Schenk’s late birdie puts him ahead of Spieth, Fleetwood

PALM HARBOR, Fla. (AP) — Adam Schenk looked like he was getting passed by Jordan Spieth on Saturday at the Valspar Championship. At the end of a wild and windy round, Schenk was still the player everyone was chasing.

Schenk hit his approach to the 18th hole from 5ft and birdie putt for a 1-under 70, giving him a one-stroke lead over Spieth and Tommy Fleetwood as he chases his first PGA Tour victory .

“We didn’t get a ton of the way to the very end,” Schenk said.

Neither did Fleetwood, who opened with a birdie and followed with 12 straight pars. He ended up with a bogey-free 69 and found that not losing ground was one of the best things he had on the course from Copperhead to Innisbrook.

Spieth, however, is the one who dictated the action.

He had a 69 and had to decide when it was over whether it was a good score due to all the mistakes he made or a lost chance to part ways. Spieth opened with a 6-7 foot eagle iron. He led by no less than two shots.

But he’s only pared three times over his last 12 holes – on four of those occasions he’s called a bogey with a birdie. But it ended on the 18th when he hit a tree during his practice, entered a forward bunker, then was blasted by the collar pin for a final bogey.

“I didn’t have my best parts in the approach game, but overall I’m in a good position for tomorrow,” Spieth said.

Schenk was 8-under 205 and will play in the final group with Spieth, whose game appears to be in shape with the Masters on the horizon.

Schenk is playing his 10th straight week because his wife, Courtney, is expecting their first child in late April. He is also committed to the field next week in the Dominican Republic, although a victory could change everything.

It seems far.

Eight players were within three strokes of the lead. Webb Simpson had a 68 that included a bogey at the par-5 14th when he hit in the water as he tried to lie down. He was two strokes behind, with Taylor Moore (69) and Cody Gribble (70), who made short birdie putts on the 16th and 17th holes and narrowly missed a 20-footer in his three-hole birdie attempt in part of the “Snake Pit” on the Copperhead course.

Patton Kizzire had a 67 and posted early, unsure where that would take him. Spieth had a lot to do with it and he ended up keeping everyone close.

“Eventful” is how Spieth described his tour.

Missed a 5-foot par putt on the No. 7. He hit a 6-iron at 12 feet for a birdie on the No. 8. He missed a par 7-foot putt on the 10, then hit a shot from bunker who landed in the collar and bounced 3 feet out for a birdie on the par-5 11th.

Spieth followed a three-putt bogey on the 13th with a 3-35ft wood for a two-putt birdie on the 14th. It was like that throughout the back nine, and Spieth seemed to have settled in with a putt. normal from 10 feet on the 17th, to send his tee shot into the trees on the 18th.

“I made a few too many mistakes, but overall, under these conditions, I think I would have signed for 2 cents,” Spieth said.

The weather was as wild as its round, gusting to 20mph and moving in an entirely different direction as the last groups were on the back nine. The players were hitting the 9-iron in the par-3 17th earlier in the round, and Gribble had to hit the 5-iron late in the day.

The rain that was expected never came, although Innisbrook expected overnight showers that could boost the score.

Fleetwood was the most stable of the group. He birdied the par-5 opening hole and the par-5 14th, and had a collection of big par putts to keep some momentum going.

“I kept plugging in,” Fleetwood said. “Peers were good. Birdies were hard to come by. The middle stretch, par 9 and 10 stops were good putts to the hole. I never backed down. I was very happy with anything that was equal or better.


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