Steve Bamford

Steve Bamford's Valspar Championship Tips 2021

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With only 3 weeks to go now until the PGA Championship, the PGA Tour moves to Palm Harbor, Florida for the Valpsar Championship. Played on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort near Tampa Bay, it’s 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, Justin Thomas, Tyrrell Hatton, Viktor Hovland, Sungjae Im, Joaquin Niemann, Patrick Reed, Justin Rose, Scottie Scheffler, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey all feature, with the Englishman going for a hat-trick of victories.

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Before we go into the detail surrounding the Valspar Championship, we always have new visitors to Golf Betting System, with the PGA Championship only a few weeks away.  Welcome to you all and let me point you in the direction of our weekly Golf Betting System podcast (published every Tuesday of the golfing calendar), the Steve Bamford Golf Channel on YouTube and our hugely popular, 5,900+ strong, private Group on Facebook – you can Join Here.

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, with a real Carolina course feel to it.

Copperhead Course, Innisbrook Resort, Palm Harbor, Florida: Designer: Larry Packard, 1971 with Wadsworth renovation 2015. Course Type: Carolina-type, Technical; Par: 71; Length: 7,340 yards; Holes with Water Hazards: 9; Fairways: Celebration Bermudagrass; Rough: Celebration Bermudagrass with Ryegrass 3″; Greens: 5,822 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. 2019: 71.98 (+0.98), Rank 6 of 49 courses.

Widths (yards): Below are the fairway widths for the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook, 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.
  • Harbour Town: 250 yards from tee: 29 yards wide; 275:26; 300:22; 325:26; 350:22.
  • Oaks Course: 250 yards from tee: 33 yards wide; 275:34; 300:29; 325:27; 350:26.
  • PGA National: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:27; 300:25; 325:27 350:25.
  • TPC Sawgrass: 250 yards from the tee: 31 yards wide; 275:32; 300:30; 325:28 350:20.
  • Bay Hill: 250 yards from the tee: 32 yards wide; 275:33; 300:33; 325:39 350:29.
  • Riviera: 250 yards from the tee: 33 yards wide; 275:27; 300:26; 325:26 350:28.
  • Pebble Beach: 250 yards from the tee: 33 yards wide; 275:33; 300:29; 325:30 350:26.
  • TPC Scottsdale: 250 yards from the tee: 33 yards wide; 275:30; 300:28; 325:27; 350:27.
  • Torrey Pines South: 250 yards from the tee: 26 yards wide; 275:27; 300:25; 325:24; 350:23.
  • TPC Stadium: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:27; 300:26; 325:26; 350:24.
  • Waialae: 250 yards from the tee: 34 yards wide; 275:32; 300:34; 325:37; 350:34.
  • Plantation Course: 250 yards from the tee: 59 yards wide; 275:61; 300:65; 325:60; 350:62.

Course Overview: The Copperhead course restoration in 2016 hasn’t 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, myself included, 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.

When set up correctly, Copperhead is a fast, tight and long course, where attackable holes are relatively few. This is definitely a technical test where a mature, all-round game is required.

valspar championship tips

Winners: 2019: Paul Casey (-8); 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).

Lead Score Progression:

  • 2019: Round 1 -5; Round 2 -6; Round 3 -9; Round 4 -8.
  • 2018: Round 1 -4; Round 2 -6; Round 3 -9; Round 4 -10.

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 | 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 Justin Thomas, Corey Conners, Dustin Johnson, Ryan Palmer, Abraham Ancer, Patrick Reed, Russell Henley, Emiliano Grillo, Justin Rose and Joaquin Niemann.

