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Justin Thomas wishing his putter warms up on his 28th birthday at Valspar Championship

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PALM HARBOR, Fla. – On his 28th birthday, Justin Thomas couldn’t wish the ball in the hole in the first round of the Valspar Championship.

Thomas ranked No. 146 in the 156-man field in Strokes Gained: Putting, losing more than 2 ½  strokes to the field with the short stick. And that’s after holing a 13-foot birdie putt at the last hole. That’s the bad news.

The good news? That birdie putt completed a round of 2-under 69 for Thomas at Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead Course and five strokes behind leader Keegan Bradley after the opening round, and two better than his fellow playing competitor, World No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who headed straight to the range after an indifferent round.

Best of all for Thomas? The World No. 2 wasn’t overly concerned with his struggles on the greens.

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“Hit a lot of quality putts that just didn’t go in. The only really truly bad putt I hit today was 14. I just hit it too hard. I was playing break for softer speed and I rammed it. But I hit a lot of good putts I feel like that could and should have gone in and hit a lot of quality golf shots,” he said. “I know I easily could have shot 4-, 5-, 6-, 7-shots better, 2-under is fine after the first day.”

Thomas got off to a flying start with a 12-foot eagle at the first hole and stuffed his approach from 186 yards to inside 2 feet at the second. He made his first bogey of the day at the sixth, but got it back by drilling a 5-iron inside a foot at the par-3 eighth hole.

“Just tried to get a good flight on it and hold it up against the right-to-left wind and that was probably the best shot I hit today,” Thomas said.

But on the back nine, the putter let him down with bogeys at the two par 3s, Nos. 13 and 15, and he missed from inside 3 feet for birdie at 14. Despite the birdie at the last, Thomas headed straight to the putting green to work on his stroke with his father, caddie, and putting coach John Graham.

The birthday dinner celebration wouldn’t be put on hold for long, he said.

“I just want to go see a couple go in and see if there’s anything that maybe fundamentally or anything that might be wrong to why I was missing them, but, no, I mean, I hit plenty of good putts out there,” he said.

When he blows out the candle on his birthday cake, Thomas should wish for a better putting day on Friday when he’ll have the advantage of putting on fresh greens in the morning.

original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2021/04/29/valspar-championship-justin-thomas-putter-28th-birthday/

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