Table of Contents
By Alex Lauzon from the “Course of Life” podcast
VAL-SPARRING IN TAMPA
On the heels of a week of 17th hole drama and a blowout Scottie Scheffler victory at THE PLAYERS, the tour’s Florida swing dips BACK down south to Innisbrook in the Tampa area and the Copperhead Course for the Valspar Championship. This tournament has been held at Innisbrook for the entirety of its 20+ year existence, and it’s been a slow but steady growth for this event’s prestige on the schedule. It also produced an interesting circumstance of champions, with two consecutive back-to-back winners of this event in the last four playings. So who will crack the code and start their own winning streak at Innisbrook?
As the bankroll goes, our Florida swing has been a slow churn after immediate elation. I’ve had a preview pick land in the top 5 each of the last few weeks, but no true winner to speak up about since Chris Kirk at PGA National. Time to get back on the board with a course I happen to know better than most.
SNAKE BIT AT THE SNAKE PIT
I had the privilege of playing the Copperhead Course years ago, and it holds up as a lush Florida test that is riddled with Snake Traps, both literally and metaphorically. My best memories are the surprising amount of undulation on the greens and fairway contours (for Florida), and the devilish placement of bunkers on the back nine. The 7300+ yard track even features elevation change and an appropriately dubbed “Snake Pit” set of holes from 16 to 18 that can bite off a few strokes in a hurry and ruin anyone’s scorecard or chances of winning this week.
With it being sandwiched in between THE PLAYERS and the final playing the WGC Dell Match Play (sad face), the field is light, but a few particular stars have decided to make The Valspar a priority, probably due to recent history. Both Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth (2016 champion) have good finishes here and are teeing up in a non-designated event, showing that it is indeed possible for star players to do so. Rounding out the top of the field are two-time defending champions Sam Burns, Matthew Fitzpatrick, and recent PGA Tour winner Justin Rose.
FORECASTING THE VALSPAR
As the past champions and iterations of this event go, this course and event seem to fit a certain subset of guys. It’s a big-time “horses for courses” type of week for forecasting, and the run of winners and contenders here just enunciates that. You’ll have to look at Spieth, JT, or take the Burns three-peat angle, and from there is a collection of players coming off good Florida swing performances that would love to cap it off with a win before heading to Texas.
1. Who’s hot and trending – recent high finishes, top-10 streaks, and consistent play are never a bad thing.
2. Horses for courses – players love certain courses and course familiarity and experience are invaluable in a field of the world’s best.
3. What the numbers tell you this week – while I’m far from analytical, there’s always a tournament darling or two scattered across the golf talk stratosphere that stuns on paper.
4. Intangibles – while this allows for theater of the mind, there’s a mysterious optimism surrounding that feels “due” or if the price looks just right for buying.
At THE PLAYERS at TPC Sawgrass, I had Viktor Hovland for my top 5 as he tied for third
(Wanna start a Pick-X pool with your friends? Learn more here! Or, if you’re looking to start your own PGA One-and-Done pool, check those out here) (Hint: the main difference between the two is how many players you’ll pick each week)
1: Sam Burns – I’m taking the three-peat angle, and I genuinely like his chances to do the unthinkable. He sure needs a wake-up and some good vibes after a slow last couple of weeks on the course.
2: Jordan Spieth – A past champion who fought hard last week at Sawgrass, and seems to have his putter coming into form JUST in time for Augusta season.
3: Justin Rose – I hit a winner with Rosey at Pebble Beach, and I’m going back to the well for him again as the course fits his style nicely.
4: Denny McCarthy – One of the most underrated putters on tour should gain strokes on the field around the greens, and finished t13 at The PLAYERS.
5: Akshay Bhatia – The newest tour member can breathe after securing his membership with a 2dn in Puerto Rico, perfect time for him to keep it rolling.
6: Dylan Wu – The bubble buy in terms of tour status is putting together good weeks and finding form on Florida golf courses. He has one more shot this week.
RYP One and Done Pick: Sam Burns
Where to watch: Golf Channel and NBC all week – brace yourself for Snake references left and right all week.
Why to watch: While this isn’t the most loaded field for a Florida swing event, the Valspar has a great history of dramatic finishes and surprise stories emerging.
What to eat: Sticking with the Florida seafood kick in honor of warm weather, so this week it’s grilled shrimp kabobs.
Purse: $8.1 million
Winner’s Share: $1.46 million