Steve Stricker

Steve Stricker

Dave Gerry photo

PALM HARBOR, Florida -- Only three other golfers have won events on the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions in the same season.

Steve Stricker put himself in position Thursday to become the fourth.

The Madison golfer bounced back from two bogeys early in his round with three birdies on a bogey-free back nine on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort & GC. His 1-under-par 70 left him three shots behind leader Corey Connors of Canada in a 20-way tie for eighth place.

That mammoth group includes Tiger Woods, Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott, Luke Donald, Justin Rose, U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk, amateur Dylan Meyer from Stricker's alma mater (Illinois) and fellow PGA Tour Champions golfer Bob Estes. The opening round was not as kind to many familiar names such as Rory McIlroy (74), Jordan Spieth (76) or Ian Poulter (78).

Momentum was hard to gain, even for Stricker.

After leaving a 16-foot birdie putt on the lip at the par-5 first hole, last week's winner at the Cologuard Classic went bogey-bogey to fall to 2-over. He parred the next seven holes before back-to-back birdies at the par-5 11th and par-4 12th holes got him back to even. A birdie at No. 17 got him into the top 10. 

The Valspar Championship is Stricker's third start on the PGA Tour this year. He was three shots off the lead after two rounds of the Waste Management Phoenix Open after two rounds, closed 73-69 and tied for 31st. He was three back after 54 holes the following week at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, shot a final-round 76 and finished in a tie for 26th place.

Stricker has three top-10 finishes in seven starts at the Valspar Championship. Only Raymond Floyd (1992), Craig Stadler (2003) and Fred Funk (2007) have won tournaments on both the regular and senior tours in the same season.

Stricker will go off the 10th tee at 11:57 a.m. CST Friday with Charley Hoffman and Webb Simpson.