At Valspar, door is open for chasers, and a few step through
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Written by Jeff Babineau @JeffBabz62
Adam Schenk takes 54-hole lead at Valspar
PALM HARBOR, Fla. – Saturday at Valspar, there were plenty of opportunities for contenders to make their move on the leaders, who at times almost seemed to be standing still.
A few players managed to step through the provided opening, which could lend itself to a wild finish on Sunday. Webb Simpson, 37, eagled his first hole and birdied his last on his way to 3-under 68, which was a quality effort that moved him to 6-under 207. Another 37-year-old who made a good push was Patton Kizzire, who went bogey-free in a 67, vaulting him to 5-under 208, also within earshot of the leaders.
Chad Ramey, who filled a starring role at THE PLAYERS last week before fading to T29 with a closing 76, also spent a minute near the top of the board. Ramey was a PGA TOUR winner last season (Corales Puntacana Championship) who stepped into a much brighter light a week ago, when he sped out of the blocks with a first-round 64.
Much like Kizzire, Ramey, 30, was making a nice move until he was bitten at the back end of the Copperhead’s Snake Pit, where his rather impressive day came to a startling halt with back-to-back bogeys on the final two holes. Still, there was too much good in Ramey’s round to completely ruin his late lunch.
“The last few days, I really haven’t hit it that well, but my short game has kind of kept me in it,” said Ramey, who is at 4-under 209 through 54 holes at Valspar. “And then today, I finally started hitting it well. It all finally started to click together.”
He made seven birdies on a day when steady winds were swirling, keeping things tricky, and giving many players fits. One particular stretch that stood out to him was 11-14. Ramey had turned in 3-under 33 and had a bogey to answer after the difficult 10th.
A well-struck 3-wood from 288 yards left him a good look for eagle at 11 (he missed, settling for a tap-in birdie); at 12, he avoided bogey after a pedestrian chip left him 12 feet for par; and at 13, a mis-hit mid-iron on the 187-yard par 3 turned out much better than he thought it might, finishing 11 feet from the flag. Two good shots at the par-5 14th hole set up his seventh – and final – birdie of the round.
“Yesterday (after the round) I hit some balls, and I think I might have hit on something, and today it helped,” Ramey said. “I went back to an old swing feel that is kind of my tried and true.”
Kizzire is seeking his third victory on TOUR, and said his performance on Saturday could be traced as much to a mental adjustment as anything else. He was stready throughout on a course where bogeys and others await, making two birdies on each side.
“I trusted myself today, which I didn't do that yesterday (Friday),” said Kizzire, who shot 73 a day earlier. “I had such a bad day yesterday ... I managed to shoot 2 over, but I just wasn't myself. I decided today I was going to go out there and trust myself. My team's been telling me that I'm good, and I'm good enough, and I can go and play well.
“I said, ‘You know what? Let's trust it today’, and I had a good day, and I'll have even more trust tomorrow.”
Kizzire has had a strange season. He tied for 11th at The American Express in late January, then missed the cut in four consecutive starts until finally making it back to a weekend last week at THE PLAYERS (T65).
“I was pressing a little bit, didn't have my best stuff, found myself right on the cut line every week,” Kizzire, who won two times in a three-month stretch in 2017-18. “Just wasn't forgiving myself for misses, and wasn't trusting myself when I was standing over the ball. That adds up to some trunk slams and going home.
“But we're never far off. All these guys are so close to playing well. You never have it figured out and you're never far off. So today I trusted myself and it was fun.”