Streelman puts his new gadget to use on the greens. He leads at Innisbrook with 64

Carl Yuan, of China, hits from the seventh fairway during the first round of the Valspar Championship golf tournament Thursday, March 21, 2024, at Innisbrook in Palm Harbor, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Carl Yuan, of China, hits from the seventh fairway during the first round of the Valspar Championship golf tournament Thursday, March 21, 2024, at Innisbrook in Palm Harbor, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

PALM HARBOR, Fla. (AP) — Kevin Streelman has a new ball marker to help with alignment that required USGA approval before he teed off Thursday in the Valspar Championship. He had 10 consecutive one-putt greens on his way to a 7-under 64 and a one-shot lead.

Streelman took advantage of gorgeous weather while it lasts with birdies on all four of the par 5s on the Copperhead course at Innisbrook. He took only 24 putts for the round.

“I knew today was going to be solid and then it’s going to be hold-onto-your-shorts here for the next few days,” Streelman said. “So trying to just keep a good attitude and have some fun.”

Kevin Roy, who lost his PGA Tour card last year and is playing on a sponsor exemption, had eight birdies in his round of 65.

Streelman tried out a new ball marker during the pro-am. The circular piece on the top has a solid line and it has a long spike to put in the ground. He looks at the line and can turn the piece to give him a good visual before lining up his golf ball.

But he wanted to make sure it was legal, so the PGA Tour rules staff checked with the USGA. The spike can be no longer than an inch, so Streelman filed it down to that size.

“It’s kind of cool little new ball marker I’m using that is legal that can kind of give you some visual cues that I think is pretty helpful,” Streelman said. “I was using that today, which I think kind of helped, as well.”

His streak of one-putts started with a 5-foot birdie putt on the par-5 14th and ended with a birdie from 8 feet on the par-5 fifth. He had four par saves in that stretch, some more difficult than others.

It added to his lowest score since a 64 in the 3M Open in Minnesota last summer when he went on to a runner-up finish.

Carl Yuan was in the group at 66 and he had a good time under direct orders from his wife. It was his birthday. He turned 27. She didn’t want him to spend his day overthinking golf.

“Definitely had a little different mindset,” he said. “My wife called me this morning, told me about the birthday, so she said the only thing I’ll do is have fun on the course. Don’t come out here to do golf swings, just play golf. That’s what I did. Yeah, it worked out pretty good.”

Roy can relate, even without a birthday and cupcakes in his honor in the locker room. He was just happy to be at the Valspar Championship after finding out two weeks ago about his sponsor exemption. Roy missed the cut by one shot in eight PGA Tour events last year and finished 174th in the FedEx Cup.

He’s already off to a good start on the Korn Ferry with a runner-up finish in the Bahamas.

“I told my caddie, who is my buddy, ‘We got nothing really to lose. Let’s go out, have some fun. Because I’m mainly focused on the Korn Ferry Tour this year, but I’m going to try to keep the pedal down and see where it takes us,” Roy said.

Conditions were ideal enough, even with a stronger breeze in the afternoon, that 27 players were at 68 or lower on one of the stronger courses on the Florida swing.

Yuan was joined by Peter Malnati and Adam Svensson of Canada, with Keith Mitchell in the group at 67. Xander Schauffele and Justin Thomas were among those at 68.

Jordan Spieth looked as though he might join them until two bogeys on his final three holes, one a three-putt from long range on the 16th, the other on the 18th when he missed the green to the left and failed to get up-and-down. He still shot a 69.

The difficulty was to start Friday, with a forecast of rain and gusts in the 30 mph range.

DIVOTS: Even with a 152-man field — Garrick Higgo and J.B. Holmes withdrew — all but one player managed to finish before darkness, a tribute to how fast the Copperhead course plays with so many tees next to the greens. Kevin Dougherty chose not to try a 45-foot putt on the 18th hole in the dark. … Kevin Kisner, in the broadcast booth for NBC during The Players Championship, put two tee shots in the water on the 16th for an 8 and shot 80. … Kisner, Dougherty, Streelman and Roy are among seven players named Kevin in the field. The others are Tway, Yu and Aylwin, a Monday qualifier.

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