Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas, ranked 1 and 2 in world, respectively, will be paired at Innisbrook’s Copperhead Course
The top two players in the world, No. 1 Dustin Johnson and No. 2 Justin Thomas, will be paired in the featured group for the first two rounds of the Valspar Championship, the PGA Tour announced Tuesday.
Chile’s Joaquin Niemann, who is No. 32 in the world, will be the third member of the 1:11 p.m. EDT pairing Thursday on the No. 1 tee at Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead Course in Palm Harbor, Fla.
Johnson, 36, a 24-time winner, has posted only one top-10 result on the PGA Tour in his past seven starts since winning the 2020 Masters. Thomas, who will celebrate his 28th birthday during Thursday’s first round, won the Players Championship in March for his 14th career victory. Since back-to-back runners-up to start the new year in Hawaii, Niemann, 22, owns no other stroke-play result better than T-25 this year.
In another marquee group, No. 7-ranked Patrick Reed will join fellow American Phil Mickelson, a five-time major champion, with Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat at 8:01 a.m. Thursday on No. 10 tee. Aphibarnrat, an alternate, got the call Tuesday to replace No. 8-ranked Englishman Tyrrell Hatton, who was among four players to have tested positive for COVID-19 this week and be forced to withdraw.
None of those elite globetrotters likely was as happy to get his starting time in the Valspar as Monday qualifier Michael Visacki, who shot 5-under 67 at Southern Hills in Brooksville, Fla., and then survived a 4-for-2 playoff. Visacki, 27, of Sarasota, a mini-tour veteran, will be making his first start on the PGA Tour. In a tearful call, he informed his father, Mike.
“I made it,” he said simply, struggling to contain his emotions.
Since he turned pro in 2013 after one college season at Central Florida, Visacki has won seven times on the West Florida Golf Tour.
He was paired with fellow Americans Hank Lebioda and Brad Adamonis at 9:07 a.m. Thursday on the No. 1 tee.
For tee times, click here.
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