Guthrie putts his way to top-10 finish in Valspar Championship

Posted: Mar 16, 2015 10:48 AM CDT

By THE HERALD-WHIG STAFF

PALM HARBOR, Fla. — Luke Guthrie found the rhythm and the putting stroke to get his game back on track.

The Quincy native opened Sunday’s final round of the Valspar Championship with back-to-back birdies, including draining a 37-foot putt, and went 15 holes without a bogey, carding a 3-under 68 to finish tied for seventh at 5-under 279 at the Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead Course.

It is the sixth top-10 finish of Guthrie’s career and highest finish since tying for fifth at the Shriners Hospital for Children Open in Oct. 2013.

“Fun week,” Guthrie said. “More to come.”

If he can keep his putter hot, Guthrie could continue climbing the FedEx Cup standings. He earned 85 FedEx Cup points, moving him up 33 spots to 145th in the standings. The top 125 players in the FedEx Cup standings at the end of the season retain their tour card for next year.

Tied for 14th heading into the final round, Guthrie left himself a 7-foot putt for birdie on the par-5 first hole and then snaked in the 37-footer for birdie on the par-4 second hole. He added another birdie on the par-4 sixth by draining 26-foot putt and made the turn at 3-under.

Guthrie got to 6-under overall and tied for third when he made a 17-foot birdie putt on the par-3 15th. However, his 7-foot par putt on the 16th lipped out and he took bogey. He closed the round with two pars.

After that, Guthrie watched Jordan Spieth make two improbable par saves to get into a playoff and win the Valspar Championship on the third extra hole by making a 30-foot birdie putt to beat Patrick Reed and Sean O’Hair.

“I would rank those definitely in the top five I’ve ever had given the lies and the scenario,” Spieth said.

And the winning putt?

“That’s just luck,” he said with a smile. “Guess it was my day.”

It put an end to an afternoon of back-nine charges, big birdie putts and clutch par saves, the latest chapter in a PGA Tour season that already has featured eight playoffs.

This one was off the charts.

Reed rammed in a 30-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to cap off a 5-under 66, and then was lounging in a chair waiting to see if anyone could catch him, and they how many would join him. O’Hair got there with a 30-foot birdie on the 16th hole and a tough par save on the 18th, making a 5-foot putt look far easier than a guy who has now gone 87 starts since his last win.

Spieth looked like he wouldn’t make it to the finish line. Tied for the lead, he left his 6-iron well to the right on the par-3 17th and was hopeful of the best. He said to caddie Michael Greller, “Please be a good lie or not on a down slope.”

It was a terrible lie on a down slope.

Spieth hit a flop shot that landed perfectly and rolled 6 feet by the hole, and he saved his par. On the 18th, he hit a fat shot from a fairway bunker some 35 yards short, with a clump of grass behind it and the grain of the grass into the ball. Greller’s advice was for Spieth to at least have a chance for par. He hit another flop to 12 feet, and the putt fell on the last turn from the left side of the cup.

“A crazy back nine,” Spieth said.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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