PALM HARBOR — Robert Garrigus is a pretty good bass fisherman.
“Maybe top five in the world,” the 36-year-old PGA Tour veteran joked.
And Garrigus was all smiles Friday evening after shooting a field-best 66 to move to 7-under par for a three-stroke lead over Kevin Na after the second round of the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club.
Garrigus, who finished second on the Copperhead course in 2012 after losing a playoff to Luke Donald that included Jim Furyk and Sang-Moon Bae, had six birdies and a bogey and credits his 36-hole success to putting. And fishing, too.
“I’m rolling in the putts I’m supposed to,” said Garrigus, whose lone PGA Tour win came in November 2010 at the now-defunct Children’s Miracle Network Classic that was hosted by Disney in Orlando. “That’s a huge deal when you have a golf course that is very difficult … and that’s probably the biggest thing this week, so far.
“Sometimes, I’d rather take fishing over the golf. … I’ve spent a half-million dollars on boats and trucks and gear and rods just to try and figure out this elusive fish (bass) and it’s a lot of fun — addictive, and I think because I fished all Monday and Tuesday, practiced a little (golf) and didn’t even look at the course, its kind of freed up my mind.”
Garrigus is 14th in the field in putting through two rounds with 56 total putts, including just 12 on the front nine of his second round. Garrigus drained a 27-foot birdie putt on 15, a 16-footer on 9 and a 10-footer on the first hole to get his round off on the right foot after he entered it at 2 under.
Garrigus found some adversity headed into Copperhead’s infamous Snake Pit, as his tee shot hooked into the pine straw and woods on the left side of the 16th hole. Garrigus hit a low cut shot to 14 feet to save par and parred the rest of the Snake Pit, as well.
“That shot really kind of changed everything,” Garrigus said. “I probably hit one of the top five shots of my life out of the trees there.”
Na turned in one of two 68s in the field Friday, with Justin Rose carding the other after starting the day even. Na, 30, had a bogey-free round that included a 23-foot chip-in birdie on the ninth to grab second place. Rose, who got as low as 4 under, dropped shots at 6 and 8 for a four-way tie at 3 under with Pat Perez (71), Matteo Manassero (70) and Matt Every (71). Five others are tied at seventh at 2 under, including 2010 Valspar champ Jim Furyk (69), Round 1 co-leader Greg Chalmers (72) and Scott Langley (69).
“You can probably tell I like (Innisbrook) quite a bit,” Langley, 24, said. “Its a great course and suits my game well, but it equalizes the field because we all have to play the same way. It puts more of a premium on accuracy.”
After crisp, windy conditions Thursday yielded just seven rounds under par in the morning, scoring became more of a commodity Friday, and 17 rounds under par came from the morning groups. Yet, no golfer would pull away from 3 under until Garrigus birdied the fifth and stormed to the top.
All this from the professional golfer who’d rather be fishing.
“You know, when I won Disney,” Garrigus said, “I didn’t play a practice round at all, but I got a cart, put my rod on the back and went fishing and caught about eight fish over five days that week, then went out and shot a 21-under to win the tournament. … (This week) I’ve probably caught about 35 fish in three days, and now I’m 7 under.
“People ask me all the time (what I’d do) if I wasn’t a professional golfer and I’d try to be a professional bass fisherman and (golf and fishing) are the same thing. It’s always one week at a time, different every week, and its one cast at a time, one shot at a time, so its always the same premise.
“Like golf, there’s an art to it and its fun and relaxes me.”