Recent Player Skill Rankings: These top 25 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to Arnold Palmer Invitational, which includes PGA Tour and European Tour events. Rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Driving Accuracy: 1) Chez Reavie; 2) Brian Stuard; 3) K.J. Choi; 4) Sungjae Im; 5) Doug Ghim; 6) Abraham Ancer; 7) Corey Conners / David Hearn / D.A. Points; 10) Ryan Armour; 11) Ryan Moore; 12) Denny McCarthy; 13) Emiliano Grillo / Kevin Streelman; 15) Kelly Kraft / Kevin Stadler / Cameron Tringale; 18) Lucas Glover / Matthew NeSmith; 20) Chase Seiffert; 21) Martin Laird / Rob Oppenheim; 23) Tyler Duncan / Kramer Hickok / Mark Hubbard.
  • Greens in Regulation: 1) Justin Rose; 2) Corey Conners; 3) Emiliano Grillo; 4) Aaron Baddeley; 5) Joaquin Niemann; 6) James Hahn; 7) Justin Thomas; 8) Ryan Palmer / Chase Seiffert; 10) Joseph Bramlett; 11) Jason Kokrak / Bubba Watson; 13) Martin Laird; 14) Abraham Ancer / Doug Ghim / Phil Mickelson / Louis Oosthuizen; 18) Paul Casey; 19) Patton Kizzire; 20) Cameron Tringale; 21) Matthew NeSmith; 22) Rasmus Hojgaard / Chris Kirk / Hank Lebioda; 25) Pat Perez / Peter Uihlein.
  • Scrambling: 1) Abraham Ancer; 2) Peter Uihlein; 3) Kevin Tway; 4) Denny McCarthy; 5) Louis Oosthuizen / Ryan Palmer; 7) Russell Henley; 8) Charley Hoffman / Vincent Whaley; 10) Corey Conners / Mackenzie Hughes / Justin Rose / Justin Thomas; 14) Tyrrell Hatton / Kevin Stadler; 16) Keegan Bradley; 17) Sungjae Im / Chris Kirk; 19) Jason Kokrak; 20) Scott Piercy; 21) Danny Willett; 22) Max Homa; 23) Chase Seiffert; 24) Zach Johnson / Paul Casey.
  • Putting Average (Putts per GIR): 1) Sam Horsfield; 2) Justin Rose; 3) Keith Mitchell; 4) Justin Thomas; 5) Dustin Johnson / Jamie Lovemark; 7) Danny Willett; 8) Corey Conners; 9) J.T. Poston; 10) Richy Werenski; 11) Wesley Bryan / Camilo Villegas; 13) Brendan Grace / Chesson Hadley / David Hearn / Jason Kokrak; 17) Viktor Hovland / Mackenzie Hughes / Sungjae Im; 20) Aaron Baddeley; 21) Lucas Glover; 22) Paul Casey / Danny Lee / Brandt Snedeker; 25) Chris Kirk / Patrick Reed / Kevin Streelman.

Recent Player Strokes Gained Rankings: These top 25 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the Arnold Palmer Invitational, which includes PGA Tour and European Tour events. Players rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Top 25 SG Off The Tee: 1) Jason Kokrak; 2) Sungjae Im; 3) Corey Conners / Ryan Palmer; 5) Abraham Ancer; 6) Viktor Hovland / Joaquin Niemann / Kevin Streelman / Gary Woodland; 10) Cameron Tringale; 11) Charles Howell III; 12) Tyrrell Hatton / Dustin Johnson; 14) Chris Kirk; 15) Lucas Glover / Ryan Moore / Justin Thomas; 18) Cameron Davis; 19) Ryan Brehm; 20) Keith Mitchell / Kevin Stadler; 22) Jamie Lovemark / Scottie Scheffler; 24) Justin Rose; 25) Jim Herman.
  • Top 25 SG Approach: 1) Corey Conners; 2) Rasmus Hojgaard; 3) Emiliano Grillo; 4) Paul Casey / James Hahn; 6) Abraham Ancer / Doug Ghim / Sam Horsfield; 9) Justin Thomas; 10) Phil Mickelson; 11) Talor Gooch / Justin Rose; 13) Charley Hoffman; 14) Tom Hoge; 15) Keegan Bradley; 16) Chris Kirk / Jason Kokrak; 18) Hank Lebioda; 19) Louis Oosthuizen; 20) Tom Lewis / Roger Sloan; 22) Lanto Griffin; 23) Tyrrell Hatton / Kevin Tway; 25) Tyler Duncan / John Huh.
  • Top 25 SG Around The Green: 1) Kevin Tway; 2) Justin Thomas; 3) D.J. Trahan; 4) Keegan Bradley; 5) Charles Howell III; 6) Scottie Scheffler; 7) Brandon Hagy / Charley Hoffman / Louis Oosthuizen; 10) Mark Hubbard / Charl Schwartzel; 12) David Hearn / John Huh; 14) Cameron Tringale; 15) Chris Kirk; 16) Paul Casey; 17) Nick Watney; 18) Danny Willett; 19) Wyndham Clark / William McGirt / Erik van Rooyen; 22) Rafael Campos; 23) Joseph Bramlett; 24) Branden Grace / Michael Kim.
  • Top 25 SG Tee to Green: 1) Corey Conners; 2) Justin Thomas; 3) Charley Hoffman; 4) Chris Kirk; 5) Abraham Ancer / Sam Horsfield; 7) Keegan Bradley / Doug Ghim; 9) Rasmus Hojgaard; 10) Emiliano Grillo / John Huh; 12) Scottie Scheffler; 13) Paul Casey / Tyrrell Hatton / Justin Rose / Cameron Tringale; 17) Talor Gooch; 18) Joseph Bramlett / Jason Kokrak; 20) Tom Hoge / Ryan Palmer; 22) Charles Howell III; 23) Chase Seiffert; 24) Gary Woodland; 25) Lanto Griffin.
  • Top 25 SG Putting: 1) Justin Rose; 2) Denny McCarthy; 3) Joaquin Niemann; 4) Ryan Palmer; 5) Sam Horsfield; 6) Kelly Kraft; 7) Sungjae Im / Kelly Kraft / Patrick Reed; 10) Kevin Tway; 11) Corey Conners / Mackenzie Hughes / Zach Johnson / Vincent Whaley; 15) Charley Hoffman; 16) Dustin Johnson; 17) J.T. Poston; 18) Ian Poulter; 19) Branden Grace / Chesson Hadley; 21) Jason Kokrak / Patrick Rodgers; 23) Justin Thomas; 24) Jimmy Walker; 25) Roger Sloan.
  • Top 25 SG Total: 1) Corey Conners / Sam Horsfield; 3) Justin Thomas; 4) Charley Hoffman; 5) Justin Rose; 6) Chris Kirk; 7) Abraham Ancer; 8) Keegan Bradley / Ryan Palmer; 10) Emiliano Grillo / Jason Kokrak; 12) Paul Casey; 13) Sungjae Im / Denny McCarthy; 15) Chase Seiffert; 16) Joaquin Niemann / Patrick Reed; 18) Talor Gooch; 19) Louis Oosthuizen; 20) Tyrrell Hatton / Vincent Whaley; 22) Cameron Tringale; 23) Lucas Glover / Lanto Griffin; 25) Camilo Villegas.

