Taylor Moore outlasts Jordan Spieth, Adam Schenk at Valspar for first Tour win
PALM HARBOR, Fla. — Taylor Moore was never really the star attraction Sunday at the Valspar Championship until he had finished hitting all the right shots and posed with the trophy for his first PGA Tour title that sends him to the Masters.
Adam Schenk and Jordan Spieth provided enough compelling theater for so much of the day, locked in a battle on the back nine of the Copperhead course at Innisbrook.
When it was over, all they shared was misfortune.
Moore surged into the mix with a 9-iron to 5 feet for birdie on the 15th hole and a 25-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole, followed by two tough pars for a 4-under 67.
That turned out to be a winner when Spieth hit his tee shot into the water on the 16th and Schenk, going for his first PGA Tour victory, hit a drive on the final hole that settled next to a large pine tree. He made bogey and finished one shot behind.
Moore, who grew up outside Oklahoma City, was on the practice range anticipating a playoff when he realized he had won at 10-under 274.
“I might have been under the radar to some people watching, but I felt like I was in the golf tournament from the time I teed off today and was just excited to control what I could control and get it done,” Moore said.
The victory sends him to the Masters in three weeks, a welcome addition to his schedule.
Spieth was tied for the lead when he sent his tee shot into the water on the 16th and managed to stay in the game by getting up-and-down from 163 yards to salvage bogey. On the par-3 17th, which yielded only two birdies all day, Spieth hit 4-iron to 6 feet — only to miss the birdie putt.
Tommy Fleetwood was part of a three-way tie early on the back nine until he took bogey on the par-5 14th. Spieth didn’t realize anyone else was in the mix.
“I thought it was me and Adam. I thought it was down to us two,” Spieth said. “I was thinking it was Tommy one back of us with a few holes to go and so I thought we could still kind of control it from the last group. Then I saw 10 (under) was posted walking off 16 green.”
The real heartbreak belonged to Schenk, whose wife flew down to Florida for the final round a month before she is due with their first child. Schenk holed a 70-foot birdie putt on the 12th hole. He made tough par saves on the 16th and 17th holes to stay tied.
On the 18th, however, he pulled his tee shot to the left. It was roughly the same line as Moore had hit his tee shot earlier, only Schenk’s ball rolled through the gallery and stopped next to a pine tree.
“Wish I could have lightly hit somebody and stayed where I had a chance to get to the green, but it did not, and I didn’t deserve it,” Schenk said.
His only shot was hitting an inverted gap wedge left-handed, and it was a dandy, shooting across the fairway into the rough. His third shot came up just short of a ridge and rolled onto the fringe 40 feet away. The par putt to force a playoff hit the hole, but had too much pace and hopped out.
Schenk, playing for the 10th consecutive week so he can take time off when his son is born, closed with a 70.
“It stinks to get so close,” he said.
Spieth missed a par putt on the 18th that was worth FedEx Cup points and money, signed for a 70 and tied for third with Fleetwood.
No one was paying all that much attention to Moore until the 29-year-old who played at Arkansas started hitting one quality shot after another. He stuffed his approach to 2 feet on No. 12 for a birdie. He effectively won the tournament with a great swing with a 9-iron on the 15th and his big putt on the next hole.
Moore got up-and-down for par with a long bunker shot on the 17th, and he two-putted from about 70 feet just off the green at the 18th.
The victory for Moore was worth $1,458,000 and moved him to No. 9 in the FedEx Cup standings. Along with the Masters, he gets in the PGA Championship. He moved from No. 103 to just inside the top 50 in the world.
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Scottie Scheffler on top of golf world after dominant Players Championship win
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Scottie Scheffler was going to win the golf tournament.
No drama remained in this 49th Players Championship. Scheffler, like a surgeon, had drained every ounce of drama out of the final round before he made the turn. The thing was all over but the trophy ceremony and the $4.5 million winner’s check being handed to him.
Yet there Scheffler was standing in the middle of the 18th fairway alongside his caddie Ted Scott holding a five-shot lead and he was still as stone-faced as he’d been all day around TPC Sawgrass.
It wasn’t until Scheffler, who had to punch out from the pine straw to the fairway after an errant drive on the last, hit his third shot onto the 18th green that he exhaled. He took his hat off, crouched over and had some words with Scott, smiling for the first time all day.
“Let’s win this thing by five,’’ Scheffler told Scott.
So, he did.
Scheffler calmly got up-and-down from the fairway for par and finished 17-under par, five shots clear of runner-up Tyrrell Hatton and seven-shots better than Viktor Hovland and Tom Hoge. His 3-under-par 69 bettered his final-round playing partner, Min Woo Lee, by seven shots.
It’s been 392 days since Scheffler broke through for his first PGA Tour victory, at the 2022 Waste Management Phoenix Open. Sunday marked his sixth win in that dizzying span, last April’s Masters being one of them.
