 136.
Luke Donald holed a bunker shot for birdie on the par-5 fifth to briefly take the lead, only to miss a 4-foot par putt on the next hole and drop another shot on the par-3 eighth. He shot 70 and was one behind, along with Scott Stallings (68) and Sungjae Im (67).
Dustin Johnson overcame a rough patch early in his round with five birdies on the front nine to salvage a 69. Johnson, the No. 1 player in the world, was two shots behind on a Copperhead course he hasn’t seen in nine years.
Also at 4-under 138 was Curtis Luck, the former US Amateur champion and last man in the field when Kevin Na withdrew 30 minutes before his tee time. Luck had never seen Innisbrook until his opening tee shot.
‘‘It does show you what a good job they do with the yardage books,’’ Luck said.
The course is so demanding, and typically tougher in the afternoon, that the tournament is wide open. The cut was at 1-over 143, and the seven-shot difference from top to bottom is the smallest since the Wells Fargo Championship at Eagle Point in 2017.
Among those very much in the mix is Jon Rahm, three shots behind, who is making his Innisbrook debut.
LPGA — Sung Hyun Park shot her second straight 6-under 66 at the Founders Cup in Phoenix for a share of the lead with Yu Liu halfway through the second round in the event that honors the 13 women who founded the LPGA Tour.
Coming off a victory three weeks ago in Singapore, Park birdied five of the first six holes on her final nine in perfect conditions at Desert Ridge. She lost the outright lead with a closing bogey on the par-4 ninth.
‘‘Overall, I'm really happy with the play today, especially putting was really good,’’ Park said. ‘‘The shots were better than yesterday.’’
The 25-year-old has six tour victories, winning majors in far more difficult conditions at the 2017 US Women’s Open and 2018 Women’s PGA Championship.
Liu had 10 birdies in a 64 to match Park at 12-under 132.
‘‘I don’t expect this to happen every day,’’ Liu said. ‘‘When a day like this comes, I just am glad I was able to take advantage of it.’’
The 23-year-old Chinese player teed off at 7 a.m. in the first group of the day off the 10th tee.
‘‘Definitely being the first off, the greatest advantage is pure greens and calm conditions,’’ Liu said.
Lydia Ko had her second straight 67, playing alongside Park.
‘‘Obviously, the golf course is known to have some low scores,’’ Ko said. ‘‘You just have to go out there, try to play your game, and maybe play a little bit more aggressive than any other golf course.’’
She was two strokes back with first-round leader Celine Boutier (70), Amy Yang (66), Mi Jung Hur (66), and Nanna Koerstz Madsen (69).
European — Ernie Els was two shots behind Maybank Championship leader Thomas Pieters on a crowded leaderboard after the second round in Kuala Lampur. Els carded a 2-under 70 to reach 6 under.
There were 15 golfers within three shots of Pieters, who was at 8 under overall after a 69 he wasn’t pleased with. He bogeyed the par-4 second hole, and made four birdies.
‘‘It didn’t feel like a good day to me, I made the best of what I had,’’ the Belgian said. ‘‘I gave myself a lot of chances but I couldn’t seem to get the ball in the hole.
‘‘When you miss a couple of putts you try to read too much into it. I just put it down, looked once, and gave it a go.’’
After four birdies and two bogeys in his round, Els felt he has ‘‘a chance’’ to clinch a first victory in almost six years.
‘‘The last four years have been a struggle, so I'm really happy that I'm playing good golf again,’’ he said. ‘‘My body feels good and the ball striking is there now.
‘‘On the greens I'm starting to feel really comfortable, so that means I can have a chance again to play with these guys. That’s what I want, to feel like I can have a chance playing Saturdays and Sundays.’’
. . .
Robert Garrigus became the first PGA Tour player suspended for a drug of abuse, saying on Twitter that he had a relapse with marijuana. The tour announced that the 41-year-old Garrigus, whose only PGA Tour victory was at Disney at the end of the 2010 season, has been suspended for three months.
While marijuana is legal in some states, it is on the banned substance list under the PGA Tour’s anti-doping policy.
Garrigus has spoken openly about his history of addictions, which began before he reached the PGA Tour. He checked himself into a 30-day program at Calvary Ranch near San Diego in 2003 and said, ‘‘I spent 30 days to change the rest of my life.’’
He made it to the PGA Tour in 2006 and had his most consistent year in 2012, when he had four runner-up finishes, made it to the Tour Championship for the only time and cracked the top 40 in the world ranking by the end of the year.
In his Twitter message, Garrigus apologized to his family, fans and sponsors and said he hopes he can make it up to them.
‘‘After a long period of sobriety, I had a relapse and subsequently failed a drug test for marijuana,’’ Garrigus said.
He says he pointed out that marijuana is legal in many states not to make an excuse, but as a warning.
‘‘Legal doesn’t meant it isn’t addictive and legal doesn’t mean there aren’t potentially severe consequences if you use it,’’ he said. ‘‘I will use this time away from golf to be with my family and work on regaining my sobriety. It doesn’t matter if you are one day, one week or nine years clean; one misstep, one lapse in judgment can impact your life in monumental fashion.
‘‘I hope this new chapter in my life will now show people to never relax in their battle with addiction.’’
Garrigus, who is married with two sons, finished 131st in the FedEx Cup last year and was playing this year on conditional status. He has played four times this year, missing the cut in three of them and tying for 64th in the Genesis Open. He last played a month ago in the Puerto Rico Open.