Winners & Prices: 2019: Casey 25/1; 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 6 Renewals Average: 91/1. Overall Average: 69/1.

Historical Weather:

  • 2019: Thursday: Sunny. High of 71. Wind WNW 15-20 mph. Friday: Sunny. High of 70. Wind NW 6-12 mph. Saturday: Sunny. High of 75. Wind ENE 5-10 mph. Sunday: Sunny. High of 77. Wind E 5-10 mph.
  • 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 dry February and March, and despite 85 mm of rain depositing itself on Innisbrook Resort in April, I would not be surprised to see the traditionally firm Copperhead test in play this week, especially as the forecast for tournament week looks decidedly dry. Tie that in with 15-20 mph south westerly winds across the opening 36 holes and we could well have a Major-type difficulty tournament on our hands. Wind takes a back step on the weekend, but hopefully a continually firming golf course should still put up a stern test.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of the 10 winners of the Valspar Championship since 2010 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this classical test:

  • 2019, Paul Casey (-8). 307 yards (11th), 67.3% fairways (9th), 63.9% greens in regulation (5th), 41’1″ proximity to hole (65th), 61.5 % scrambling (47th), 1.65 putts per GIR (5th).
  • 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 Averages:

Driving Distance: 33rd, Driving Accuracy: 36th, Greens in Regulation: 18th, Proximity to Hole: 31st, Scrambling: 21st, Putting Average 5th.

Strokes Gained Tournament Trends:

  • 2019, Paul Casey (-8). SG Off the Tee: 6th, SG Approach: 7th, SG Around the Green: 9th, SG Tee to Green: 1st, SG Putting: 43rd.
  • 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: 38th, SG Approach: 5th, SG Around the Green: 15th, SG Tee to Green: 4th, SG Putting: 19th.

Let’s take a view from players as to how Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort sets up and what skill sets the course favours:

Paul Casey (2019): “It’s a great golf course. I think it’s one of the best we play on Tour. Might be the best one we play on the Florida swing. You know I like it because I’m defending champion. Champions always like the golf courses they win on. But it’s really quality. It’s very tough as well. The difference between hitting the green and landing just short, the dispersion of where the shots finish is high. There’s a premium on ball striking. Scoring’s never that low around here. Bogeys do happen. Disappointing on 9, but everybody’s going to make bogeys. If you can just minimize those, it puts you in a good position. But it’s wonderful playing with world No. 1 the last two days and see the quality of his game and quality of mine was pretty good too.

I like slopey greens, these are very, very difficult greens, but that’s the way I kind of like them. It’s why I play well at places like Augusta as well. Johnny hinted that, my caddie’s running off to go watch some golf this afternoon because it’s going to get entertaining because it’s so difficult to figure out where that wind is coming from. Very rarely on this Copperhead Course do you face the same direction twice. So you’re always having to make slight adjustments for the wind and then you can’t quite figure it out. It’s a difficult golf course. The greens are so firm, you can’t get a tee in the ground to repair a ball mark. You need one of those metal pitch mark repairers.”

Paul Casey (2018): “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 (2017): “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 (2016): “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 (2015): “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 winners of the Valspar Championship since 2010:

  • 2019 – Paul Casey: Round 1: 29th, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 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 Off the Lead: Below are the shots from the lead during the tournament of the Valspar Championship winners since 2010:

  • 2019 – Paul Casey: Round 1: 4 back, Round 2: level, Round 3: 1 ahead.
  • 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: MC TPC Sawgrass/3rd Mexico/25th Riviera/2nd Pebble Beach.
  • 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.

