It's really unfortunate that the Valspar Championship has been buried amid the Florida swing in recent years because it has become a compelling tournament with a star-studded field playing a tough, good golf course at Innisbrook Resort. This year is a bit of a mini-resurrection for the Valspar, which is now nicely situated squarely between the Masters and PGA Championship. With three of the top 10 players in the world (including the top two), the field is solid and the table is set for another great week in Tampa.
Let's take a closer look at this week's contest with odds provided via William Hill Sportsbook.
Event: Valspar Championship | Date: April 29 - May 2
Location: Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort -- Palm Harbor, Florida
Three things to know
1. Three-peat: The obvious, glaring storyline this week is Paul Casey's bid for three straight Valspar Championship wins. Though the tournament has not been played in two years, Casey has won the last two iterations -- one over Tiger Woods and Patrick Reed by a stroke (remember that??) and one over Louis Oosthuizen and Jason Kokrak by another. It's not just his past history at Innisbrook that portends another successful week. Since Jan. 1, Casey is the only player in this field who has gained over two strokes per round. His recent success suggests another good showing at a track where he's raised two of his three PGA Tour trophies.
2. Short and accurate? The Copperhead Course is intriguing in that it goes against the grain of the normal PGA Tour track and rewards shorter and more accurate drivers. It's not quite the same profile as Harbour Town, but it's essentially the opposite of what you think about when you think of a Torrey Pines or Bethpage Black. The data backs it up, too. According to DataGolf, Matt Kuchar, Webb Simpson, Luke Donald, Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk are all in the top 15 of strokes gained at this course over the last decade.
3. Horse races: I wrote about this a bit on Monday, but I'm curious to see if one of the horses -- like Dustin Johnson or Justin Thomas -- can start to separates as it relates to the Player of the Year race. When it comes to those two, I care less about what the form is three weeks away from the PGA, and more about the binary, "Did you win or did you lose?" nature that serves as the building blocks for elite seasons.
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Grading the field
It's a fun, interesting field that includes D.J. and J.T. as well as Patrick Reed, who is also ranked in the top 10. Tyrrell Hatton was in the field, but he had to withdraw after testing positive for COVID-19. Throw in Viktor Hovland, Sungjae Im, Casey, Scottie Scheffler and Ryan Palmer (all top-30 guys), and you get a strength of field that's higher than it's been at any point in the last 10 years. Overall, 18 of the top 50 players in the world will be teeing it up, and Phil Mickelson will make his first appearance since 2004. Grade: B+
Valspar Championship picks
|Winner (33-1): There is a lot to like about Ancer here. Over the last two months, he's among the six best golfers in this field from tee to green, and he's also one of the most accurate drivers on the PGA Tour on a course that rewards that skill. The number you can get him at is pretty high given that he's a top-35 player in the world and has only missed two cuts since last September.|
|Top 10 (+175): I'm fading Casey this week and riding with Conners to finish in the top 10 instead. That's where he's finished in four of his last six starts, and he's also extremely accurate off the tee. Only Thomas and Jason Kokrak have been better from tee to green over the last two months of play.|
|Sleeper (50-1): This was an easy one, which means a missed cut is probably on deck. Kirk has finished in the top 10 in each of his last two starts (and three of his last five) and has been at +0.3 strokes gained in all four categories over the last two months. Absolutely love him at that number as a top-10 guy with some nice win equity this weekend at Innisbrook.|