Mar
16
2014
Senden sends it at the Valspar Championship
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour
Snake charmer!
For a while, it looked like no one wanted to win in the final round of the Valspar Championship as the leaders got off to slow starts and at the same time, the contenders began to backup. Then, John Senden decided he was going to snare this victory for his first on the PGA Tour since 2006, beating out Kevin Na by one stroke.

The 42-year-old Australian birdied two of the last three holes at Innisbrook’s Copperhead Course — aka the notorious Snake Pit — to clinch the win. He had a bit of luck (or extreme skill) on his side, which is sometimes a sign that it’s your week to hoist the trophy. 

On the par-4 16th, it seemed like Senden was in a bit of trouble, after knocking his second shot into the green-side rough on the left, but no big deal — he hit a perfect chip that holed out for birdie. From there, he took the solo lead and never looked back.

“It was just like a magic shot,” he said.

Again, on the par-3 17th, Senden used a bit of magic, draining a 22-footer for birdie.

“At 17 I had the line and struck in well and it went right in the middle,” he said.

On the finishing par-4 18th, Senden took an iron off the tee, which was a little shaky, but he knocked his approach to about 40 feet and hit a beautiful lag putt to tap-in distance to take par and run.

Despite several early (and psuedo-late) bogeys, he shot a one-under 70, 7-under total, which was good enough to land him in the winner’s circle.

“With the difficulty of the course, the winning score always stays in single figures so I knew if I could just stay in the moment I could just give it a shake,” he said.

The victory earns him a payday of $1.02 million, along with a consolation prize — an invitation to the Masters.

Meanwhile, Na gave Senden a run for his money on the 18th, with a similar putt for birdie, but Na’s never had a chance. However, he sank a 14-footer for birdie on no. 17 just to give himself a chance at a playoff with Senden.

Na deserves a tip of the cap for battling back after a slow start and his slow play issues in the third round.

He had a tough stretch in the middle of the front nine, where he went bogey-bogey-double on nos. 6-8. On the eighth, he missed a three-footer for bogey that sent him tumbling down the packed leaderboard.

But, like I said, he battled back on the back nine, with a crucial save for par on no. 16 and the birdie on no. 17. He finished with a one-over 72.

Scott Langley was in the mix coming down the stretch and the early leader in the clubhouse at five-under. As the only player in the field to shoot par or better each day, he ended up placing solo third. The 24-year-old American made key saves on nos. 17 and 18 to keep his hopes alive, but it just wasn’t enough.

Will Mackenzie deserves a shout-out for finishing T4 and notching his second top-10 finish in a row at two very difficult golf courses — PGA National and Innisbrook. After falling out of the PGA Tour down to the Web.com Tour for a few years, it appears Mackenzie has rediscovered his groove — this was his fourth top-10 of the new wraparound season.

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Random notes via the PGA Tour:

*John Senden’s winning total of 7-under-par 277 is the second highest winning score in Valspar Championship history. Only Sean O’Hair’s 4-under 280 total  in winning the 2008 event was higher.

*John Senden’s 7-under score this week marked the third straight time there was a single-digit, under-par winner on the PGA TOUR. Before today, the last time that three consecutive winners on the PGA TOUR (not including majors or opposite events) were single digits under par was 1990: Payne Stewart/GTE Byron Nelson Classic (-8), Greg Norman/The Memorial (even), and Ben Crenshaw/Southwestern Bell Colonial (-8). The last time there were three consecutive single-digit, under-par winners on the PGA TOUR was in 2012: Tiger Woods/The Memorial (-9), Dustin Johnson/FedEx St. Jude Classic (-9), Webb Simpson/U.S. Open (+1).

*Kevin Na’s runner-up finish at the Valspar Championship was his best performance on the PGA TOUR since his victory at the 2011 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. Na started the 2013-2014 PGA TOUR season with a T3 at the Frys.com Open and was also T4 at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

*Scott Langley’s third-place effort at the Valspar Championship matched his career-best effort on the PGA TOUR (T3 2013 Sony Open in Hawaii) and earned him a spot in the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio in two weeks.

*Luke Donald ‘s T4 today was his fourth consecutive finish among the top six on the Copperhead Course. In addition to winning the 2012 event, Donald was sixth in 2010 and fourth last year. He did not play in the 2011 event.

*Sang-Moon Bae’s 4-under 67 was the low round on Sunday and allowed him to make the biggest move in the final round, jumping 44 spots into a T14.

*Jonathan Byrd started the 2013-2014 season on a Major Medical Extension after missing the first three months of last year with a left wrist injury. He needed to make $166,517 in 10 events in order to maintain his exemption on the PGA TOUR and today, in Byrd’s ninth start, he exceeded that figure with a check for $31,540 for a T32 at the Valspar Championship. Byrd now has made $171,967 in the 2013-2014 season.

(Getty/AFP, Maddie Meyer)