2019 Valspar Championship picks, predictions, odds: Ranking this field at Innisbrook Resort

It's time for the tournament before the tournament before the tournament before the 2019 Masters, also known as the Valspar Championship. I'm kidding, of course, and I'm also surprised by the strength of the field this week (more on that below) as Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm try and bounce back from a little Sunday disappointment at last week's Players Championship.

Let's take a look at this week's contest.

Event information

What: Valspar Championship | When: Mar. 21-24
Where: Innisbrook Resort (Copperhead Course) -- Palm Harbor, Florida

Ranking the field (odds)

  1. Dustin Johnson (11/2): Hasn't played here in nearly a decade, but if the sport is still hitting a ball with a stick, I'll ride D.J. in a Rory McIlroy-less field.
  2. Sergio Garcia (16-1): He crushes here, and he's been quietly (as quietly as Sergio can be) terrific since the incident in Saudi Arabia. Three straight top 25s including two top 10s.
  3. Jon Rahm (10-1): Beware the vindictive golfer. After last week's stunning (ok, not that stunning, but still wild) exchange with his caddie, Rahm may try and shoot 63 every day (and he might do it). 
  4. Jason Day (10-1): Putting is more important here than at your average PGA Tour event so might be a good spot to load up on the Aussie.
  5. Patrick Reed (20-1): He's sixth all time here in strokes gained and behind a few guys (like Jordan Spieth and Justin Rose) who aren't in the field this week. 
  6. Webb Simpson (18-1): I think he's playing some of the best golf of his life, and the numbers back it up. Doesn't miss cuts and has racked up 11 top-10 finishes in the last 15 months. Finished in the top 10 here last season. 
  7. Jim Furyk (30-1): He's the all-time leader in strokes gained at this event and has five top 15s in nine tries. Oh yeah, and he's coming in off a decent week last time out. 
  8. Keegan Bradley (30-1): He hasn't missed a cut since last year's U.S. Open. He's been saying if he putts, he contends, and his numbers on strokes gained approach shots (sixth on the PGA Tour) back that up.
  9. Henrik Stenson (30-1): Cruises in Florida, and he has three top-11 finishes in four starts at this course
  10. Gary Woodland (20-1): He's quietly been one of the better American golfers this year and ranks in the top 10 in OWGR points gained in 2019. Finished top 10 here back in 2014. 

Field strength ... A-: It's a good field! Given that it's being played the week after the Players, it's a great field! It's also a lot of golf for somebody like Jason Day, who was in the field at Bay Hill before withdrawing, played in last week's Players, this week's Valspar and presumably next week's WGC-Dell Technologies Match play before a week off and then the Masters.

Three things to know

1. Driving not as vital: According to Data Golf, the Valspar Championship isn't won off the tee. Last year's event saw driving take a backseat to chipping and putting. A general rule of thumb is that putting is more important and driving is less important here than at a normal PGA Tour event. 

2. The snake pit: It might not be as overcooked as the bear trap at the Honda Classic, but it's nearly as difficult. The final three holes was the fourth-hardest final three-hole stretch on the PGA Tour in 2018, and the par 3s in general are nasty as they played to an over-par average last time around

3. This field was even better a few days ago: Tommy Fleetwood, Daniel Berger, Alex Noren and Cameron Smith were all last-minute scratches following the Players. 

One story I'm following

Akshay Bhatia is a 17-year who is the top-ranked junior in the world. He's planning on turning pro sooner rather than later and is playing the first PGA Tour event of his young life on a sponsor exemption. "I'm really excited to get the experience out there, but at the same time it's another event for me," Bhatia told Myrtle Beach Online. "I'm ready to get going. I'm playing really, really good so I'm just ready to play another tournament and try to go win it. . . . My mindset stays the same." Remember, an amateur nearly won this event in 2016 when Lee McCoy finished fourth.

Past winners

  • 2018: Paul Casey
  • 2017: Adam Hadwin
  • 2016: Charl Schwartzel
  • 2015: Jordan Spieth
  • 2014: John Senden

Winner: Dustin Johnson (11/2) -- When in doubt, go with the best player in the field. D.J. hasn't played this tournament in a decade, but he's the only golfer in the world not named Rory McIlroy who is over 2.0 strokes gained per round against the field. Subscribed.

Top 10: Sergio Garcia (16-1) -- You know who's kind of a sneaky fun Masters pick right now? Yep, this guy. He closed thunderously at TPC Sawgrass and has been electric at Innisbrook with four top 20s in his last four starts here including a fourth in 2018.

Sleeper: Rory Sabbatini (150-1) -- Back-to-back Rorys! This one finished T5 in 2018 behind Paul Casey, Tiger Woods, Patrick Reed and Sergio Garcia. He's coming in off a nice week at TPC Sawgrass and is on a good number here.

CBS Sports Writer

Kyle Porter began his sports writing career with CBS Sports in 2012. He covers golf, writes poetry about Rory McIlroy's swing, stays ready on Tiger watch and loves the Masters more than anyone you know.... Full Bio

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