March 17, 2014 in Sports

Valspar win ends 7-year drought

Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

John Senden won the Valspar Championship by one stroke.
(Full-size photo)

John Senden ended more than seven years without a victory by making two late birdies, including a chip-in from 70 feet on the toughest hole at Innisbrook, for a one-shot victory on a wild and windy Sunday at the Valspar Championship in Palm Harbor, Fla.

Senden, two shots behind going into the final round, closed with a 1-under 70 for his first PGA Tour win since the 2006 John Deere Classic. The timing couldn’t have been better. The victory sends the 42-year-old Australian to the Masters next month. Senden finished at 7-under 277.

Kevin Na had a long birdie putt on the final hole that would have forced a playoff, but it never came close. He closed with a 72.

“If I could just stay in the moment, I knew I was swinging well enough to give it a shake,” Senden said.

It took what Senden called a “magic shot” to shake loose from a traffic jam along the back nine of the Copperhead course. The tournament was up for grabs over the final two hours, with nine players separated by three shots at one point, and Senden part of a three-way tie for the lead heading into the treacherous, three-hole closing stretch at Innisbrook known as the “Snake Pit.”

He went birdie-birdie-par.

After driving into the trees and playing short of the green on the 16th, Senden lofted a pitch with perfect pace and watched it tumble into the cup for one of only two birdies in the final round. Equipped with a one-shot lead, he followed that with a 20-foot birdie putt on the 17th.

Equally important was the par on the 18th, which was just as difficult as the birdies. He needed two putts up a ridge and breaking slightly to the right before it went swiftly down the slope and breaking to the left. The 40-foot putt settled inches from the cup.

Champions Tour

Fred Couples won the Toshiba Classic in Newport Beach, Calif., for his 10th Champions Tour title, birdieing the final two holes for a one-stroke victory.

Couples, 54, shot a 5-under 66 to finish at 15-under 198 at Newport Beach Country Club. Also the 2010 winner, he made a 4-foot birdie putt on the par-3 17th and holed another 4-footer on the par-5 18th.

Couples had to scramble on the final hole to take the outright lead. After hitting his approach over the green, he hit a flop shot to set up the birdie putt.

Colin Montgomerie, Bernhard Langer and Steve Pate tied for second. Langer had a chance to force a playoff, but missed a 20-foot birdie try on 18 and settled for a 70. Montgomerie had a 62, the best round of the week, and Pate shot a 66.

Couples became the second two-time winner in tournament history. Hale Irwin won in 1998 and 2002.

“It was a great day,” Couples said. “I was a little salty out there at times. I assumed someone would get to 16 under. I’m just happy I made some birdies.”

European Tour

Spain’s Alejandro Canizares won the Trophee Hassan II by five strokes, shooting a 2-under 70 to complete a wire-to-wire victory at Palais Royal in Agadir, Morocco.

Canizares finished at 19-under 269 for his second European Tour victory.

England’s Andy Sullivan was second after a 63, the lowest score of the day.

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