Adam Schenk, playing for a 10th consecutive week, fired a two-under-par 69 to grab a one-stroke lead after Friday’s second round of the Valspar Championship.
The 31-year-old American, who shared the 18-hole lead, was on seven-under 135 after 36 holes at Innisbrook’s Copperhead course in Palm Harbor, Florida.
“It really couldn’t have been a ton better with the number of putts I made,” Schenk said. “We’re doing a really good job managing the courses.”
Countryman Kramer Hickok, chasing his first PGA Tour crown like Schenk, was second on six under after a second 68 in windy conditions.
Three-time Major winner Jordan Spieth, the 2015 Valspar champion, fired a 70 to share third on five under with fellow Americans Cody Gribble and Davis Riley plus England’s Tommy Fleetwood.
“Kind of an off day on approaching the greens, hit pretty rusty wedges,” Spieth said. “To shoot one under on this golf course in the wind is a good score so I feel good about my position going into the weekend.”
Schenk made a birdie-birdie start, blasting out of a bunker to seven feet and sinking the putt at the par-five 1st hole then dropping his approach inside three feet to set up a tap-in at the 2nd.
After a three-putt bogey on the 3rd, Schenk answered with a 17-foot birdie putt at the par-five 5th and added another birdie from 4.5 feet at the 12th before a closing bogey after finding a greenside bunker.
“I had better control of my golf ball,” Schenk said. “Made a few putts, had some nice saves for par which really holds the round together.
“It was another one of those rounds that could have been even par. It wouldn’t have been five or six under ever but we managed it well and very pleased with two under.”
Schenk, whose best PGA Tour finish was third at the 2021 Shriners Children’s Open, is keeping busy before the birth of his son next month.
“Having a little baby boy here in about a month and a half,” he said. “So 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.”
Hickok birdied three par-five holes and made two birdies on par-three holes with putts from 30 feet at the 4th and just inside 40 feet at the 15th.
“I’ve been putting really nice,” said Hickok. “Seeing the lines really well and hitting some good putts. I don’t really feel like I’m playing that well tee to green but just keeping the ball in front of me and really scoring pretty well.”
Spieth birdied the par-five 1st, 5th and 11th holes but made bogeys at the par-three 8th and par-four 10th.
“I drove the ball maybe the best of the year today. Gave myself a lot of chances with some wedges,” Spieth said.
“Couldn’t quite get my distance control down on some scoring clubs. But when the wind here is gusty like that and the green depths are so small, it gets really tricky.”
Fleetwood, who shot 69, expects a tense weekend with storms forecast for Saturday.
“Patience and having a good attitude” will be vital, Fleetwood said. “Just hanging around and seeing what the day gives you.”
Germany’s Stephan Jaeger, an 18-hole co-leader, shot 72 to stand on 138 while American 18-hole co-leader Ryan Brehm was on four under after a 75.
American Sam Burns, who shot 73 to stand seven adrift on three under, could become the first player to win the same PGA Tour event three consecutive years since Steve Stricker at the 2009-2011 John Deere Classic.
South Africans MJ Daffue, Garrick Higgo and Erik van Rooyen all finished the second round on one over (T52) to make the weekend cut.
© Agence France-Presse