Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Golf

Valspar Championship: Innisbrook experience finally paying off for J.J. Henry

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PALM HARBOR — Before Friday's 4-under 67 at the Valspar Championship, J.J. Henry had played eight rounds dating to 2013 without breaking par on Innisbrook's Copperhead Course.

Now he has two straight sub-par rounds after shooting another 67 Saturday to sit at 7-under 206 overall, seven shots behind leader Adam Hadwin.

Henry, 41, has more experience at this tournament than almost every player in the field. He has played it every year he has been eligible for it except last year, when a spring break trip with his kids fell on the same week. He tried to play the PGA Tour event for the first time in 2001. It was the week of Sept. 11.

"Everyone remembers where they were that day, and I remember where I was," Henry said. "I was walking up the fourth hole in a practice round on Tuesday when we all got the news. They cancelled the event. But I've been coming here every year."

His best finish has been a tie for 20th in 2011. He missed the cut in 2014 and '15. He is in contention this week with a PGA Championship winner carrying his bag. Mark Brooks won the major in 1996 and like Henry is from Fort Worth, Texas.

"He's kind of my 15th club this week," Henry said. "He always caddies for me once or twice a year. To have a good buddy come out here and help says a lot. There's probably nobody with more experience this week than me and Mark."

Taking it easy

Leader Adam Hadwin admits to being a little too competitive sometimes. His temper used to get the best of him when playing sports. An example was the time last year at the Valspar Championship when he broke his 7-iron on the Copperhead Course's second hole after a bad shot.

But he said a new attitude has put his temper tantrum days in the past.

"It's not something I'm proud of," Hadwin said. "It's something I've dealt with all my life. Through soccer, baseball, basketball, every sport I've played, I've had my issues with being too competitive. Just really being a poor loser. The biggest reason I'm sitting here today and playing well the last three or four months is figuring that out. It's just golf. It's not life or death."

Moving day

Saturdays are called "moving day" in golf tournaments. Players jockey for position on top of the leaderboard before the final 18 holes. Defending Valspar Championship champion Charl Schwartzel was one such player. He shot 4-under 67 to move to 6 under overall, eight shots off the lead. He was five shots back last year before winning in a playoff.

"I put myself back in the tournament," said Schwartzel, who moved up 25 spots. "If I can shoot 5 under (today), I don't think I'll be that far off."

The field was reduced to 69 players after 2008 champion Sean O'Hair withdrew due to a neck injury. Tim Wilkinson played in the first group by himself and shot par 71. He was at par for the event.

Shot of the day

Matt Kuchar was 71 feet from the hole on the kidney-shaped green of the par-5 fifth hole and had fringe in his way. He decided to use his wedge and knocked the ball to within a foot of the cup. He parred the hole but finished the day at 2-over 73 to fall to 2 under.

Jam-packed

For the first time in tournament history, the Valspar Championship had a day sell out. Tournament officials also had to add an extra parking lot. Tickets were available for today's final round.

     
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