3-way tie for lead on tough Copperhead course

PALM HARBOR, Fla. (AP) Justin Rose had another great finish, chipping in from 40 feet on his last hole for a 3-under 68 that gave him a share of the lead among the early starters Friday in the Valspar Championship.

Even without as much wind, the Copperhead course at Innisbrook showed plenty of bite. Just ask John Daly. He took a 12 on the 16th hole, and then missed a 4-foot putt on his last hole for a 90, the highest score of his 24 years on the PGA Tour.

Rose had the lowest score of the morning group – no one has yet to post better than 68 so far – and finished at 3-under 139 to share the lead with Pat Perez (71) and Matteo Manassero of Italy, who had a 70.

Rose feels as if his shoulder injury is in the past, except for answering questions about it. He loves the Florida swing because the courses demand so many different shots, and Innisbrook might require the most.

The U.S. Open champion was struggling in the first round until he finished birdie-birdie to salvage a 71. He carried that momentum into the second round, and despite a bogey on No. 6 from being out of position off the tee, and a soft bogey on the par-3 eighth, he felt much better ending with a birdie.

”I got some momentum going today,” Rose said. ”I worked my way into the tournament early. To finish strong with my round yesterday I think helped give me some momentum into day. … It’s exactly how I needed to flow into the tournament.”

Perez was the first player to reach 5 under for the tournament until he missed two drives well to the left. One was in the trees at No. 6, the other went out of bounds on No. 7. Both led to double bogeys, though Perez didn’t get down on himself.

”Just move on and keep going,” he said.

He picked up two more birdies for his 71 and was right where he wanted to be. Perez already is coming off a strong West Coast swing, with nearly $1 million in earnings, and three weeks off didn’t hurt his swing too much.

Manassero is coming off a tough week at Doral, where he failed to break 74 in any of the four rounds. But he felt his game was fine, and he was up for the challenge of the Copperhead course. His only blunder was a tee shot that landed in the water on the par-3 13th, and a 5-foot putt his missed to take double bogey. But he picked up a rare birdie on the 16th, which played into the wind, by hitting a 4-iron over the water and a bunker to about 15 feet.

It’s hard to explain why scores aren’t any better, except for a cleverly designed course that holds its own in any weather. Manassero said the grain in the greens made it difficult to make putts, which is why he wasn’t too flustered over missing four putts from about the 6-foot range.

”It’s a good start for me,” he said. ”I’m happy with where I’m at and I’m happy with my game.”

Only 12 players who had finished their rounds remained under par.

Jim Furyk, who won this event four years ago, had a 69 and was in the group at 2-under 140 with Scott Langley (69), John Merrick (70), Luke Guthrie (70) and Greg Chalmers, who bogeyed two of his last four holes for a 72.

Danny Lee, who qualified for this tournament with his runner-up finish last week in Puerto Rico, had a share of the lead after the opening round. He followed his 68 with a 79 and was certain to miss the cut.

Daly was well over the cut line when he came to the 16th hole. He hit his tee shot into the water, hit two more into the water with a fairway metal from the drop area, took three chips to get on the green and made a 12. It was his 16th score of 10 or higher on a hole.

”I got two good drops and hit a heel-cut 3-wood into the water,” he said. ”Then I shanked a 7-iron, chili-dipped a chip, it was buried, didn’t get that out. … It was a good 12. I got up and down for 12.”