Canadian Funk

Canadian rookie Corey Conners leads the Valspar Championship after a 4-under 67. Conners' round puts him one shot ahead of Whee Kim, Kelly Kraft and Nick Watney. The tough Copperhead course coupled with cool temperatures, swirling winds and thick rough led to only 27-under- par scores.Full scores

Who is Corey Conners?

The rookie made his way up to the PGA Tour through a strong showing in last year's Tour Finals. Conners wasn't in the event until a WD earned himself a spot as an alternate. The 26-year-old has made nine of ten cuts in the 2017-2018 season but has yet to record a top 25. Conners’ best finishes (t29 & t30) have come at the 2018 Farmers Insurance (Torrey) and 2017 Safeway (Silverado). Both demand tee-to-green excellence, like Innisbrook does.

In contention

Tiger Woods hung in during the tough afternoon conditions to shoot a 1-under 70 and grab a share of eighth place. Woods flashed some of his innate ability to post a score, making the most of his limited birdie opportunities and scrambling his way out of tough predicaments. Woods had a stellar front nine off the tee, hitting six of seven fairways before hitting only one on the back nine. A promising sign on Thursday was Tiger's par-5 performance, playing Innisbrook's two-under in the first round. Tiger will tee off early this morning with coverage on PGA Tour Live and will look to earn a late Saturday tee time.

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Another big name in 8th..

Coming from the collegiate circuit, University of Illinois star Dylan Meyer shot a one-under 70 in the first round. Meyer earned a spot in the field after winning last year's 3M Invitational. The reigning 1st team All-American took the week off from the Southern Highland Collegiate to compete. Meyer isn't your prototypical long-hitting college player, instead making his hay with surgical approach shots and a deft touch on and around the greens. The graduating senior will look to follow in Lee McCoy's footsteps (only in play), who found himself in contention as an amateur in 2016.

The struggle bus

Both Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy headed into Innisbrook looking for their first title of 2018 after opening rounds of 76 and 74. Each will battle to make the cut. Both had a tough day on the greens; Spieth lost 1.56 strokes to the field, and McIlroy lost 1.399 which ranked 127th and 119th in the field.

Notes and notables

Chris Couch played his first PGA Tour round in over five years, shooting an even par 71. The 2006 Zurich Classic Champion has been dealing with back and wrist problems for the past six years.

Brandt Snedeker shot a 1-under 70 and is in a tie for 8th. The seven-time PGA Tour winner dealt with injuries the back half of 2017, causing him to slip from 32nd to his current 74th in the world rankings. The low ranking has Snedeker in jeopardy of missing the Masters for the first time since 2010.

After earning a top-ten finish at the Honda Classic on a sponsor's exemption, Sam Burns is in the thick of it again after an even-par 71 in round one.

The ongoing ball war

The battle over the golf ball rages on with various constituencies all declaring their stance. The PGA Of America, for example, has already announced they are "highly skeptical" of any rollback of the ball. Pete Bevacqua, the PGA of America's chief, raced to publicly declare this skepticism on the morning following the joint USGA/R&A announcement.

Perhaps in an effort to swiftly bolster his quick statement, the PGA solicited the opinion of its members via a "survey" sent via email to its 29,000 members. The "survey" looks like it was put together by a high school intern and shuns virtually any semblance of scientific poll-taking. The "survey" can be completed by anyone with the link, and (at least to outward appearances) responses can be submitted as many times as one likes. It is, by any definition, completely worthless.

Since the PGA of America has forfeited any pretense of fairness in this "survey," go ahead and vote yourself! You, non-PGA professional, can express your voice by voting here at the link.

Game of the Week - The Masters

Thanks to a submission from reader Josh Cupp, this week's game of the week is "The Masters". The game centers around six three-hole matches and is a great option to play with five or four players. It can be played with a variety of handicaps. Learn how to play the Masters here, and if you missed any of our previous weeks’ featured games, check them out here.

Campus Update with Will Knights

The final big college event of the week ended Wednesday night with Florida winning the Southern Highlands Collegiate in Las Vegas. However, similar to the tournament in Cabo, the real story is the individual winner: Justin Suh. The USC junior won his 4th tournament of the season and strengthened his position at the top of the Haskins Award watch list. After seeing Collin Morikawa close out his win on Tuesday, Suh knew he needed to answer. These two are putting together some of the best college golf in recent memory and are on a collision course with the PAC 12 tournament on the horizon.

The top 10 of the tournament featured big name players as Harry Hall (UNLV), Stefano Mazzoli (TCU), Clay Feagler (Pepperdine), Brad Dalke (Oklahoma), and Nick Hardy (Illinois) all put together solid performances.

One name noticeably missing from that list is Illinois standout Dylan Meyer. Meyer earned himself a spot in this week’s Valspar Championship on the PGA Tour with his win at the 2017 3M Augusta Invitational. After an opening round of -1 in Tampa, he is in great position to make the cut this weekend. Meyer is one of the best iron players in the NCAA, a skill that lends itself well at Innisbrook.

Quick hooks

Alan Shipnuck penned an emotional piece on golf course architect David Kahn's tragic family situation, which has his twin girls fighting one of the rarest diseases. You can help by donating here.

Emiliano Grillo leads the Indian Open.

Phil talks to Dan Patrick about getting better with age and predicts a possible Tiger win this week.

Maverick McNealy and Sebastian Munoz lead the Tour's El Bosque Mexico Championship.