With only 3 weeks to go now until The Masters, the PGA Tour moves to the Copperhead course at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, Florida – a tough examination which always ranks as one of the hardest courses outside of the Major Championship venues every year. World Number 1 Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Jon Rahm, Tommy Fleetwood, Sergio Garcia, Webb Simpson, Bubba Watson, Henrik Stenson and defending champion Paul Casey feature at a tournament which often comes down to the ability to grind and putt well on overseeded TifEagle Bermudagrass putting surfaces.
Rory McIlroy deservedly won The Players Championship last week with a superb performance – can’t say we never saw it coming! He was 14/1 second favourite, so well played if you were on board. Tommy Fleetwood returned a full place at 28/1 for this column and Hideki Matsuyama also chipped in a part-return at 40/1. Rory is now the 8/1 favourite to collect his Major Grand Slam at Augusta in 3 weeks, with Dustin Johnson (10/1), Justin Rose (14/1), Tiger Woods (16/1), Jon Rahm (18/1), Justin Thomas (18/1) and Brooks Koepka (20/1) his nearest pursuers in the betting market.
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Before we talk the Valspar Championship, the number of new visitors to Golf Betting System is increasing in the inevitable build-up to The Masters. Welcome to you all and let me point you in the direction of our weekly Golf Betting System podcast (published Tuesday) our Golf Betting Show on YouTube and our hugely popular private group on Facebook – you can Join Here. Masters lovers will also enjoy our Ante-post Masters Podcast.
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Course Guide: This tournament is played on the tough Copperhead course at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, Florida. As a 7,340 yard, Par 71, the course is tight off the tee, but unlike other typical Florida courses, the Larry Packard design has tree-lined fairways, plenty of elevation changes and dog-leg holes. Copperhead achieves this fairly unique layout as it contains 4 par-5s and 5 par-3s which is highly unusual for a Par 71 course. The course also features ‘The Snake Pit’ – namely holes 16 to 18 – which adds real bite to the closing stretch, especially on Sunday. The course received a $4.5 million restoration (not renovation) after Jordan Spieth’s win here in 2015, but still very much plays to the same technical characteristics.
Copperhead Course, Innisbrook Resort, Palm Harbor, Florida: Designer: Larry Packard, 1971 with Wadsworth renovation 2015. Course Type: Florida, Technical; Par: 71; Length: 7,340 yards; Holes with Water Hazards: 5; Fairways: Celebration Bermuda; Rough: Celebration Bermuda 3″; Greens: 6,100 sq.ft average TifEagle Bermudagrass with Poa Trivialis overseed; Tournament Stimp: 12ft; Course Scoring Average 2012: 70.73 (-0.27), Difficulty Rank 30 of 49 courses. 2013: 72.22 (+1.22), Rank 7 of 43 courses. 2014: 72.43 (+1.43), Rank 6 of 48 courses. 2015: 71.86 (+0.86), Rank 10 of 52 courses. 2016: 72.62 (+1.62), Rank 6 of 50 courses. 2017: 71.51 (+0.51), Rank 17 of 50 courses. 2018: 71.97 (+0.97), Rank 6 of 51 courses.
Fairway Widths (yards): Below are the fairway widths for the Copperhead Course and how they compare to recent courses on Tour:
- Copperhead: 250 yards from the tee: 24 yards wide; 275:20; 300:21; 325:23 350:19.
- TPC Sawgrass: 250 yards from the tee: 31 yards wide; 275:33; 300:32; 325:29 350:20.
- Bay Hill: 250 yards from the tee: 33 yards wide; 275:34; 300:34; 325:39 350:29.
- PGA National: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:27; 300:25; 325:26 350:25.
- Riviera: 250 yards from the tee: 34 yards wide; 275:29; 300:25; 325:27 350:27.
- Pebble Beach: 250 yards from the tee: 41 yards wide; 275:37; 300:33; 325:34 350:30.
- TPC Scottsdale: 250 yards from the tee: 35 yards wide; 275:30; 300:29; 325:29 350:29.
- Torrey Pines South: 250 yards from the tee: 27 yards wide; 275:27; 300:26; 325:25 350:23.
- TPC Stadium: 250 yards from the tee: 31 yards wide; 275:30; 300:29; 325:29; 350:27.
- Waialae: 250 yards from the tee: 35 yards wide; 275:32; 300:33; 325:37; 350:34.
- Plantation Course: 250 yards from the tee: 54 yards wide; 275:58; 300:62; 325:57; 350:61.
