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Valspar Championship

Tournament Preview

As the Masters draws ever closer, players look to ramp up their games this weekend at the Valspar Championship, played at Innisbrook Resort in Florida.

The course is a par-71, 7,340-yarder designed by Larry Packard in 1972. The tournament nets 500 FedExCup points to the winner.

It was here a year ago that Jordan Spieth first appeared on the PGA radar, finishing seventh after turning pro barely three months before as a 19-year old. The defending champion is Kevin Streelman, who edged Boo Weekley by two strokes.

Innisbrook's Copperhead course is home to one of the most difficult holes closing stretches on tour - the notorious Snake Pit that comprises No. 16-18. In the 2013 season, the Snake Pit averaged 0.637 strokes above par, and was third most difficult in 2012.

The tournament begins Thursday with first tee times at 7:40 a.m. local. Canadian riser Graham DeLaet highlights the first group up.

Streelman takes the field with Gary Woodland and Luke Donald at 8:10 a.m.

The aforementioned Spieth hits the links at 8:20 a.m. in the company of Chesson Hadley and Harris English. 2013 runner-up Boo Weekley is on point at 8:30 a.m. with Woody Austin and Tim Clark.

Other notables in the field along with their Thursday tee times are:

l Angel Cabrera, 8:40 a.m.

l Russell Knox, 9:00 a.m.

l John Daly, 12:40 p.m.

l Jim Furyk, 1:00 p.m.

l Jason Dufner, 1:10 p.m.

l Justin Rose, 1:10 p.m.

l Brandt Snedeker, 1:10 p.m.

l Ernie Els, 1:10 p.m.

03/13/14, Thursday

It's seldom a pretty sight on the leaderboard at Valspar, with tough conditions and frequent wind storms.

On Thursday, a quartet of players fired 3-under 68s to tie for the lead, the lowest score ever at the Palm Harbor, Florida-based tournament after one day.

With brisk winds and temperatures in the mid-50s during the morning, Pat Perez, Greg Chalmers, Matt Every and Danny Lee all pocketed 68s to share the lead after a day.

In all, 25 players shot between 1 and 3 strokes under par, with an additional 20 at even par 71s, among them US Open champion Justin Rose and 2013 PGA Rookie of the Year Jordan Spieth.

03/14/14, Friday

The phrase practice makes perfect doesn't hold up for Robert Garrigus threw two rounds at Valspar.

In the days leading up to the tournament, Garrigus mostly fished in and around Palm Harbor, Florida, but it certainly doesn't seem to have effected his game, considering he has a three-shot lead after 36 holes thanks to his 5-under 66 on Friday.

Garrigus is at 7-under for the tournament, three shots ahead of fellow American Kevin Na, who jumped from 12th to second with his 3-under 68 on Friday.

Garrigus hit just one bogey on the day, that at No. 10 coming off the turn.

There's a four-way tie for third at 3-under including US Open champion Justin Rose, who fired a 68 on Friday. Day One co-leaders Pat Perez and Matt Every are also in the tie for third.

With the wind gusting nearly 20 miles per hour, the cut was set at a fairly high 3-over. Missing it included Ernie Els (+4), Mike Weir (+4) and John Daly (+22).

Daly recorded the worst round of his career, a 19-over 90 lowlighted by his disastrous 12 on the par-4 16th hole.

03/15/14, Saturday

Robert Garrigus hopes he doesn't regret the two short birdy putts he missed on the back nine Saturday at Valspar.

After all, not only is a tournament title at stake, but also a berth in next month's Masters.

Garrigus leads the Valspar Invitational by a single stroke after 54 holes thanks to his 1-under 70 on Saturday.

His lead in the tournament shrank from three strokes down to just one over American Kevin Na, who fired a 3-under 68 to reach 7-under.

And Na isn't the only concern for Garrigus, who sits at 8-under.

Another nine players are within five strokes of the lead entering the final 18 on Sunday, including the red-hot John Senden of Australia, who shredded the course with a 7-under 64 to leap from 35th to third.

Garrigus looked like he might run away with the lead early on, hitting birdies on three of his first five holes. But he bogeyed 12 and 18 to return to the pack.

Na fired his second consecutive 68, hitting one bogey against four birdies.

Sneden birdied four of the first five holes, including three in a row, on Saturday, and added three more birds on the back nine.

Defending US Open champion Justin Rose slipped from third to fourth with a 2-under 69.

He sits at 5-under. Three other men are tied for fifth at 4-under: Charley Hoffman, Scott Langley and Retief Goosen. South Africa's Goosen was just as hot as Senden on Saturday with a 7-under to move from from 64th to tied for fifth.

At even par through six holes, Goosen ended the front nine with three straight birdies, then added four more between No. 12 and No. 17. Goosen had tallied just four birdies during the first two days of the tournament.

Luke Donald, Jason Kokrak and Matteo Manassero are tied for eighth at 3-under.

Day One leader Matt Every fell back to a tie for 11th with a 1-over 72 that dropped him to 2-under for the weekend.

Tournament Recap

Battling the Copperhead course at the Valspar National in Palm Harbor means dealing with "The Snake Pit," the three-hole finale that was ranked as the sixth-toughest on the PGA tour in 2013.

On Sunday, Australian John Senden defeated the Pit, and thus defeated the field, winning the Valspar Invitational by one stroke over Kevin Na, shooting a 2-under 70 on Sunday to finish the tournament 7-under.

Senden got back into the hunt with a 64 on Saturday, the lowest score of the entire tournament. He was 1-over through the first 13 holes on Sunday, but racked up three birdies between 14 and 17, including back-to-back on 16 and 17.

His dagger to the hearts of the competition was a 70-foot birdie on No. 16 and followed it with a 20-footer on No. 17 to get to a two-stroke lead.

The victory was Senden's first in more than seven years and guaranteed him a spot in The Masters next month.

Senden was tied with Na and fellow American Scott Langley entering the final three holes, but came away with the victory and 500 FedEx Cup points in the process.

Runner-up Na finished at 6-under after shooting an even-par 72 on Sunday. He was in the lead early on, but a disastrous stretch of bogey, bogey, double bogey near the tail end of the front nine sent him back down to earth.

Langley raced to 3-under with a trio of birdies in the first six holes, but shot 2-over the rest of the way to wind up in third at 5-under.

Three players tied for fourth at 4-under: Americans Will MacKenzie and Robert Garrigus and Great Britain's Luke Donald.

Garrigus had been in the lead for the first three days of the tournament, but bottomed out quickly on Sunday - striking a pair of double bogeys and a single bogey in his first six holes. He managed a birdie on No. 14 to finish with a 75.

American George McNeil finished seventh at 3-under, followed by a six-way tie for eighth featuring Graham Delaet, Gary Woodland, Day One co-leader Matt Every, David Hearn, Matteo Manassero and Justin Rose.

Rose, last year's US Open champion, fell off the pace with a 2-over 74 on Sunday.

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