PALM HARBOR, Fla. – 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.
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.
Kevin Na had a long birdie putt on the final hole that would have forced a playoff, but it never came close.
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 he 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.
Senden finished at 7-under 277, the third straight tournament on the Florida swing won with a single-digit score under par.
Na played in the final group and made sure pace of play was only a memory. He missed a 3-foot bogey putt late on the front nine that sent him plunging down a crowded leader board, but he played bogey-free on the back nine and came up with a key par save from 6 feet on the 16th and a 15-foot birdie putt on the 17th to get within one. But his pitching wedge on the 18th was too strong, and his birdie putt never had a chance.
He closed with a 72.
Senden last won a tournament at the end of 2006 in the Australian Open.
CHAMPIONS: In Newport Beach, Calif., Fred Couples won the Toshiba Classic for his 10th Champions Tour title, birdieing the final two holes for a one-stroke victory.
Colin Montgomerie, Bernhard Langer and Steve Pate tied for second. Langer had a chance to force a playoff, but missed a long birdie try on 18 and settled for a 70.
EUROPEAN: In Agadir, Morocco, Spain’s Alejandro Canizares won the Trophy Hassan II by five strokes, shooting a 2-under 70 to complete a wire-to-wire victory at Palais Royal.
Canizares finished at 19-under 269 for his second European Tour victory.
England’s Andy Sullivan was second after a 63.