Course Overview: The Copperhead course restoration in 2016 has not changed the characteristics of the challenge that players face. New green complexes, which still feature TifEagle Bermudagrass overseeded with Poa Trivialis, are slightly larger than original at 6,100 sq.ft average. But if turf conditions are firm and wind is a factor, a single-digit score under par is always likely to be a target for victory. In essence the changes have enhanced rather than materially changed the Copperhead test.
Positioned only a stone’s throw away from the Gulf of Mexico on the west coast of Florida close to Tampa, the course is not your typical Florida golf course. Instead many observers suggest it’s far more typical of a Carolina set-up with changes of elevation, tree-lined fairways and selected usage of water hazards making it a real gem and a true test of golf. The course features extremely tight fairways in combination with the majority of holes being on the long side. That’s a recipe for a tough golf course and sure enough that is exactly what the field this week will get.
The 2018 renewal featured the following statistics: Greens in Regulation: 3rd toughest on the 2017/18 PGA Tour; Going for the Green: 2nd toughest; Birdie Average: 4th toughest; Par 3 Scoring Average: 11th toughest; Par 4 Scoring Average 6th toughest; Par 5 Scoring Average: 4th toughest; Putting Average: 14th toughest. These figures describe the Copperhead test perfectly – a fast, tight and long course, where attack is limited. Copperhead is definitely a technical test where a mature, all-round game is required.
Winners: 2018: Paul Casey (-10); 2017: Adam Hadwin (-14); 2016: Charl Schwartzel (-8); 2015: Jordan Spieth (-10); 2014: John Senden (-7); 2013: Kevin Streelman (-10); 2012: Luke Donald (-13); 2011: Gary Woodland (-15); 2010: Jim Furyk (-13).
Tournament Stats: We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s event that are well worth a look. Naturally they’ll help to shape a view on players who could go well this week: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader | Top 20 Finishes | Combined Stats.
Published Predictor Model: Our published predictor is available here. You can build your own model using the variables listed on the left hand side. Top 10 of my published predictor are Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Webb Simpson, Jim Furyk, Sergio Garcia, Adam Hadwin, Paul Casey, Lucas Glover, Brandt Snedeker and Jon Rahm.
Recent Player Skill Rankings: These rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the Farmers Insurance Open and Dubai Desert Classic, which includes PGA Tour and European Tour events. Players must have played in a minimum of 2 Tour events to be included and rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:
- Driving Accuracy: 1) Jim Furyk; 2) Chez Reavie; 3) Scott Langley; 4) K.J. Choi; 5) Kevin Streelman; 6) Brian Gay / Kenny Perry / Michael Thompson; 9) Kevin Kisner; 10) Rafa Cabrera-Bello / Russell Henley / Ryan Moore; 13)Keegan Bradley; 14) Paul Casey; 15) Roger Sloan; 16) Tyler Duncan; 17) Ryan Armour / Chase Wright; 19) Steve Stricker; 20) Alex Cejka.
- Greens in Regulation: 1) Jason Kokrak; 2) Dustin Johnson; 3) Keegan Bradley / Kevin Kisner / Sergio Garcia; 6) Russell Knox / Brendan Steele; 8) Jim Furyk; 9) Kenny Perry / Gary Woodland; 11) Bubba Watson; 12) Jason Day / K.H. Lee; 14) Jon Rahm; 15) Trey Mullinax; 16) Henrik Stenson; 17) Charley Hoffman / John Senden; 19) Danny Willett; 20) Paul Casey / Carlos Ortiz.
- Putting Average (Putts per GIR): 1) Wyndham Clark; 2) Jason Day; 3) Jon Rahm; 4) Vaughn Taylor; 5) Patrick Reed; 6) Martin Trainer; 7) Michael Thompson; 8) Freddie Jacobson / Scott Langley / Ryan Moore / Rory Sabbatini; 12) Patton Kizzire; 13) Dustin Johnson; 14) Brian Gay; 15) Bud Cauley / Jim Furyk / Webb Simpson; 18) Jonas Blixt / Charl Schwartzel / Hudson Swafford.
Winners & Prices: 2018: Casey 25/1; 2017: Hadwin 125/1; 2016: Schwartzel 33/1; 2015: Spieth 16/1; 2014: Senden 125/1; 2013: Streelman 200/1; 2012: Donald 11/1; 2011: Woodland 100/1; 2010: Furyk 30/1. Past 5 Renewals Average: 65/1; Overall Average: 74/1.
