PALM HARBOR, FLORIDA – MARCH 21: Carl Yuan of China lines up a putt on the 16th green during the first round of the Valspar Championship at Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club on March 21, 2024 in Palm Harbor, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

A phone call from his wife reminding him to have fun on the golf course on his birthday did the trick for China’s Carl Yuan as he fired a 5-under 66 for tied third place after the first round of the Valspar Championship on Thursday.

Yuan, who turned 27, has missed four cuts in his last six starts, including at THE PLAYERS Championship last week, but showed signs of a revival at Innisbrook Resort Copperhead Course where he sank one eagle and five birdies against two bogeys. He is two shots back of leader and playing partner, Kevin Streelman who carded a 64.

“I think I played pretty good overall. Definitely had a little different mindset this morning. My wife called me this morning, told me about the birthday, so she said the only thing I’ll do is have fun on the course. She wanted to make sure I knew it’s important I have fun out there, no matter what I shoot. Yeah, don’t come out here to do golf swings, just play golf. That’s what I did. It worked out pretty good,” said Yuan.

After starting his 2024 campaign with a tied fourth in the Sony Open in Hawaii, Yuan has struggled to repeat his good form. After making two bogeys and one birdie over his first four holes, Yuan hit his stride with an eagle on the par-5 14th hole after striking a 4-iron approach to 15 feet of the hole. He then made four straight birdies from the ninth to 12th holes.

“I hit a perfect 4-iron. Pretty big breaking putt, but I practiced that putt in the practice round, so I kind of know what it was going to do. I hit it perfect on line and it went in with good speed,” said Yuan, who finished tied 63rd in last year’s tournament.

“I definitely haven’t been playing the way I would like to play, just, I guess, just be more myself the way I like to play golf instead of being too technical and swinging too perfectly, yeah. I definitely played well there (in Sony Open) and just kind of do my thing. So don’t let other things get in the way, you know, trying to swing good or something, just trying to play golf, so, yeah.

Japanese rookie Ryo Hisatsune also started well with a 68, bouncing back from a missed cut last week at TPC Sawgrass while K.H. Lee was the best performing Korean with a 71.

PARTIAL First-Round Notes – Thursday, March 21, 2024

Weather: Mostly sunny. High of 79. Wind ESE 4-8 mph.

Suspension of play: The first round was suspended at 7:46 p.m. ET Thursday due to darkness with two players, Paul Barjon (E) and Kevin Dougherty (-2), left to complete the round. They will resume at 9:20 a.m. Friday and the second round will begin at 7:35 a.m.

PARTIAL First-Round Leaderboard

1Kevin Streelman64 (-7)
2Kevin Roy65 (-6)
T3Adam Svensson66 (-5)
T3Carl Yuan66 (-5)
T3Peter Malnati66 (-5)
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