Taylor Moore edges Jordan Spieth, Adam Schenk for maiden PGA Tour victory at Valspar
Taylor Moore either could have had the best seat on the course, or the worst.
The 29-year-old was the clubhouse leader at the Valspar Championship after a 4-under 67 got him to 10 under for the week. He watched as the final group of Jordan Spieth and Adam Schenk played the 18th at Innisbrook’s Copperhead course with a chance to tie.
“That 20 minutes or whatever felt like a long time,” Moore said. “Really didn’t have like a monitor or a TV to watch either, so I was getting updates from some of the staff out there.”
Spieth needed a birdie while Schenk only par. There was nothing he could do anymore.
They both made bogey.
Instead of prepping for a playoff, Moore came away with his first PGA Tour victory with no need for extra holes.
“It still really hasn’t sunk in,” Moore said. “It’s a pretty awesome feeling, obviously, knowing everything that goes with it. Super happy and — not only for myself, but everybody that’s here with me today, my family and my team, and really looking forward to what’s to come.”
It was a back-and-forth affair for much of the afternoon in Palm Habor, just outside of Tampa. Schenk began the day with the lead, as he had for the previous two days, over Spieth and Tommy Fleetwood by one.
Moore started the final round two back at six under and was humming along with his round at two under for the day through 14.
Meanwhile, Spieth and Schenk were battling it out in the final pairing. Schenk got it to 10 under first thanks to a 71-foot bomb on the 12th. He flipped the script on Spieth who missed his 15-footer to match.
Spieth then pulled even with a birdie on the par-5 14th, but two groups ahead, Moore was just starting his move.
He stuffed his tee shot on the par-3 15th to six feet and then opened the treacherous three-hole finishing stretch, the Snake Pit, with a birdie on the 16th. He drove it into the pine straw but his second found the heart of the green. The birdie try from 27 feet was dead center. Perfect speed.
That got him into a three-way tie which would hold until the final pair reached the 16th.
Moore was just finishing up on 18, where he two-putted from more than 80 feet to post 10 under. He had three holes from his chasers to survive.
The long par-4 16th would prove pivotal for Spieth as he wiped his 3-wood well right, into the pond. He ended up making a gutsy bogey after he had to layup still with his third after the drop.
“I was trying to hit a really straight fade, but I bailed a little bit on the swing, trying to lean to get it really low,” Spieth said. “I just didn’t want to get it up in the air. If I’m going to play that shot, I could go to driver really low off the tee and try and slide it a lot.
“I hit it off the heel. When you hit it off the heel, it’s going to start spinning with the breeze.”
Then, in true Spieth fashion, he ripped a 4-iron on the penultimate par-3 17th from 219 yards just a little left of the flag. The ball just flew the left greenside bunker and took a slope toward the cup, settling just under seven feet away, the best shot all day on the hole.
Reminiscent of his rally at Birkdale to win the Open Championship in 2017, he was right back in the tournament.
Until he missed. The putt to get back into a share never had enough speed.
“I thought with Jordan one back and hitting it close there on 17, I never saw the putt, but I thought he might knock that one in,” Moore said.
Schenk, willed his way to par on 17 after missing into the right bunker, blasting out to 16 feet and making the putt.
That sent the pair to the final hole with Schenk still in a share with Moore and Spieth one back.
Schenk’s tee ball started down the right side of the fairway but quickly snap hooked and ended up in maybe the worst spot it could have. He was nestled against the right side of a tree with no hope of a normal stance.
Instead of playing backward with a semi-normal swing, Schenk turned his club upside down and told his caddie he would take the chance of trying to move the ball forward with a lefty swing.
He caught it flush, too flush in fact, leaving himself 98 yards from the right rough.
Spieth meanwhile, caught a good lie in the left rough and his approach looked like it would stop about 15 feet from the hole, but it didn’t. It kept rolling, all the way back to 48 feet.
Then Schenk’s third did the same.
Neither could convert their equalizers with Schenk’s par putt even catching the right lip, just with too much speed.
“I want to close one out some day, but how many chances am I going to have, so I’m not leaving this putt short,” Schenk said. “I’m getting it to the hole. I did and it was on line. It would have been amazing if it went in, but luckily, it hit the pin or else I would have been another 4, 5 feet behind.”
Making Moore’s win even more unlikely, his win is his first top-10 in 15 starts this year on the PGA Tour. The second place finish is Schenk’s career-best.