- 2018: Thursday: Partly cloudy. High of 64. Wind NW 15-20 mph. Friday: Sunny. High of 66. Wind NNW 5-10 mph. Saturday: Partly cloudy. High of 72. Wind SE 5-15 mph. Sunday: Partly cloudy. High of 74. Wind SSW 10-15 mph.
- 2017: Thursday: Partly cloudy, with a high of 75. Wind WNW 8-12 mph. Friday: Partly cloudy, with a high of 76. Wind WNW 10-15 mph. Saturday: Sunny, with a high of 80. Wind NNE 8-15 mph. Sunday: Mostly cloudy, with a high of 75. Wind WNW 5-10 mph.
- 2016: Thursday: Partly cloudy, with a high of 84 degrees. Wind SE 10-20 mph. Friday: Partly cloudy, with a high of 82 degrees. Wind SE 10-20 mph. Saturday: Mostly sunny, with a high of 83 degrees. Wind S-SE 10-20 mph. Sunday: Cloudy, with a high of 78 degrees. Wind SW 10-20 mph.
- 2015: Thursday: Partly cloudy, with a high of 85. SW wind at 10-15 mph. Friday: Partly cloudy with a high of 86. Wind SW at 10-15 mph. Saturday: Partly cloudy, with the temperature reaching 83. Wind SSW at 10-15 mph, with gusts to 25 mph. Sunday: Partly cloudy, with a high of 85. WNW wind at 10 mph.
Weather Forecast: The latest weather forecast for Palm Harbor, Florida, is here. Tampa Bay had a relatively wet January and February, but Innisbrook Resort has not seen rain for 2 weeks and with a 50% chance of rain across early Tuesday morning, I would not be surprised to see the traditionally firm Copperhead test in-play this week. Light winds on Thursday should be the launchpad for some lower scores, and with relatively light winds across Friday and Saturday as well, scoring may be just a tad lower than 12 months ago. But 20-25 mph winds on Sunday will make for a real test for the leaders. Temperatures like last week will be unseasonably low for Florida, although they improve a little across the weekend.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of the 9 winners since 2010 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this:
- 2018, Paul Casey (-10). 302 yards (17th), 46.2% fairways (68th), 61.1% greens in regulation (30th), 35’10” proximity to hole (23rd), 82.1 % scrambling (3rd), 1.68 putts per GIR (7th).
- 2017, Adam Hadwin (-12). 287 yards (37th), 63.5% fairways (27th), 70.8% greens in regulation (5th), 29’11” proximity to hole (5th), 76.2 % scrambling (7th), 1.65 putts per GIR (2nd).
- 2016, Charl Schwartzel (-8). 292 yards (30th), 44.2% fairways (65th), 65.3% greens in regulation (10th), 34’10” proximity to hole (12th), 60.0 % scrambling (45th), 1.64 putts per GIR (2nd).
- 2015, Jordan Spieth (-10). 275 yards (26th), 59.6% fairways (51st), 63.9% greens in regulation (36th), 35’3″ proximity to hole (47th), 69.2 % scrambling (18th), 1.65 putts per GIR (2nd).
- 2014, John Senden (-7). 279 yards (20th), 57.7% fairways (50th), 72.2% greens in regulation (3rd), 31’6″ proximity to hole (6th), 60.0 % scrambling (35th), 1.75 putts per GIR (12th).
- 2013, Kevin Streelman (-10). 271 yards (48th), 69.2% fairways (11th), 68.1% greens in regulation (11th), 35’5″ proximity to hole (39th), 65.2% scrambling (28th), 1.67 putts per GIR (4th).
- 2012, Luke Donald (-12). 264 yards (75th), 73.1% fairways (9th), 66.7% greens in regulation (43rd), 32’8″ proximity to hole (22nd), 75.0% scrambling (7th), 1.65 putts per GIR (6th).
- 2011, Gary Woodland (-15). 297 yards (7th), 57.7% fairways (54th), 70.8% greens in regulation (29th), 37’7″ proximity to hole (65th), 66.7% scrambling (14th), 1.65 putts per GIR (5th).
- 2010, Jim Furyk (-13). 261 yards (59th), 67.3% fairways (16th), 72.2% greens in regulation (4th), 33’9″ proximity to hole (24th), 75.0% scrambling (3rd), 1.67 putts per GIR (3rd).
Tournament Skill Average:
- Driving Distance: 35th, Driving Accuracy: 39th, Greens in Regulation: 19th, Proximity to Hole: 27th, Scrambling: 18th, Putting Average 5th.
