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Tribune News Service
Tribune News Service
Kristie Ackert

Taylor Moore is the surprise winner of the Valspar Championship

PALM HARBOR, Fla. — Taylor Moore stood on the practice putting green and casually checked some messages on his phone. The 29-year-old had just turned in the best score of the day at the Valspar Championship and at 10 under was sitting atop the field.

With his fiancee and her father, who had surprised him after his round, Moore waited out of the spotlight, about 200 yards behind the stands where Jordan Spieth and Adam Schenk were playing the final hole at the Innisbrook Resort.

“That 20 minutes or whatever it was felt like a long time,” Moore said. “I didn’t have a monitor or a TV to watch either, so I was getting updates from some of the staff out there. I was really just trying to stay loose and get in competition mode just in case I had to go back out to the 18th tee and try to win this thing in a playoff.”

That did not happen on the Copperhead Course on Sunday.

Schenk, who went to the 18th also at 10 under, hit his worst tee shot of the tournament, and Spieth, a shot behind the leaders, bogeyed 18.

Moore heard the groans coming from the final hole, got the official word from the security guard and knew he had just won his first-ever PGA Tour event.

“It still really hasn’t sunk in. It’s a pretty awesome feeling, obviously, knowing everything that goes with it,” Moore said. “I’m 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.”

Moore started the day at 6 under and quietly moved up the leaderboard. He made an 18-foot birdie putt on No.12, then went on to nail back-to-back birdies on 15 and 16. He placed an 88-foot approach shot to within 2 feet of the hole to save par on the 219-yard 17th and parred the final hole to finish as one of three players at 4-under 67 on the day.

“I didn’t see my first scoreboard until 17. I hit that bunker shot there and I knew where I was at,” Moore said of his round. “Really got off to a good start, though. …. Then I think the shot on 15 is really when I kind of locked in for the finish. Hit a great 9-iron there. We had a perfect yardage, good wind, hit that one close, made the putt.”

It was Moore’s first top-10 finish this season.

Schenk (1-under 70) finished one shot behind for the highest finish of his career while Spieth and Tommy Fleetwood also shot 70 and tied for third. The 2021 and 2022 champion, Sam Burns, turned in a 67 to salvage a sixth-place finish. Pasco County amateur Nick Gabrelcik shot 5 over on Sunday and finished his first PGA Tour event tied for 69th (8 over).

Spieth said he had no idea that Moore had made such a big move.

“I thought it was me and Adam. I thought it was down to us two, and I thought I was maybe going to sneak a tie on 16,” Spieth said.

Schenk just needed a par to force a playoff, but his tee shot on No. 18 put the ball right up against the trunk of a big pine tree. He made an impressive left-handed shot out of there, then had a hard-hit 46-foot putt for to try and save par. It lipped in and out of the cup.

“I haven’t had a ton of top 10s on the PGA tour. 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. I’m getting it to the hole,” Schenk said of his thinking. “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.”

Schenk’s second-place finish was the highest of his six years on the tour. His eight-months pregnant wife Kourtney flew in early Sunday morning to be here for the final round.

“It stinks. I hit a really bad drive on the last hole. I toed it,” Schenk said. “I had a chance with the wedge shot that came up short, and then I had a chance with the putt, which surprisingly actually hit the pin and came close. ...

“But great week all in all, so I can’t really complain.”

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