The Upshot: Senden earns confidence-building victory at Valspar Championship
Conquers "Snake Pit" with pair of birdies for second career win
March 16, 2014
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM
- John Senden earned his first PGA TOUR win since the 2006 John Deere Classic. (Meyer/Getty Images)
PALM HARBOR, Fla. – Credit a little taste of home for helping John Senden see the light at the end of a seven-year dry spell.
After scuffling through an injury-plagued 2013, the 42-year-old Aussie got a boost from a third-place finish at last December’s Australian Open. The only players to finish ahead of him: Winner Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott.
“Absolutely,” Senden said after Sunday’s finishing flourish to win the Valspar Championship, giving him 500 FedExCup points to move him to 14th in the standings. “Third place behind Rory and Scotty, two of the top players in the world – I took that confidence into the new year.”
Not that Senden’s new self-belief paid immediate dividends. His best finish on the West Coast Swing was a tie for 18th at the Northern Trust Open, and even a Friday 63 at The Honda Classic didn’t lift him higher than 46th.
On the bright side, he was feeling healthy for the first time in more than a year, when a rib injury eventually led to a wrist injury from overcompensation. And a short game that had been a weakness was starting to come around.
On Saturday, Senden drained three putts of 30 feet or more in a 7-under 64 to put him squarely in the final-round mix. Then came Sunday’s heroics -- a chip-in birdie at No. 16, the toughest hole on Innisbrook’s Copperhead layout, followed by a 21-foot birdie putt at No. 17.
“What a great finish,” said Scott Langley, who finished two shots back in third. “To play those three holes in 2 under on Sunday to win, you’ve got to hand it to him.”
Senden said: “The short game came through. It’s been pretty good, I guess, from the last 18 months and that has been the difference in my scoring ability.”
Senden hadn’t tasted victory since the 2006 Australian Open, using a birdie-birdie finish to beat then-U.S. Open champ Geoff Ogilvy. Five months earlier he captured the John Deere Classic, avoiding a playoff with a bunker shot at No. 18 to five inches for a winning tap-in.
“It was my first PGA TOUR win, and that will always be fantastic,” he said. “But (the Valspar) was beating a field that’s probably higher in ranking, full FedExCup points.
“It’s something that makes you believe that you can get it done again, rather than just once. Thinking back to ’06, was that something of a flash in the pan? I don’t believe so. Now it sort of consolidates what I did at the John Deere.”
Well done Sendo you did all the right things to be the #ValsparChampionship winner.. Awesome mate.— Stuart Appleby (@StuartAppleby) March 16, 2014
LANDSCAPER WANTED: Though Innisbrook is one of his favorite fishing spots on the schedule, Robert Garrigus has some different equipment in mind for when he returns to play next year’s edition.
“Next year, I’m not going to go fishing,” he said. “I’m going to bring a damn chain saw and cut a few trees out.”
Tree trouble led to double bogeys on two of Sunday’s first six holes. He had to wedge out nearly sideways at No. 3 after his drive settled close to a big pine.
Three holes later, he was forced to do it again and left himself a tough lie near a fairway bunker.
“I just didn’t get any breaks,” said Garrigus, whose 75 left him unable to close out a 54-hole lead for the fourth time in as many opportunities.
On the other hand, his tie for fourth was his first top-five finish since reaching the quarterfinals of last year’s World Golf Championship-Accenture Match Play Championship.
“I’m playing well, doing the right things and I’m looking forward to next week (at Bay Hill),” he said.
TIMELY RESPONSE: After a stretch of bogey-bogey-double bogey on the front nine sent Kevin Na tumbling down Sunday’s leaderboard, the Las Vegas pro showed some moxie to work himself back with a chance to force a playoff on the final hole.
Of equal importance: No timeliness issues, even with the gusty winds that bedeviled everyone at Innisbrook.
“For how much criticism I got, I’m proud of how I played today,” said Na, whose tentativeness and false starts were a prime focus after Saturday’s round.
“I hope people talked about every hole me and (Garrigus) were waiting for the group in front of us,” Na said. “With Robert being 5 over on the front and I was 3 over on the front, and we were waiting every shot. If they didn’t talk about that, I don’t know what to tell you.”
SINGLE DIGITS: Senden’s 7 under winning total marked the third consecutive event in which the winner didn’t reach double digits under par, following Patrick Reed (4 under at Trump Doral) and Russell Henley (8 under at PGA National).
You have to go back to 1990 to find the last time that happened on the PGA TOUR that didn’t include a major. Payne Stewart won the Byron Nelson Classic at 8 under, Greg Norman (even-par) took the Memorial and Ben Crenshaw (8 under) won at Colonial.
Senden’s total also was the second-highest in tournament history. Sean O’Hair captured the 2008 title at 4 under.
WARDROBE OVERSIGHT: Monday, as any Irishman knows, is St. Patrick’s Day. But you won’t see Padraig Harrington sporting any green attire as he plays in a Monday pro-am over at Bay Hill.
“I don’t have any green with me,” the native Dubliner said. “I have zero green in my suitcase.”
The three-time major winner paused a few beats before offering up a rejoinder: “I know I’m Irish,” he said.
Solid week in Tampa, game is coming round nicely. A couple of weeks off now then Houston, The Masters and Hilton Head #KeepGettingBetter— Luke Donald (@LukeDonald) March 16, 2014
STATS: Luke Donald now owns four consecutive top-six finishes on the Copperhead with Sunday’s tie for fourth. He also was fourth last year, won in 2012 and placed sixth in 2010. … With Sunday’s runner-up finish, Na surpassed Greg Norman, Paul Azinger and Mark O’Meara on the PGA TOUR’s career money list. Na’s total of $14.63 million moves him up to 89th all-time. … Sunday’s scoring average of 72.97 made it the toughest round of the week, beating Thursday’s 72.65 in equally gusty (and colder) winds. … For the third day this week, the Copperhead gave up not a single eagle Sunday. All five eagles were recorded during Friday’s play. … Jonathan Byrd’s tie for 32nd was good enough to replace his medical extension with a full card. Byrd needed $166,517 in 10 events to maintain his exemption; Sunday raised his total to $171,967.
PHOTO GALLERY: Click the photo below to check out some of the best images from Sunday's final round at Innisbrook Resort.
CALL OF THE DAY: Dennis Paulson from PGA TOUR Radio on SirusXM and PGATOUR.COM calls John Senden's chip-in birdie at the 16th on his way to winning the 2014 Valspar Championship on Sunday.