Strokes Gained Tournament Trends:
- 2018, Paul Casey (-10). SG Off the Tee: 50th, SG Approach: 7th, SG Around the Green: 3rd, SG Tee to Green: 6th, SG Putting: 15th.
- 2017, Adam Hadwin (-14). SG Off the Tee: 47th, SG Approach: 2nd, SG Around the Green: 25th, SG Tee to Green: 5th, SG Putting: 4th.
- 2016, Charl Schwartzel(-8). SG Off the Tee: 52nd, SG Approach: 3rd, SG Around the Green: 23rd, SG Tee to Green: 4th, SG Putting: 12th.
Strokes Gained Tournament Skill Averages:
- SG Off the Tee: 50th, SG Approach: 4th, SG Around the Green: 17th, SG Tee to Green: 5th, SG Putting: 10th.
Let’s take a view from players as to how the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort sets up and what skill sets the course favours:
Paul Casey: “To me it’s one of the best courses on Tour. I think without question one of the best courses on Tour. My caddy, Johnny McClaren won here before with Luke Donald. He thought it would really suit my game. I hit a lot of greens in regulation. We discussed again trying to get the flow of the travel. We thought it fit really nicely in the schedule, everything about it, you know, the people, Copperhead, there’s just a lot of positives to it. It’s actually pretty easy decision, to be honest. Actually questioned why I haven’t played it more in the past because actually I haven’t played it that well. Surprising. I did like it and as soon as I turned up, I had a good feeling anyway and obviously I’ll be back next year but it’s one I probably would have on the schedule forever. I still don’t like 16.
Adam Hadwin: “Yeah, it was a great day, I played really solid, a lot of fairways, a lot of greens again. Made a couple bombs that probably shouldn’t have gone in, but good speed and was able to pick the right line and just real solid golf tee-to-green. Every time I got off-line, I got myself back in position and when I was able to be aggressive, I was aggressive and hit good shots. Just striking it real solid right now, which is what you need it do around this Copperhead golf course. you get going sideways on this golf course, it’s tough enough that it will punish you and you can run up a tally pretty quickly. But the other side of things is that guys are going to have to shot a good score to catch you.”
Charl Schwartzel: “Well, the first time I played, I didn’t play very well. But you know, the more I played it, I felt like it’s a golf course where you need sort of experience to play. You need to learn how to play this golf course. It looks like an easy course, because it’s not very long on distance, but man, the way you’ve got to shape the shots, the way you’ve got to think, the variety of clubs you use, it’s just a really good golf course. You’ve got to really think your way around it, and you very seldom get the guy that plays badly otherwise. You’ve got to bring a good game here to compete.
Well, the Snake Pit is really only 16, if you’re asking me. 16 is a dangerous hole. Whatever makes you feel comfortable off the tee, whether it’s an iron just short in the fairway and a 3-wood, that’s fine. It’s avoiding the water and the trees on the left, really. You can’t bail. You hit left, you make bogey, anyways. You hit it in the water, you’re going to make probably double. So it’s getting it off the tee just in play and if you’re going to play that hole, 2-over for the week, you’re going to be in contention in this tournament. 17 and 18 is not really that difficult of holes. I mean, hitting 6-iron, 7-iron into 17, and 18 is your choice, what you want to do. If you drive it, you’ve got to wedge it. If you hit 2-iron off the tee, you’ve got 8-iron in. To me, those holes are not that dangerous. But 16, be careful. Just get the ball in play.”
Jordan Spieth: “This course, it’s a very difficult golf course, it’s definitely tougher than average. If you see guys that come out and play well here, they’re likely to play well on the harder courses and the bigger tournaments just because that kind of course suits their game more, I guess. You have to work the ball both ways here. It requires all sorts of shots, punch shots, launching it in the air and obviously some discipline on the greens.
The greens aren’t very severe here. They’re grainy and certainly they can be very quick in certain places where they can put pins but they’re not going to be greens where you really, really worry too much about your speed control. You can be aggressive putting out here which is nice. But it’s tough. I mean the wind – in the past couple years the wind has picked up. Looks like we may get really lucky this week, these next four days and not have much wind and scores could be lower, especially with the softer conditions than previous years. Yeah, it’s still tough to hit the fairway and the greens, the rough is really sticky and if you’re a foot off the green and it just off the fringe, it’s about as tough as it gets because the rough is not quite high and thick enough to where you just play like a bunker shot and it’s not thin enough to where you can hit a normal chip. You got to almost feel like your way through and try and judge it perfectly.”
