The Valspar Championship Halfway Hut: Unheralded Matthew NeSmith thrashes a brilliant 61 to lead

All the best news, stats, quotes and social after 36 holes on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook.

After carding a superb 10-under-par 61 to grab a two shot 36 hole lead in the Valspar Championship on 14-under 128 Matthew NeSmith revealed that he is playing this week with a new attitude designed to deal with on-going anxiety problems.

"It's something I've been working on, something I've been really going through in my life," he said after circling eight birdies and double-circling an eagle-3. "I'm just trying to relax a little bit, take everything as it comes.

"I've just been getting in my own way for a long time. This is the first week that I've kind of let the chips fall where they may, so to speak. If I play bad or play awesome, it's just nice to be carefree and do the best I can.

"I'm done getting in my own way. If it affects the way I play in a bad way, that's fine, but I'm done with the anxiety. I'm done with trying too hard."

A radical policy, maybe, but one the 28-year-old felt was required.

"My game's been great," he explained. "I've really worked on the driver. I've really worked on putting it better. I've really worked on chipping it better. And I've gotten better in all those areas. But I haven't played any better.

"I'm just like everybody else. We like control and we like to steer things in the right direction, but I've been holding on for too long, so I'm done with it.

"It's fairly new and quite uncomfortable, to be honest with you. But it's been working out great the last two days and I'm excited to see what happens at the weekend."

The 2017 tournament winner Adam Hadwin (64-66) sits alone in second on 12-under, defending champion Sam Burns (64-67) shares third with Scott Stallings (65-66) on 11-under, and Justin Thomas (66-66) is alone in fifth on 10-under.


Winners on the Copperhead Course have something of a quirky halfway record. 12 of those 20 champions were tied third or better after 36 holes, but another six were T10th or worse (three of them were not even in the top 30).

In recent times, three stat categories have been important: the last six winners all ranked top six for Strokes Gained Tee to Green, six of the last seven ranked top seven for Putting Average, and six of the last seven also ranked top three on the Par-5s.

If those trends maintain who in the current top five do they currently favour?

NeSmith is ruled out with a poor Putting Average and Stallings is struggling in SG Tee to Green. Hadwin and Burns are both excellent Tee to Green, top 25 for Putting Average and 4-under on the long holes. Thomas, however, is top five for both Putting Average and SG Tee to Green - and he's also 7-under on the long holes.


Matthew NeSmith (61, 14-under)

"I played here last year for the first time and I really like it. I like everything about it. It's tough in areas. You got to hit some good shots. It plays right into my strengths. My iron play has always been kind of everything I can lay my head on, so it works out."

Adam Hadwin (66, 12-under)

"My mind has been pretty good this week, staying patient, not getting too worried about any missed shots or anything. I've holed 176-feet of putts in two days? That's tremendous. That's what won me the tournament five years ago and it's been a strong part of my game for the last four, five years now."

Scott Stallings (66, 11-under)

(On spotting something important in Tyrrell Hatton's putting) "I'm going to keep that one to myself. He probably doesn't even notice it. But anyone that's ever watched him understands that he putts about as good as anyone in the world. I just noticed something in his setup, right before he took the putter back, and I just tried to putt like that. I came to the putting green on Tuesday and I'm like, 'Man, I'm going to figure this out'. Thankfully, it worked."

Justin Thomas (66, 10-under)

"I feel like I've been trending the right direction. I've been saying it. I'm really close to playing some good golf, getting on a run, winning some tournaments. That being said, it doesn't mean that it's going to happen. I'm not owed anything. I just have to go out, get it and execute.

"I feel like the areas that I needed to improve are starting to improve, and the areas that were pretty good are maintaining that or even getting a little bit better. So, at this point, it's just about staying in that focus.

"It also shows how good my golf is right now. I mean, I've played some good golf. I haven't won very often the last year and a half, but I've played some really good golf, had chances and had some top 10s. But you've got to win golf tournaments. So that's where I am."


Very good, but he wasn't actually watching.


The defending champ won't be giving up without a fight.

Meanwhile, Sir Nick Faldo on the Saudi Golf League.

And this was worth watching from earlier in the week.

READ MORE: The Phantom of the Open: Review of the new movie celebrating the great one-off Maurice Flitcroft

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