PALM HARBOR, Fla. (AP) — Robert Garrigus talks about the skill involved in the trade, and it’s certainly more than just taking it back and letting it fly. The location changes everything, for not every place is the same. Some moments involve power, others require a delicate touch.
None of this had anything to do with the 5-under 66 he shot Friday to take a three-shot lead in the Valspar Championship.
Garrigus was talking about fishing.
Somehow, the two are related this week. Garrigus puts as much thought into his fishing as he does his golf. He brought his irons and putter in a large travel bag, and he put his fishing gear (two tackle boxes) in a separate suitcase.
Perhaps more amazing is that he never played a practice round on the Copperhead course at Innisbrook until he teed it up Thursday. He was too busy fishing. Garrigus arrived Monday and fished into the twilight. He fished most of Tuesday and for about five hours Wednesday.
The tally for the week: about three dozen large-mouth bass – and 10 birdies.
It’s the latter that put him atop the leaderboard by three shots over Kevin Na (68) going into the weekend. Garrigus thinks it’s more than a coincidence that his only other PGA Tour event was just over an hour away at Disney. All he did was fish that week, too, and he wound up a winner.
“It’s the fishing,” he said. “I think that puts me in a good frame of mind because I’m clear and not thinking about anything, just going out and having some fun.”
His golf has been plenty fun.
Garrigus, one of the longest hitters in golf, has made birdie on all of the par 5s both rounds. That has contributed mightily to being at 7-under 135, three shots clear going into a weekend with a Masters spot potentially up for grabs.
Only five of the top 22 on the leaderboard already are eligible for the Masters.
Na had a 68, while the group four shots behind included Pat Perez (71), Matteo Manassero (70) and Justin Rose (68), who is the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 7. Matt Every shot a 71 in the afternoon and joined them at 3-under 139.
The three-shot lead is the largest through 36 holes in the 14-year history of this tournament.
The cut was at 3-over 145 and because 84 players advanced to Saturday, there will be a 54-hole cut to top 70 and ties on Saturday.
Garrigus is about the only player who has made it look easy, although he felt as stressed as anyone on the Copperhead course, regarded by many as perhaps the best tournament course in Florida.
Even though the weather was close to perfect – only a breeze in warm sunshine – only 17 players broke 70.
John Daly was not among them. He was struggling with what he called the yips with his putter when he got to the 16th hole. Daly put three shots in the water, shanked a 7-iron, duffed a chip into the bunker and made a 12. With a double bogey on the last hole, he shot a 90, the highest score of his PGA Tour career.
For all his birdies, Garrigus was especially satisfied with one par.
He pulled his tee shot well left on the 16th hole, the most dangerous tee shot at Innisbrook. The ball went deep into the pines, and Garrigus decided to take on a tiny gap in the trees with a 5-iron.
“I probably hit one of the top-five shots of my life there on 16 out of the trees,” he said. “Hit a low, cut 5-iron, then rose it up over the pine tree and cut it 40 yards and hit to 10 feet. That’s just one of those shots that when you’re playing good and everything is rolling, you kind of expect it. It was a lot of fun to try it, and to pull it off was even better. I’ve spent half my life in the trees. I’ve had a lot of practice.”
He missed the putt, but was more than happy with par.
As for the rest of the golf course, he picked up another birdie on the par-3 15th with a long putt, and one on the par-4 ninth with a 20-foot birdie down the hill.
Garrigus went into even greater detail with his fishing.
“When I’m fishing, I usually know what’s going on,” he said. “If it’s warm, you throw certain things during the day, at night you throw worms. If the water is down they’re going to be a little sluggish because they have less room to roam. … I’ve been playing professional golf for 17 years and I’ve been bass fishing for eight. I’m not even close to the potential I could be bass fishing-wise as I am golfing-wise.
“It’s one week at a time, one cast at a time, one shot at a time – kind of the same premise,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun.”
So is the golf so far this week.