PALM HARBOR — Jordan Spieth’s Valspar Championship round Saturday was as turbulent as the storm clouds churning over him all afternoon at the Innisbrook Resort.
The three-time major champion had five bogeys and answered with five birdies and an eagle as winds churned all day at the Copperhead Course. He still finished just one shot back of leader Adam Schenk, who birdied the 18th hole to go into the clubhouse at 8 under par.
Spieth admitted he was churning inside, especially after he was warned about taking too much time on the back nine.
“You’ve got to be pretty calm and be able to accept whatever and to be honest, I was not that at all,” Spieth said. “... We got put on the clock on 10 and that set me off. I was a mess, trying to rush and play the back nine. It’s just so hard anyways when the wind’s blowing out here. Then you can’t step off because you’re going to get a bad time. So that really stunk.
“And we didn’t get off of it the whole rest of the round. So I think I need to handle those kind of situations bit better (Sunday). I didn’t do a very good job of that today. But was able to post 2-under 69 and stay in it.”
Spieth and Tommy Fleetwood, who also shot 69, were both within striking distance of Schenk, who shot 70 Saturday and has never had a win on the PGA Tour in six years.
Fleetwood, who also has never won in the U.S., shot one of three bogey-free rounds posted Saturday. That was rare on a day when the winds reached 20 mph and shifted and swirled from hole to hole.
“I think the first thing to look at is bogey free. I made no dropped shots, I never went backwards once. ... They’re always nice, no matter where you play nor when you’re playing, but on a day like today when it’s really tough, I felt like that was really important,” Fleetwood said. “Overall just happy with how patient I stayed.”
Patience was key for Schenk, too, as his day started slowly.
He bogeyed the third hole, two-putting to make the turn at plus-1 for the day. He got his first birdie on 11, knocking in a 19-foot putt, then birdied 16 and 18. His 127-yard approach shot on 18 left him about a 5-foot putt, which he converted knowing he would take the lead.
“If I win, great. If I don’t win, that’s fine, too,” said Schenk. “I mean, obviously I want to be a PGA Tour winner. I played out here for six years, not that I’ve done everything except win, but I’ve done, you know, plenty, played a lot of years.”
“Winning would be everything and awesome,” added Schenk, who is expecting his first child in a month and a half. Schenk has nine top-10 finishes in his career and his best result was a third-place finish.
A strong Sunday would be career changing for him.
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Spieth knows very well what winning at Valspar can mean to a career.
After all, Spieth’s second PGA win came here in 2015. Less than a month later he won The Masters and later that summer the U.S. Open. He claimed five tournaments that season, his best to date.
But he last won multiple titles in the 2016-17 season. Since then, Spieth has just two wins total (the Valero Texas Open In 2021 and the RBC Heritage last year).
Spieth, however, feels he at least is figuring out how to get back to that level of golf.
“I have clarity on how to get there. That’s really what’s important in the game. I know what I need to do to get to the best, to get to my ceiling, the best that I can be,” Spieth said.
Spieth began the day with an eagle on the 560-yard, par-5 first hole. He answered bogeys with birdies on the 8th, 11th and 14th holes. He did not have a chance to answer his fifth bogey on the 18th.
“Well, they were some easier holes, some par-5s,” Spieth said. “But ... (that) bounceback stat’s always been a strength of my game. I just maybe focus a little extra on the next, saying I’ve got to get one back there.”