Schenk Shoots 69, Leads Hickok by One Midway Through Valspar Championship

Adam Schenk remained right where he was, atop the leaderboard.

The 31-year-old Schenk, who was tied for the lead with two others after one round, shot two-under-par 69 in the second round to take a one-stroke lead over Kramer Hickok midway through the Valspar Championship on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, Fla.

“It couldn’t have gone a whole lot better,” said Schenk, who has never won on the PGA Tour. “I feel like a lot of times you play a couple rounds of golf, maybe shoot two-under, and you’re like, it could have been six or seven. But it really couldn’t have been a ton better with the amount of putts I made. I just want to continue that over the weekend, hit our lines.  

“We’re doing a really good job managing the courses and that’s why I’ve made more cuts this year, which we really made a point to do. I mean, if you’re showing up at a tournament—I’m not trying to win every tournament, but I don’t like missing cuts. So I’m just really making a point to really be above average at course management. I think we’ve done a good job of that so far this year.

“I missed the cut at The Players so flew into Valspar on Tuesday afternoon and got a little practice in, and then played nine holes and then teed it up in the pro-am, and away we went.”

Schenk, who has two pro victories including the 2017 Lincoln Land Charity Classic on what is now the Korn Ferry Tour, followed his opening 66 by making birdies on three of the first five holes to kick-start his 69 and carded a 36-hole score of seven-under 135.

Hickok, who has won twice on the PGA Tour Canada and once on the Korn Ferry Tour, made three of his five birdies on the back nine in a second straight 68.

“I like this golf course a lot; it suits my game,” said Hickok, who lost to Harris English on the eighth hole of a playoff in the 2021 Travelers Championship. “You don’t have to have a lot of power, just kind of fetch it around and hit it pretty straight. I like the way I’m sitting right now, but need to go work on the swing a little bit and kind of get back to how it was feeling back on Wednesday and Tuesday.

“I’ve been putting really nice, really just seeing the lines well and hitting some good putts. I don’t really feel like I’m playing all that well tee to green, but I’ve been just keeping the ball in front of me as much as possible and really just scoring pretty well.

“But it’s just a process. I switched coaches back in the Fall and it just gets more comfortable for me every week. It’s certainly better than it was last week and it’s better than it was a week before. So it’s just coming along.”

Jordan Spieth, the 2015 Valspar champion, made two early birdies in a 70 and is two shots behind in a tie for third with Cody Gribble, who posted a bogey-free 65; Tommy Fleetwood of England, who sank a three-foot eagle after a brilliant approach from 215 yards on the first hole in a 69, and Davis Riley, loser to Sam Burns on the second hole of a playoff in the Valspar last year, who made his own eagle at No. 1 in a 68.

Wyndham Clark carded a bogey-free 66 and is three behind in a tie for seventh with Matt Wallace of England, who had six birdies in a 67; Taylor Moore, who had three straight birdies down the stretch in another 67; J.T. Poston, who birdied the first two holes and three of the last six in a 68, and Stephan Jaeger of Germany, one of the first-round tri-leaders, who made only one birdie in a 72.

Tenth-ranked Justin Thomas is tied for sixth after making birdies on three of the first six holes in a 70, while two-time defending Valspar champion Burns struggled to a 73 after making three early birdies and is tied for 40th.

Ryan Brehm, the third co-leader after one round, made a 29-foot eagle putt on the first hole, but that was the highlight as he stumbled to a 75 and is tied for 26th.

Akshay Bhatia, a 21-year-old from Northridge who has won four times on lower tours and  earned Special Temporary Member status on the PGA Tour with a runner-up finish at the 2023 Puerto Rico Open, finished at 70-74—144 and missed the cut by one stroke, while Adam Hadwin of Canada, the 2017 Valspar champion, shot 69-76—145 and missed the weekend by two shots.

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