2019 Valspar Championship: Dustin Johnson contending after holding Round 1 together
D.J. didn't hit he ball particularly well, but he still scored well
A good field produced a bad leaderboard at the Valspar Championship on Thursday in Round 1. The only superstar who saved it was Dustin Johnson, who labored to a first round 69 (more on that below). That's three back of co-leaders Joel Dahmen and Sepp Straka.
First place -- Joel Dahmen, Sepp Straka (-5): Sure. They did it in different ways, too. Dahmen, who has a pair of top-12 finishes at the Players and Farmers bookending four missed cuts, golfed his ball and finished top five in the field from tee to green. Meanwhile, Straka led the field in putting and gained the majority of his six strokes on the field average on the greens. That's unsustainable throughout a week so he'll have to find something from tee to green over the next three days.
Other contenders -- Kevin Kisner (-4), Keegan Bradley (-3), Dustin Johnson (-2), Jim Furyk (-2), Bubba Watson (-2): The D.J.-Watson-Furyk crew was impressive because they did their work in the tougher afternoon wave. Obviously D.J. is the headliner here, and the round he built was pretty fascinating.
After making birdie at three of his first eight holes, he played the rest of his round in 1 over, mostly due to struggles with his iron play. He still gained strokes from tee to green, but it's mostly because he drives it off the planet because he hit just 11 of 18 greens in regulation and was almost last in the field in proximity to the hole. His underrated short game picked him up, though, and he's in a good position going to Round 2.
Who had a great day? Furyk, who is playing for something more than the rest of the names in the field right now. Following his absurd run at the Players, he's just outside the top 50 and fighting to get inside of it over the next few weeks so he can qualify for the Masters.
Who had a lousy day? Patrick Reed shot a 77 with three doubles and three bogeys, and he was top 20 in the field in putting, which means he was dead last from tee to green. Not great!
Stat of the day: As I was watching on Thursday, it struck me that the best argument for the Players as a major championship might be the Valspar Championship. What in the world does that mean? Well, this is about as post-big event as a leaderboard can possibly be.
Shot of the day: Russell Knox made an albatross on Thursday and after shooting 38 on the front nine, he shot 29 on the back and sits in the top five after the first 18 holes.
Amateur watch: Akshay Bhatia didn't have the best first round of his PGA Tour career, but it started pretty nicely with a three on his very first hole. As they say, you can't birdie every hole in your PGA Tour career unless you birdie the first.
What to watch on Day 2: It's still Johnson's tournament to lose. He's three back, in premium position with a morning tee time on Friday and will be ready to rock and roll after some loose iron play on Thursday. Much like he has at the Canadian Open in years past, this feels like a spot where he'll gallop in Rounds 2 and 3 if he's going to go on and win his first Valspar Championship.
SportsLine simulated the 2019 Zurich Classic 10,000 times and came up with some surprises
The only team event of the season will take place this week in the Big Easy
SportsLine simulated the entire 2019 PGA Championship 10,000 times and came up with a surprising...
What will Big Cat's schedule look like the rest of the year? Here's when win No. 82 may come...
The former Huskie outlasted some of the best in the world in Hilton Head
Believe it or not, there's another golf tournament this week