Not only did the win elevate Scheffler back to No. 1 in the world rankings, but he now owns the impressive distinction as only one of three players to hold a Masters green jacket and a Players Championship title at the same time.
The other two?
Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.
“He’s had an amazing 15-month stretch of golf,’’ Hatton said. “He’s very impressive, incredibly consistent. [I] played with him last Sunday [at Bay Hill] and it was clear like he didn’t have his best that day, but he still hung around and had a chance there right at the end (Scheffler finished tied for fourth). It’s a pretty tough thing to do to be up there when you don’t have your best golf and still give yourself a chance to win.’’
Scheffler on Sunday made his move on Lee and the rest of the field, separating himself when he chipped in for birdie on No. 8 to move to 14-under par, good for a four-shot lead at the moment.
He has a running bet with Scott for an undisclosed sum of cash on how many chip-ins he’ll have this year. The agreed-upon number was 10. Scheffler’s chip-in on No. 8 on Sunday was his 11th already.
And it’s only March.
“I think he chipped in three times this week and when he got his 11th, he was like, ‘Do I get a bonus for this?’ ’’ Scott said. “I’m like, ‘No, you are. You met your quota.’ ’’
It was a chip-in on the third hole at Augusta last April that propelled Scheffler to win his first career major championship.
“It definitely got me going,’’ Scheffler said. “I played great after that. It definitely kick-started me a little bit. I mean, this chip-in was a little bit easier than the one at Augusta.’’
Jordan Spieth, one of the game’s best short-game wizards, said, “He’s got great hands. He’s got every shot. I think that Teddy made a very bad bet. I think Teddy will probably reevaluate considering we’re not even midway through March.’’
Scheffler, who’s remarkably unaffected by any and all chaos around him, has the perfect disposition to handle what he went through Sunday and to handle the No. 1 ranking. As the decibels rise, he’ll carry on as he always does — unaffected.
“He’s obviously used to being in this position now, he’s done it so many times already,’’ Aussie Cam Davis, who finished tied for sixth, said. “I think he’s just got the attitude for it. It just looks like he’s calm, just doing his business, not really worrying what everyone else is doing and churning out birdies, which is what you need to do out here.
“Obviously, he’s got his system down and figured out and I think the closer everyone else can get to finding theirs and sticking to it regardless of what’s going on the better chance we’ll have of keeping up with him.’’
Perhaps the only thing that was more impressive than what Scheffler did on the golf course Sunday was the fact that his 87-year-old grandmother, Mary DeLorenzo, kept up with him walking the golf course with a walker.
“I mean, it’s pretty impressive she’s walking so many holes out here,’’ Scheffler said. “She’s a trooper. I really don’t know what to say. She’s had a rough last year with Grandpa passing away, and we have an uncle that’s pretty sick. I’m just happy that we’re able to kind of enjoy all this together.’’
Wild finish as 30-year-old underdog stuns McIlroy in maiden PGA win
30-year-old Kurt Kitayama has claimed his first-ever PGA Tour win with a stunning victory at the $20m USD Arnold Palmer Invitational, beating Rory McIlroy by one shot in a stunning boilover.
Kitayama turned professional in 2015, but in his 50th tournament the American finally claimed his maiden victory in sensational fashion, with a host of the world’s top players breathing down his neck throughout the final round.
A clutch 14-foot birdie putt on 17 gave him a one-shot lead entering the final hole at Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Orlando Florida.
From 191 yards in the rough, Kitayama landed a sensational approach shot onto the green.
He only needed to two-putt for victory, but his 47-foot attempt was almost perfectly struck – ending up teetering on the edge of the cup.
Even McIlroy was left in disbelief as he watched on, shaking his head that the ball didn’t fall.
Remarkably, Kitayama had suffered a triple bogey on the ninth hole while leading, before fighting back to win, making him the first player since 1983 to win despite a triple bogey or worse in the final round.
His even-par final round saw him finish nine-under overall.
The victory earns him $3.6m USD, nearly as much as his previous career earnings of $4,194,548 USD. It also rockets him up 33 spots on the FedExCup hunt into sixth place ahead of the Players Championship this week.
Harris English was tied with McIlroy one shot back on eight under, with world number two and defending champion Scottie Scheffler, 2020 champion Tyrrell Hatton, Jordan Spieth, and Patrick Cantlay all one shot further back. Australia’s Jason Day was equal tenth on five under overall.
“It was really hard. I’m going to sleep really well tonight. It’s everything I kind of mentally prepared myself for,” said Kitayama.
“I’ve always dreamed of winning on the Tour and to finally do it, it’s pretty amazing.”
McIlroy said: “Disappointment, obviously. I feel like I gave myself a great chance … It was a battle all day, I felt like I hung in there really well but just came up one short.”