John Senden: “I think you need to play pretty solid golf to do well around here because it’s narrow in spots, the greens are smaller. You know, it’s a very strategic golf course. I think you see players that say the veteran players that play win around here because it’s not totally a bomber’s golf course. Doral probably is. This place is not. It’s narrow. It’s different. It’s got sort of shorter golf holes than, say, Doral. If you’re smart around here you can actually do really well. If you try to sort of tear it apart by bombing it, it’s much more narrow than probably Doral. Doral visually looks – all you see is the bunkers. Here you see more tree line. Even if you do lay it back a little bit here you can still score well.”
Jim Furyk: “I’d say the one thing here, you do get a lot of greens that have quite a bit of pitch and slope to them, especially back to front, and so you have to hit some putts here that feed to the hole. You get a lot of six footers here that are more than a cup of break and you don’t see a lot of that in Florida as well. You get a lot of right edge and left edge, ball out, inside right. Here you have to fit a lot of putts that really feed into the hole and that helps a little bit for getting ready for Augusta.”
Kevin Streelman: “Got to put it in the right spots. As we know on this golf course, you’ll make some bogies pretty quickly. It’s clear this is, a lot of players would say, their favourite course in Florida that we play. They love it because of shot playability. You hit everything from 4-iron to driver off the tees, shape them both directions. You have par-5s you can go for and some you lay back. You’ve got par-3s. You have to be so exact where you leave it. There’s no let up out there but it’s very fair at the same time. People say last week maybe pushed the envelope a little bit. This week there’s no pushing the envelope. You got to step up and hit a golf shot. You got to step up on 16 and hit a great drive. There’s little room to bail. You got to man up and hit golf shots out there.”
Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for the last 9 Valspar Championship winners:
- 2018 – Paul Casey: Round 1: 8th, Round 2: 2nd, Round 3: 11th.
- 2017 – Adam Hadwin: Round 1: 12th, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
- 2016 – Charl Schwartzel: Round 1: 25th, Round 2: 15th, Round 3: 8th.
- 2015 – Jordan Spieth: Round 1: 38th, Round 2: 2nd, Round 3: 2nd.
- 2014 – John Senden: Round 1: 45th, Round 2: 35th, Round 3: 3rd.
- 2013 – Kevin Streelman: Round 1: 70th, Round 2: 31st, Round 3: 1st.
- 2012 – Luke Donald: Round 1: 10th, Round 2: 4th, Round 3: 7th.
- 2011 – Gary Woodland: Round 1: 6th, Round 2: 5th, Round 3: 4th.
- 2010 – Jim Furyk: Round 1: 2nd, Round 2 2nd, Round 3: 1st.
Shots From the Lead: Below are the last 9 Valspar winners and where they were positioned in terms of shots from the lead during the tournament:
- 2018 – Paul Casey: Round 1: 3 back, Round 2: 2 back, Round 3: 5 back.
- 2017 – Adam Hadwin: Round 1: 6 back, Round 2: 1 ahead, Round 3: 4 ahead.
- 2016 – Charl Schwartzel: Round 1: 4 back, Round 2: 4 back, Round 3: 5 back.
- 2015 – Jordan Spieth: Round 1: 5 back, Round 2: 1 back, Round 3: 1 back.
- 2014 – John Senden: Round 1: 4 back, Round 2: 8 back, Round 3: 2 back.
- 2013 – Kevin Streelman: Round 1: 8 back, Round 2: 7 back, Round 3: level.
- 2012 – Luke Donald: Round 1: 6 back, Round 2: 3 back, Round 3: 3 back.
- 2011 – Gary Woodland: Round 1: 3 back, Round 2: 2 back, Round 3: 2 back.
- 2010 – Jim Furyk: Round 1: 2 back, Round 2: 1 back, Round 3: 3 ahead.
Incoming form of winners since 2010:
- Paul Casey: 12th Mexico/49th Riviera/8th Pebble/9th Abu Dhabi.
- Adam Hadwin: 34th Riviera/39th Pebble/12th TPC Scottsdale/49th Torrey.
- Charl Schwartzel: 17th Doral/45th Riviera/1st Tshwane/9th Nedbank.
- Jordan Spieth: 17th Doral/4th Riviera/7th Pebble/MC Torrey Pines.
- John Senden: 46th PGA National/18th Riviera/MC Pebble/69th PGA West.
- Kevin Streelman: MC Puerto/41st PGA National/27th Riviera/40th Pebble.
- Luke Donald: 6th Doral/56th Riviera/46th Abu Dhabi.
