Schenk Birdies Last Hole, Leads Spieth, Fleetwood by One Stroke in the Valspar

Adam Schenk saved his best for last on this day.

Schenk made a clutch birdie on the difficult final hole to shoot one-under-par 70 and take a one-stroke lead over Tommy Fleetwood of England and Jordan Spieth in breezy conditions during the third round of the Valspar Championship on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, Fla.

“We didn’t have a whole lot go our way until the very end, but it was nice to make that birdie on the last to regain the lead,” said second-round leader Schenk, who is seeking his first PGA Tour victory. “It was a battle all day. We really hung in there, but everybody struggled today because when it’s windy, it’s difficult.

“You’re going to get some bad breaks, you’re going to get some good breaks, you just have to wait for them. We got ours on Nos. 16 and 18. The birdie on No. 18 was just an added bonus. I’ll have to check and see what the wind’s going to be tomorrow. But I’m guessing it will come out of the north with how cold it will be.

“So I’ll look at the pin placements and know which pins I’ll have problems with probably, and know which pins I’ll be able to have green lights at, and then we’ll build our game plan around that.”

Schenk, who has two pro victories including the 2017 Lincoln Land Charity Championship on what is now the Korn Ferry Tour, made three birdies on the back nine, hitting his approach shot on No. 18 from 127 yards to within five feet to set up the birdie that put him ahead at eight-under-par 205.

Spieth, who claimed the 2015 Valspar for the second of his 13 PGA Tour victories, made an eight-foot eagle putt on the first hole, but had five bogeys and four birdies the rest of the way in his 69, falling out of the lead with a bogey on the last hole.

“Yeah, it was a really nice start,” said Spieth, a three-time major champion. “I didn’t really have had my best stuff the previous two days with my swing and today I managed it really well around here. And it was kind of lag putting and some chipping that hurt me. It was eventful. I made a few too many mistakes, but overall in these conditions I think I would have signed for two-under.

“We’re a few weeks away from the Masters, so obviously you pick a schedule that you feel like you’re going to be in form, but also rested enough for the Masters. But this was one that I meant to have on the schedule the last two years and I just I think it’s a great golf course, it’s a great test, and I think it’s good for my game.”

Fleetwood, who has not won on the PGA Tour in 111 previous starts despite being close several times including second in two majors, birdied the first and 14th holes to go with 16 pars in another two-under-par 69.

Said Fleetwood, who has won nine times around the world as a pro: “I kept plugging away. Pars were good. Birdies were hard to come by. The middle stretch, with the par saves on Nos. 9 and 10,  were good putts to hole. I never went backward. I was very happy with anything par or better.”

Webb Simpson, the 2012 U.S. Open champion, made a 13-foot eagle putt on the first hole and birdied the last to cap a second straight 68 and is two shots behind in a tie for fourth with Taylor Moore, who had two late birdies in a 69, and Cody Gribble, who birdied the first hole and two of the last three for a 70.

Patton Kizzire made two birdies on each nine in a bogey-free 67 and is three back in a tie for seventh with Wyndham Clark, who had five birdies in a 70, and Matt Wallace of England, who made three birdies on the back nine in another 70.

Chad Ramey birdied the first two holes on his way to a 68 and is four strokes behind in a tie 10th with Zac Blair, who had two late birdies in another 68; David Lingmerth of Sweden, who made two birdies on each nine in a 69; Michael Thompson, who made two birdies on each side in another 69; J.T. Poston, who had three birdies on the back nine in a 71, and Davis Riley, who made only two birdies in a 72.

Tenth-ranked Justin Thomas made three birdies in a 72 and is tied for 20th, while two-time defending Valspar champion Sam Burns is tied for 25th after making the last of his three birdies at No. 17 in a 70.   

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