Power flying after 66 in Valspar Championship; McDowell 75

Power flying after 66 in Valspar Championship; McDowell 75
Seamus Power 

Seamus Power 

Seamus Power is gunning for his first PGA Tour win this year and after opening with a superb 66 in the Valspar Championship, there may be no time like the present.

The West Waterford rookie turned 30 just last weekend and after holing a near 40-footer for birdie at the last to end the day in fifth place at the Florida venue, he's given himself the pefect foundation this week.

Not only did he sink 100 feet of putts in an impressive five-under par effort on Innisbrook Resort's famed Copperhead Course, his short game and scrambling were so good he made one the toughest tracks on the circuit look deceptively easy.

By taking advantage of fine early morning conditions, he penciled in an eagle three and five birdies against just two bogeys and lies in fifth place, just four shots behind  clubhouse leader Jim Herman, who carded an incredible, nine under par 62 to lead by two strokes from Russell Henley and Henrik Stenson before play was suspended.

Graeme McDowell struggled off the tee several times and mixed four birdies with two bogeys and three double bogeys in a 75 that leaves him four shots outside projected cut mark on four-over par

Power wants to win an event, or at least rack up a big finish, so that he can secure his status for next season.

And he sounded confident after what was a confidence-boosting round on one of the PGA Tour's most demanding courses.

"It's been great," Power told Sky Sports of his move from the Web.com Tour to the big circus this season.

"You get to courses you've watched on TV for years and see the guys you've watched standing beside you on the driving range. It's very exciting."

Asked how he might replicate last year's Web.com Tour win on the bigger stage, he said: "It's tough to win and you don't win that often. So it is something to lean back on in pressure situations. Everything is a little bit bigger and a little bit tougher on the PGA Tour. 

"If you could beat everyone on a given week like that, there's no reason why you can't win out here if you play your best.  That's the mindset and something I am going to aim for the rest of the year."

While he had just 25 putts — he chipped in for one of his birdies at the 15th — Power missed seven greens in regulation but saved par five times.

His length was also crucial as he played the four par-fives in four under par by following a tap-in birdie on the 11th with an eagle three at the 14th, where he hit a 272-yard three-wood to six feet.

"I hit a good drive on 14 and was right on the number for a three-wood," he said of his eagle. "And I just happened to hit it very, very well. Hit it up there close and made it.

"I thought I had hit a good shot on the next too but it is a really firm green and it clambered over the back. But I chipped in. So I was lucky. But I'll take it."

While he bogeyed the tough 16th, he played the famous "Snake Pit" — the final three holes — in level par by making par on the 17th and then hitting a 173-yard approach inside three feet at the 18th to turn in 31.

Seamus Power gives is views to Sky Sports

Seamus Power gives is views to Sky Sports

Four-under for the par-fives despite not picking up a shot at the 545-yard first, he added: "I've always been longer than average. I hit a couple of nice wedge shots, which did it more than anything, but you have to take advantage. There are not many chances out here, so the par-fives are the ones you've got to get."

While a poor drive led to a bogey at the third, he got up and down from 94 yards for a birdie four at the fifth, saved par from 17 feet at the next and then rolled in what he said was a straightforward 38-footer up the green for birdie at the ninth.

With the breeze making the course tougher for the afternoon starters, the pride of Tooraneena was happy to be done for the day.

"Even if the wind is five miles an hour here, it makes it so much harder because the greens are firm," he said. "If you hit it in the wrong spot here, you have no chance of making par. 

"It was nice to be out in the morning. A little bit of breeze is going to make it tough for those guys in the afternoon."

McDowell suffered more the most as he dropped four shots in his first four holes.

After a double bogey seven at the 11th, his second, he also bogeyed the 12th and 13th.

He didn't hit his first fairway until the 16th, which he birdied from 23 feet.

But while he got back to just one-over par with birdies at the par-five first and fifth holes, he double bogeyed the sixth (where he hit a bad drive) and the seventh (where he took two attempts to escape a greenside bunker), a two at the eighth was little consolation.