Danny Lee riding confidence at Copperhead

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 14, 2014 at 2:48 am •  Published: March 14, 2014

PALM HARBOR, Fla. (AP) — Danny Lee would not fit that adage of "horses for courses" in golf.

He had never seen the troublesome Copperhead course at Innisbrook until he arrived on Tuesday for the Valspar Championship. He played a practice round that day and jokingly said he would have shot something around 90. Or maybe he wasn't joking.

"I was shocked how hard it was," Lee said.

And that was in nice weather.

Throw in some unseasonably cool weather for the third leg of the Florida swing, add a strong wind with gusts topping 20 mph, and Innisbrook is even harder.

Lee quickly ran off three birdies in five holes. He was the only player Thursday to reach 4-under-par for the day until making his lone bogey, failing to get up-and-down from the bunker at No. 6, the third-hardest hole on the course.

He wound up with a 3-under 68, giving him a share of the lead with Pat Perez, Greg Chalmers and Matt Every.

Simply attribute that to a horse who finally hit his stride.

Lee, a former U.S. Amateur champion, had no plans of even being in the Valspar Championship after missing every cut this year, and six in a row dating to the OHL Classic in Mexico last November. But he changed over to a "claw" putting grip, and then a funny thing happened in the Puerto Rico Open. He shot all four rounds in the 60s and was the runner-up to Chesson Hadley. That was enough to get into the field at Innisbrook, and he took it from there.

"I gained a lot of confidence after last week playing with the finish in Puerto Rico," Lee said. "It really helped me a lot with that confidence stuff, and I'm hitting it really well right now. My ball striking is the best it's ever been, especially with the putting. I got the new claw grip — still working great, which is fantastic."

Innisbrook didn't allow much room for error in these conditions.

Only 11 players broke 70 — three of them, including Every, in the morning when it was windy and cold — and 25 players broke par. And that 68 was the highest score to lead the first round in the 14-year history of this tournament at Innisbrook.

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