Little-known American Matthew NeSmith brilliantly equalled Padraig Harrington’s 2012 Copperhead Course record with a 10-under-par 61 on day two of the Valspar Championship at Palm Harbor to the north of Tampa in Florida.
NeSmith, 28, and born in North Augusta, South Carolina, snatched an eagle and eight birdies, including six birdies over his inward half, and it could have easily been a new course record 60, admitting at the last he had to back off his putt when distracted by movement in the crowd, with his ball stopping right on the edge of the hole.
“Someone in the grandstand was pouring out a bucket of water or ice, or something and it just put me off, so that’s why I backed off,” he said.
“I was looking at about a 20-footer and I thought it would drop, though my caddy said to me that he thought it would turn a hair right near the end. I thought I hit a good enough putt but it just didn’t have enough speed but nevermind as it was a great round.”
The one-time KornFerry Tour champ, with a score four shots lower than his prior low of a 65 at last year’s RSM Classic, heads to the weekend rounds leading by two shots at 14-under-par from 2017 winner, Adam Hadwin of Canada, who signed for a 66 for a 12-under total.
The American duo of defending champ Sam Burns (67) and Scott Stallings (66) are next best at 11-under with Justin Thomas, after a pair of 66s, lurking large at 10-under.
Of note, is the effort over the first two days of double major winning Martin Kaymer shooting scores of 69 and 66 to be lying at seven-under.
A frustrated Shane Lowry was hoping the wind blew over the closing stages of the second round to dry out the Copperhead Course after he snared three birdies in a round of 68 for a five-under-par to be tied-25th in the $7.8m event.
Lowry had played superbly on Thursday to be three-under coming up the last, and the third hole of the trio of 16, 17, and 18 that make-up the ‘Snake Pit’, only to three-putt the last for a bogey ‘5’.
No such misfortune on day two with Lowry, who was out from the 10th, snatching the first birdie in holing a four-footer at the par-3 13th and then moving to four-under for the tournament when he managed to get up-and-down from a greenside bunker at the par-5 14th in holing a 12-footer for his ‘4’.
Lowry got through the ‘Snake Pit’ with three pars, including superbly making amends for his end-of-round mishap at 18 in holing a testy six-footer, having been in the left rough with both his drive and also second shot.
He then headed into his inward nine, or the outward half on the scorecard, hitting a booming 323-yard drive down the first, and after being just short of the green in two, Lowry chipped to around three-feet for a birdie ‘4’.
Lowry then produced eight pars for his score of 68 and was assured of weekend work for a third event running on the 2021/22 PGA Tour schedule.
“I am playing well but it’s quite frustrating to be only five-under but then my golf is good with a huge stretch of tournaments coming up, so I do feel comfortable and happy where my game is at,” he said.
“I just feel I should be lower than five-under and try but then I am trying to look at the bigger picture and look at the tournaments I’m playing going forward, and everyone knows what we have coming up on the schedule.
“The course is just playing a bit soft and I’ve only played here once before (2018) and it’s not the typical Valspar course I have watched on TV. It’s quite tough to short-side yourself whereas in previous years, it’s been very tricky.
“So, hopefully, the wind does get up this afternoon and dries out the course, and a bit more wind over the weekend.”
No weekend work for Graeme McDowell with his rounds of 73 and 71 handing him a two-over-par tally and leaving him five shots shy of the three-under cut-off mark.
American Joseph Bramlett, 33, wrote himself into the Valspar records book with the Californian becoming only the second play in the 22-year history of the event to eagle the par-4 18th.
Last year’s KornFerry Tour Championship winner was on the very right side of the fairway, with 101-yards to hole, with his ball landing around 10-feet behind the flag and spinning back into the cup. The only other eagle ‘2’ at the 18th was when fellow American Robin Freeman eagled the 18th on the opening day of the inaugural 2000 Valspar Championship.
- Full scoring HERE