Golf: Jim Herman leads Valspar Championship by two strokes after first round

Jim Herman hits off the ninth tee during the first round of the Valspar Championship.
Jim Herman hits off the ninth tee during the first round of the Valspar Championship. PHOTO: AFP

St Petersburg, United States (AFP) - American Jim Herman equalled his career-best round by shooting a bogey-free nine-under 62 in Thursday's opening round of the fog-delayed PGA Tour's Valspar Championship.

The 39-year-old Herman has a two-stroke lead over fellow American Russell Henley and Sweden's Henrik Stenson, who both shot 64.

Henley finished at seven-under despite opening with a bogey on his first hole.

The round was suspended due to darkness with several players still on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort.

They will finish the first round before second-round play begins.

Herman came within one shot of the course record with nine birdies, just missing a 61 shot in 2012 by Ireland's Padraig Harrington.

American James Hahn was alone in fourth, and Seamus Power of Ireland was by himself in fifth after a 66.

Americans Tony Finau, Keegan Bradley, Charles Howell and Webb Simpson share sixth place at 67. American Bryson DeChambeau was also four under through 15 holes.

Herman, who won for the first time last year at the Shell Houston Open, decided to play the event at the last minute.

"That was a fun round," said Herman. "I don't think there's many feelings better than shooting in the low 60s on the PGA Tour."

Stenson had been off to a good start in 2017, tying for eighth in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Champions and tying for second in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic on the European Tour.

He also tied for second in the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October.

Stenson's bogey-free round included just 26 putts. The big Swede hit 12 of 13 fairways.

"When the putter feels good and short game is in good shape, a lot of times I see it more as guaranteeing having a second shot into around the green or hit the green, even if it's a longer club," Stenson said.

"That's kind of what I've done around here the previous two times, and it's worked out fine." Henley responded after his opening bogey with birdies on eight of the next 11 holes.

"I feel like I'm seeing the break well here," Henley said. "The greens are running really true, and what I'm seeing, that's what the ball is doing. I got more and more confident as the day went on."