Adam Schenk leads by one at Valspar Championship
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Written by The Associated Press
PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- Adam Schenk is playing for the 10th consecutive week on the PGA TOUR and finally seeing some good results, making enough putts Friday for a 2-under 69 that gave him a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the Valspar Championship.
Schenk had four birdies, all but one of them from inside 10 feet, and finished with a bogey from the bunker short of the 18th on the Copperhead course at Innisbrook.
That didn't bother him too much because of the 20-foot putt he made for par on the par-3 eighth, the 10-footer for par he made on the 10th and the long up-and-down for par on the par-5 11th.
“I feel like a lot of times you ... maybe shoot 2 under and you're like, ‘It could have been 6 or 7.’ But it really couldn't have been a ton better with the amount of putts I made,” he said.
He was at 7-under 135, one shot ahead of Kramer Hickok, who had a 68.
Jordan Spieth is a big part of the weekend, wasting a great round of driving with some suspect short irons. He still posted a 70 and was only two shots behind.
Also part of the weekend is Nick Gabrelcik, who grew up about 10 miles away and is a regular at the Valspar Championship -- working the range, carrying signs, caddying in the pro-am. Now the University of North Florida junior is in the field on a sponsor exemption.
Gabrelcik, who lost in the semifinals at Oakmont in the 2021 U.S. Amateur, opened with a 75 and responded with a 67 to easily make the cut. He was at even-par 142.
“Going into the round I was like, ‘We got nothing to lose, we’re 4 over, so let’s just go out and have fun.’ Maybe it’s the last round, maybe it’s not,” Gabrelcik said. "Got the putter going early, made four birdies my first five holes and was like, ‘All right, let’s just keep it together, let’s not play defensive now.’
“It's an awesome feeling making my first cut.”
Also making the cut was Ludwig Aberg, the No. 1 amateur in the world. Aberg also played the weekend at Bay Hill.
Tommy Fleetwood had a 69 and joined Spieth in the group two shots behind along with Cody Gribble (65) and Davis Riley (68), who lost in a playoff to Sam Burns at Innisbrook last year.
Burns, the two-time defending champion, is trying to become the first player to win the same tournament three straight years since Steve Stricker at the John Deere Classic (2009-11). He had a 73 and was seven shots behind.
Justin Thomas had a 70 and was in the group at 3-under 139.
Schenk had had a few close calls in search of his first victory, such as the Shriners Children's Open in Las Vegas in 2021 and the Barracuda Championship the same year.
He plays a lot, anyway, but there's a little more emphasis this year because his wife is expecting their first child, a boy, in a little over a month.
“Trying to make as many points as I can to take as much time off as I can and spend time with him and my wife, which will be very special,” Schenk said.
He started his year in Honolulu at the Sony Open in Hawaii and hasn't had a week off since then, going to California and Arizona, and every stop on the Florida swing. He had made the cut in all but two of them and is No. 72 in the FedExCup.
The missed cut last week at THE PLAYERS Championship might have helped.
“I was home for 3 1/2 days and didn’t touch a club,” Schenk said. “I would have practiced, but the weather was so bad in Indiana, I really couldn’t. So flew into Valspar Tuesday afternoon and got a little practice in and then played nine holes and then teed up in the pro-am and away we went.”
The cut was at 1-over 143. Among those missing was U.S. Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick, who has missed the cut three times in his last six tournaments. Fitzpatrick took a 9 on the third hole of the opening round and never caught up.
Harry Higgs had the latest big number. He took an 8 on the par-3 13th hole when he went into the water, and then over the green from the drop area into a bunker, and then blasted out into the water. Higgs had two double bogeys and wound up with an 81.