5 Things: Senden survives; Copperhead strikes; more
Sunday, March 16, 2014
Nearly eight years removed from his other PGA Tour win, John Senden endured a roller-coaster back nine Sunday at Innisbrook's Copperhead Course to hold off Kevin Na by a shot and win the 2014 Valspar Championship on PGA Tour.
Scott Langley finished solo third, with Luke Donald, third-round leader Robert Garrigus and Will MacKenzie T-4.
Here are 5 Things to Know about Sunday's action in Palm Harbor, Fla.
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1. SENDEN SURVIVES: Consider John Senden's birdie to start the day the difference-maker if you will, as he played the rest of his day in even par. But that success out of the gate surely is eclipsed by back-to-back birdies at Nos. 16-17 when the pressure was on.
Senden had led by two after the 12th hole, but a bogey at the 13th was his second straight and before long he was looking up at Scott Langley.
A birdie at the 14th would be the first of three during his next four holes, but the drama remained as he bogeyed the 15th.
But Langley would bogey as Senden chipped in for birdie at the 16th to regain a share of the lead. A birdie putt at the 17th, from more than 20 feet out, gave Senden a lead he wouldn't relinquish.
"If I could just stay in the moment, I knew I was swinging well enough to give it a shake," Senden said.
It got Senden his first win since the 2006 John Deere Classic.
"It's something that makes you believe more than you can get it done again, rather than just once and thinking back then in '06, 'Was it a flash in the pan?' I don't believe so," Senden said. "But now it makes me feel (validated) from the John Deere."
Perhaps the finish is fitting, as it reflects Senden's last four Tour events: MC at Pebble Beach, T-18 at the Northern Trust Open, T-46 at the Honda Classic and a win.
"I didn't turn my phone on because I know there's going to be 4,000 messages," Senden said. "It feels good to do it again after seven years. Lot of good things to come."
Oh by the way, that gets Senden into the Masters.
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2. SNAKE-BIT BY 'SNAKE PIT': Why was Senden's play down the stretch so notable? Check out the closing performances of the other contenders.
Only Kevin Na matched Senden's 2-under performance from No. 14 in; his hill was too high to climb, though, after playing Nos. 6-8 in 4 over.
"I knew coming into today that I felt like if I shot par I had a chance to win," Na said. "If I break par, I felt like it was going to be a lock."
Scott Langley birdied No. 14, but played 1 over the rest of the way with a bogey at No. 16.
Will MacKenzie held leader-in-the-clubhouse honors when he wrapped up a 1-under 70, but played the last five holes in 1 over with a bogey at No. 15.
Luke Donald closed in decent fashion, with a birdie at No. 14, but parred in from there for a 70.
And third-round leader Robert Garrigus? Like Donald, he birdied No. 14 and could only manage par from there on for a 75.
"I know what I'm not going to be doing next year — fishing," said Garrigus, who figures he caught three dozen large-mouth bass this week. "I'm going to bring a damn chain saw out to the place and cut a few trees down. I kept hitting it behind them all day. I just didn't get any breaks."
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3. SUNDAY SCORING STRUGGLES: Like Thursday's first round, nobody truly was able to "go low" Sunday. Sang-Moon Bae had the round of the day at 67, with three players managing a 68.
Bae finished T-14 at 1 under thanks in large part to a hot start with back-to-back birdies at Nos. 1-2. He made the turn at 1 under after a birdie at No. 5 followed immediately by back-to-back bogeys. A bogey-free back nine with birdies at Nos. 10, 14 and 15 got the South Korean to 4 under for the day, where he finished.
As for the three 68s? Graham DeLaet did his damage during a bogey-free front with three scattered birdies, then played the back nine in even par. Charles Howell III scored all four of his birdies on the front against a bogey, then carded nine pars on the back. And Ryo Ishikawa also found the front to his liking, with four birdies against no bogeys before playing the back in 1 over.
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4. PAINFUL FINISHES: Sunday will be a day Mark Calcavecchia and Rory Sabbatini surely will try to forget.
Sabbatini might have been done in by Florida's spring pollen when a sneeze on the 14th left him with an injured rib. “I didn’t feel much except for complete pain," he said. But in search of FedEx Cup points, he gutted out the rest of the round.
Calcavecchia, on the other hand, was valiant in the attempt but had to give in before finishing. EMTs assessed that he has a "norovirus that is going round," his wife Brenda said. Calcavecchia received IV fluids that helped his condition improve.
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5. SHORT SHOTS: Sunday 72s kept Harris English and Jordan Spieth fifth and 11th, respectively, in FedEx Cup points. . . . Senden and Langley gained the most ground in the season's points standings, rising 69 and 66 spots respectively. . . . Chesson Hadley made a 30-foot birdie putt on his last hole Friday to make the cut on the number. He followed with rounds of 67-71 and tied for 14th, a week after winning the Puerto Rico Open for his first PGA Tour title. . . . Markedly better than John Daly's 90 Friday, John Mallinger had the high score of Sunday's final round with an 80. . . . Donald took note after the round of the Florida Swing's degree of difficulty this year. He posted via his Twitter account, @LukeDonald: "Last 3 weeks, winning score has been -8, -4, -7. Tough stretch of golf, time for a couple of glasses to unwind! #Cheers"
– Associated Press contributed