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Solid start for DJ in 'tricky' conditions at Valspar

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PALM HARBOR, Fla. – Even though his score left a little to be desired, Dustin Johnson felt pleased with his opening effort in his first Valspar Championship appearance in nearly a decade.

Johnson hasn’t played Innisbrook since a missed cut in 2010, and he didn’t see the back nine until Thursday’s opening round. Teeing off alongside defending champ Paul Casey in swirling afternoon winds, he shot a 2-under 69 that left him in a tie for 11th, three shots off the lead shared by Joel Dahmen and Sepp Straka.

“I played a little better than my score,” Johnson said. “First time being here in a while, not really used to the golf course. I felt like I hit the ball really well, even hit good putts, just a couple misreads, but all in all it was a good score and I felt like the conditions, they were tricky.”

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Johnson’s round came in the more difficult afternoon session, as all five scores of 67 or better came from the morning wave. But the Copperhead Course had plenty of bite; Masters champ Patrick Reed stumbled to an opening 77, while Jason Day and former champ Gary Woodland turned in matching scores of 3-over 74. 

Johnson is coming off a T-5 finish at TPC Sawgrass and already has two worldwide victories to his credit this year, building confidence with each round as the Masters draws closer by the day.

“I feel like the game’s been good for a while, and hopefully continues to stay good,” Johnson said. “I feel like I’m swinging really well, and I did everything really well today. Just need to get it in the hole a little bit quicker.”