Aussie Senden defends title at PGA Valspar event
John Senden returns to the Copperhead course this week to defend his title at the $5.9 million US PGA Valspar Championship, a triumph that snapped the Australian`s eight-year victory drought.
Senden edged American Kevin Na by a stroke last year on the Innisbrook resort`s par-71 Copperhead course, his second PGA triumph after a 2006 John Deere Classic victory.
"Last year was one of the highlights of my career," Senden said Tuesday. "It was one of the most rewarding weeks of my life, knowing I won on the PGA Tour back at the John Deere then basically coming out and consolidating that win."
Senden, a Brisbane native who turns 44 next month, finished eighth at last year`s Masters after qualifying by virtue of his Valpsar triumph, achieving his second-best major finish in 28 such starts.
Senden has broken 70 only once in his past 16 rounds this year, but hopes his return to Florida will spark his game as he did last year.
"I`m really going to enjoy myself this week, take it all in and just prepare like a normal tournament," Senden said. "I feel like the season really gets going right now. Leading up to the majors is important to me."
Senden will try to become the event`s first back-to-back winner. Only three times has a prior year`s champion even cracked the top 10 the next time out.
Senden will be joined by Americans Charley Hoffman and Woody Austin for the first two days over the 7,340-yard layout in quest of a $1.06 million top prize.
Third-ranked Swede Henrik Stenson and fourth-ranked Aussie Adam Scott, the 2013 Masters winner, are in the field, as are nine other past winners of the tournament, including England`s Luke Donald, South African Retief Goosen, Fiji`s Vijay Singh, South Korea`s K.J. Choi and Sweden`s Carl Pettersson.
Donald has four consecutive top-six finishes at the event, including a 2012 title and a share of fourth last year.
Scott joins rising US star Jordan Spieth and Ireland`s Padraig Harrington, a winner two weeks ago at the Honda Classic, off the 10th tee Thursday morning while Stenson joins four-time major winner Ernie Els and American Patrick Reed in the group behind them.