In the spring of 2019, Taylor Moore was headed to the airport to fly to yet another golf tournament when he had a choice to make at a traffic light. He turned right and detoured to an urgent-care facility, where he learned his right lung was 50 percent collapsed, potentially saving his life. Four years after his dream of winning on the PGA Tour was temporarily halted, Moore made four birdies in his final 10 holes to earn his first Tour title at the Valspar Championship.
“I think if I would have taken a left (to the airport), I might not be here in front of you guys tonight,” Moore said during his winner’s press conference. “So, I mean, that was God’s will just to tell me to take a right and go to the hospital and check out what was going on.”
Moore, 29, erased a two-stroke overnight deficit by shooting 4-under 67 on Sunday at Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead Course at Palm Harbor, Florida. Moore finished with a 72-hole total of 10-under 274, a stroke better than Adam Schenk, who bogeyed 18, and two better than Jordan Spieth, who bogeyed two of the last three holes, and Tommy Fleetwood.
“Really solid player that’s been knocking on the door,” Spieth said of Moore, a fellow Dallas resident.
And yet Moore hadn’t recorded a top-10 finish on the PGA Tour this season. Entering the week ranked No. 103 in the world, he joined the trophy hunt by canning an 18-foot birdie putt at nine and stuck his approach shot inside 5 feet at the 12th to climb a stroke closer. For the week, he was 64-for-64 inside 7 feet.
“I don’t think I’ve ever done anything close to that,” Moore said. “Just a testament to the work I’ve put in with my coach and my team and that was pretty sick to see.”
Moore made back-to-back birdies – a 6-footer at 15 and a 27-footer at 16 – to tie Schenk for the lead at 10 under. He said he didn’t see a scoreboard until he reached the 17th green, then parred in by making a 6-foot putt at the last for 67, the second-lowest score among the field of 72 on a windy day, and had to sweat out waiting at the practice tee to see if anyone could match his total and force extra holes.
For a share of the lead!@RazorbackMGolf alum @TaylorMooreGolf birdies No. 16 @ValsparChamp.
He is seeking his first TOUR win pic.twitter.com/6hmNgONWkY
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 19, 2023
For much of the day it seemed as if Schenk, 31, playing in his 10th straight tournament as he attempted to grab as many FedEx Cup points as he could before the birth of his first child, would be the one lifting a trophy for the first time. Wife Kourtney, who is eight months pregnant, flew in on Sunday morning and walked the entire round in his gallery.
She witnessed her hubby, the 54-hole leader, chip in for birdie at the first and build a two-stroke lead before stumbling with bogeys at Nos. 6 and 8. But he bounced back with birdies at Nos. 7 and 9, where he drained a 23-foot birdie putt. That was his longest putt of the tournament to that point but that figure didn’t last long. Schenk sank a 71-foot birdie at the 12th, the longest made putt of his career, to claim the lead at 10 under and lifted his right arm to the sky.
The LONGEST putt of Adam Schenk’s career gives him the solo lead at the @ValsparChamp!
: NBC and @peacock pic.twitter.com/iCEJ4b5Zfs
— Golf Channel (@GolfChannel) March 19, 2023
He strung together five straight pars and shared the lead standing on the tee of the 72nd hole. Then he hooked his drive near a tree at 18 and had to play his next shot left-handed. Ramming his 41-foot par putt to remain tied with Moore and force a playoff, Schenk watched as it tracked for the hole, hitting the flagstick but had too much pace and wouldn’t go down.
“It stinks,” Schenk said, despite signing for 70 and recording the best finish of his career. “I hit a really bad drive on the last hole. I toed it. Wish I could have lightly hit somebody and stayed where I had a chance to get to the green, but it did not, and I didn’t deserve it.”
Adam Schenk takes a left-handed approach and finds the right rough. pic.twitter.com/aAJyFM3Y3N
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 19, 2023
Spieth, 29, won this tournament in 2015 and was seeking his 14th Tour title. He canned a 10-foot birdie putt at 14 to join the party at 10 under. All tournament, Spieth worked wonders from the sand, getting up and down 12 of 14 times overall, including at the difficult par-3 15th.
“It was the boring round I was looking for,” said Spieth, who stayed bogey-free for the day to that point.
But he fanned his 3-wood off the tee at the dogleg par-4 16th into the water guarding the right side of the hole and had to scramble to save bogey. He responded by hitting his tee shot at the par-3 17th the closest to the hole of anyone in the final round, but failed to convert a 7-foot birdie putt and couldn’t get a 48-foot birdie putt to drop at the last. He missed the par comebacker and closed in 70 to slip into a tie for third with Fleetwood.
The 32-year-old Englishman has six DP World Tour victories and ranked as high as No. 9 in the world in 2019, but he still hasn’t won on the PGA Tour. He had a share of the lead until he made a bogey at the par-5 14th hole. He closed in 70. Despite remaining winless, Fleetwood’s career earnings on the PGA Tour alone surpassed $15 million.
Two-time defending champion Sam Burns fell short of a three-peat but made a valiant effort with a final-round 67 to finish sixth.
Once asked to name the most interesting fact about him that golf fans should know, Moore, the son of a Juco-college baseball coach, said, “Well, grew up a baseball guy, so I was a pretty high-level baseball player until I was about 15 years old and actually had a scholarship from Arkansas for baseball before golf and ended up deciding to play this.
“Kind of fell in love with golf as I got older and just being in control of a little bit of everything instead of relying on teammates and umpires and things. I was either going to win by myself or lose.”
On Sunday, Moore, whose personal motto is “own what you do,” did just that and painted a masterpiece at the Valspar Championship to become a champion on the PGA Tour.