- Gary Woodland: 6th PGA National/MC Pebble/5th TPC Scottsdale/58th Torrey.
- Jim Furyk: 37th Doral/35th Pebble/20th Riviera/1st World Challenge.
First Round Leader Analysis: First round leader(s), their wave and winning score since 2010. Full First Round Leader stats are here.
- 2018 – Conners – AM -4/67 200/1.
- 2017 – Herman – AM -9/61 125/1.
- 2016 – Duke / Howell III – AM/PM Split -4/67.
- 2015 – Davis – PM -6/65.
- 2014 – Chalmers/Every/Perez – 1AM/2PM Split -3/68.
- 2013 – Stefani – PM -5/66.
- 2012 – Harrington – AM -10/61.
- 2011 – Casey – AM -7/64.
- 2010 – Willis – AM -6/65.
For the record, here’s the breakdown of Bermudagrass PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:
- 6 – Dustin Johnson
- 4 – Jason Day, Jim Furyk, Bill Haas, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed.
- 3 – Brian Gay, Brandt Snedeker, Henrik Stenson.
- 2 – Daniel Berger, K.J. Choi, Luke Donald, Jason Dufner, Sergio Garcia, Russell Henley, Chris Kirk, Bubba Watson.
- 1 – Ryan Armour, Jonas Blixt, Keegan Bradley, Paul Casey, Austin Cook, Harris English, Branden Grace, Cody Gribble, Adam Hadwin, Mackenzie Hughes, Kevin Kisner, Patton Kizzire, Satoshi Kodaira, Martin Laird, Peter Malnati, Graeme McDowell, Grayson Murray, Sean O’Hair, Jon Rahm, Rory Sabbatini, Charl Schwartzel, John Senden, Webb Simpson, Scott Stallings, Robert Streb, Kevin Streelman, Steve Stricker, Brian Stuard, Hudson Swafford, Nick Taylor, Michael Thompson, Nick Watney, Gary Woodland.
My view on the Valspar Championship is that with Augusta less than a month away, some of the elite players use Copperhead as a game-sharpening exercise so the key this week is (as always) to select those who are both playing well enough and who will be determined to challenge. It’s also worth remembering that Copperhead follows on from a punishing 4-week stretch that has included a World Golf Championship, incredibly tough Florida outings at the Honda Classic and the Arnold Palmer Invitational plus of course the Players Championship last week.
In the past 8 years, elite players Jim Furyk (2010), Luke Donald (2012), Jordan Spieth (2015), Charl Schwartzel (2016) and Paul Casey (2018) have all won here at Copperhead at relatively short odds. Furyk (30/1) had won the Chevron Challenge at Sherwood CC in the preceding December and was absolutely focused on winning his first PGA Tour title since 2007. Luke Donald (11/1), on the other hand, fresh from winning the 2011 Race to Dubai and PGA Tour Money List, was in a battle with Rory McIlroy over the World Number 1 spot. Copperhead was the perfect course at the perfect time. Jordan Spieth (16/1) in 2015 had unbelievably gone 17 months since his only PGA Tour victory at the 2013 John Deere Classic. He was in decent form and had won the 2014 World Challenge played in Florida the previous November. Charl Schwartzel (30/1) arrived in Tampa after winning in his home country only 4 weeks prior. Always one to follow when in good form, the World Number 32 (at the time) took the opportunity to win his first tournament in the United States since the 2011 Masters. And in last year’s winner Paul Casey, the World Number 17 (at the time) had not won on the PGA Tour for just under 9 years. His form in to Tampa included top 10s in Abu Dhabi and at Pebble Beach and the previous week in the WGC- Mexico Championship he finished 12th off the back of a fast finishing -5/66 on Sunday at Chapultepec.
However in Gary Woodland (2011), Kevin Streelman (2012), John Senden (2014) and Adam Hadwin (2017) we have 4 Valspar champions who had between them only 1 PGA Tour victory previously. That was the 2006 John Deere Classic won by Australian Senden, 8 years prior to winning here; his price was 125/1. Naturally the other 3 were all PGA Tour maidens, winning at odds of 100/1 (Woodland), 200/1 (Streelman) and 125/1 (Hadwin). It’s undoubtedly a broad spectrum of winners.
Copperhead, as ever, is likely to offer a very stern test for a stronger than usual field in Tampa this week. So I’m looking for players who are in form with the putter, who are comfortable tough golf course players, and who have shown the ability this season to manage their games and scramble well.
My selections are as follows: