PALM HARBOR, Fla. (AP) — 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.
The Associated Press