After more than seven years without a win on the PGA Tour, John Senden saved his best shots for the finishing holes at Palm Harbor, Florida to secure a win at the Valspar Championship with a score of 7-under par 277. Kevin Na, who began the day one stroke in back of third-round leader Robert Garrigus, finished one shot behind Senden at minus-6.
For Senden it was a day of ups and downs. Starting the day two behind Garrigus after a tournament best round of 64 on Saturday, Senden scored birdies on the first and fifth holes to climb to to 8-under. Two holes later he would bogey the par-4 seventh hole and drop back to minus-7. Three bogeys and a birdie on the first six holes of the back nine left him at 5-under. At that point in the contest, with three of the most difficult holes on the course yet to come, he found himself in danger of fading out of contention completely. The three closing holes on the Copperhead course at Innisbrook Resort have been nicknamed “The Snake Pit,” and the Australian appeared to be feeling the venom when he hit his drive into the trees on number 16, the most difficult hole of those three. Senden had no way of hitting his second shot on the green, so he played to the right of the hole hoping to get up and down for par. He did better than that. From 70 feet away he holed his chip shot for birdie and a one-shot lead. Playing a safe shot to the middle of the green on the par-3 17th hole, Senden got another surprise birdie when his 20-foot putt went in the center of the hole. Senden could have sealed the win at Valspar right there on the 18th, but his 40-foot birdie putt missed by inches. Nonetheless, he was in the clubhouse with the lead at 7-under par.
Playing behind Senden was Kevin Na who had not waved the white flag just yet. Na, who had almost shot himself out of the golf tournament with 39 on the front nine, had birdied the 14th and found himself the closest contender at 2-shots back with two holes to play. He flew his tee shot on 17 just over the top of the flagstick and saw it stop 15 feet in back of the pin. After making the putt for a birdie, Na went to the tee box on the final hole knowing he could force a playoff with another birdie. It was not meant to be. Na pitched past the pin on the 18th and his long birdie attempt never really had a chance. He would finish alone in second place. Scott Langley was third at 5-under, and third round leader Robert Garrigus had a final round of 75 to finish in a tie for fourth with Luke Donald and Will MacKenzie.
The win at Valspar means several things to the 42-year old John Senden. It means, first of all, that he is more than a million dollars richer. It also qualifies him for the Masters next month in Augusta. Most of all it’s simply a win—his first PGA Tour win since the John Deere Classic in 2006.
Commentary by Chuck Podhaisky
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