Sam Burns kept piling up birdies on Friday, turning a solid start into a great round of eight-under 63 for a share of the lead in the Valspar Championship.
Keegan Bradley got there with one shot.
Bradley ended his round by holing out for eagle from 100 yards in the ninth fairway, over a deep bunker to the elevated green. The shot left him guessing until he saw the fans jump out of their seats. That gave him a 66 and the best uphill walk at Innisbrook.
“I turned a good day into a great day,” Bradley said. “Man, it was a fun day. And what a way to finish. It was a blast.”
Bradley and Burns were at 12-under 130, and their play in the steamy afternoon on the Copperhead course gave them a little separation starting out the weekend.
Lucas Glover (65), Charley Hoffman (66) and Max Homa (68) were four shots back. Only 10 players were within five shots of the lead through 36 holes.
Bradley, whose longest par putt was four feet in his bogey-free opening round, opened with two quick birdies before coming up short of the green on the 12th hole and making his first bogey. Birdies were hard to come by the rest of the way, but he made up for it with one swing.
With the steep hill, he played the 100-yard shot as if it were 119, and then he added six yards to account for a little wind. It was a gap wedge. “A perfect shot,” he said.
“You can’t see the green from down there, so you have to wait for the crowd’s reaction,” he said. “And when everyone puts their arms up, normally that means it goes in. So another bonus of having fans out here. It makes it a lot more exciting for everybody.”
Burns had a few key par saves early in his round, and he took off after making the turn. He holed an 18-foot birdie putt on No. 10, reached the par-5 11th in two for a birdie and then holed a bunker shot on the 12th.
“Birdied the first three on the back and then just kind of we’re off,” he said.
Burns had a one-shot lead after 54 holes in the Houston Open in November and closed with a 72 to tie for seventh. He had a two-shot lead at Riviera going into the last round and shot 69 to finish one shot out of a playoff won by Homa.
“For me it’s just sticking to what I’ve been doing, having a good game plan going into the day,” he said. “I know over the weekend there will be some challenges, and I’m excited for the opportunity.”
Due to the great finishes of Burns and Bradley, the top two players have their work cut out for them.
Dustin Johnson (68) was nine shots back while Justin Thomas (71) was 10 behind.
Not a single Australian made the cut.