  • 2019 – Dahmen / Straka – Both AM -5/66 100/1 & 250/1.
  • 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:

  • 7 – Dustin Johnson.
  • 6 – Justin Thomas.
  • 4 – Brian Gay, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed.
  • 3 – Ryan Palmer, Brandt Snedeker, Henrik Stenson, Camilo Villegas.
  • 2 – Paul Casey, Cameron Champ, K.J. Choi, Luke Donald, Jason Dufner, Russell Henley, Chris Kirk, Kevin Kisner, Phil Mickelson, Scott Piercy, Justin Rose, Jimmy Walker, Bubba Watson.
  • 1 – Ryan Armour, Aaron Baddeley, Jonas Blixt, Keegan Bradley, Wesley Bryan, Austin Cook, Tyler Duncan, Brendan Grace, Lanto Griffin, Adam Hadwin, James Hahn, Tyrrell Hatton, Jim Herman, J.B. Holmes, Max Homa, Charles Howell III, Mackenzie Hughes, Sungjae Im, Patton Kizzire, Satoshi Kodaira, Marin Laird, Andrew Landry, Adam Long, Peter Malnati, Graeme McDowell, Keith Mitchell, Kevin Na, Sean O’Hair, Pat Perez, J.T. Poston, Rory Sabbatini, Charl Schwartzel, Scott Stallings, Kevin Streelman, Steve Stricker, Brian Stuard, Hudson Swafford, Nick Taylor, Jhonattan Vegas, Nick Watney, Gary Woodland.

My view on the Valspar Championship is that with the PGA Championship 3 weeks 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 the Valspar Championship in 2021 has moved from March to late April in the PGA Tour schedule.

In the past 9 renewals, elite players Jim Furyk (2010), Luke Donald (2012), Jordan Spieth (2015), Charl Schwartzel (2016) and of course Paul Casey (2018 & 2019) 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 Paul Casey, we have a player who goes for a hat-trick of Valspar wins this week. Going back to his first win in 2018, 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. 2019 saw him win with prior year form of 2nd at Pebble Beach and 3rd at the WGC Mexico Championship. From a betting perspective, he had been very popular at The Players Championship last time out, when missing the cut.

From the non-elite perspective, in Gary Woodland (2011), Kevin Streelman (2012), John Senden (2014) and Adam Hadwin (2017) we have 4 Valspar champions who had between the four of 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 winners were all PGA Tour maidens, winning at 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 Final Valspar Championship Tips Are As Follows:

Corey Conners 2pts EW 25/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

I remember Tiger Woods playing the 2018 Valspar Championship, an event he ultimately finished 2nd at behind 25/1 winner Paul Casey. That was the season where he went on to finish 6th at The Open Championship and 2nd at the PGA Championship, before winning that emotional victory at the Tour Championship.

He was asked in Saturday’s press conference if he had ever come across the 54 hole leader, one Tour rookie called Corey Conners, who was ranked above 600 in the Official World Golf Rankings and who had been an alternate, squeaking into the Valspar Championship field, only when Kyle Stanley withdrew in tournament week. Tiger admitted he had not, but stated that the youngster clearly was a real talent, who on his first (and only) trip to Copperhead was about to play in his first ever Sunday Final Group on the PGA Tour. Whilst Woods shot -1/70 on Sunday to finish T2 with Patrick Reed, Canadian Conners shot +6/77 to finish 16th, which was still notably his best PGA Tour finish at the time.

Just over 3 years on, Conners is now ranked at 38th in the world and in a week when Paul Casey is going for a hat-trick of Valspar wins, Corey’s game transposes to that of the Englishman almost perfectly. This season the Canadian from a Strokes Gained perspective ranks 9th for Off the Tee, 11th for Approach and 9th for Tee to Green.  For the traditionalists amongst you he ranks 10th for Driving Accuracy, 11th for Total Driving, 6th for Greens in Regulation and 5th for Ball Striking. Tie those season-long stats in with my 8 week trackers where in this field he ranks 10th for Scrambling, 8th for Putting Average (Putts per GIR) plus 11th for Strokes Gained Putting, and his merits this week are pretty much cast iron.

3rd at Bay Hill, 7th at TPC Sawgrass, 8th at Augusta National – backing up 10th there in November – plus 4th last time out at Harbour Town, Conners is undoubtedly playing the best golf of his career and is trending towards a 2nd PGA Tour title. For that to happen at Copperhead this week makes masses of sense. RESULT: T21

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Sungjae Im 1.5pts EW 30/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

Sungjae Im always interests me on technical golf courses, on Bermudagrass greens and definitely in the Sunshine State. The Copperhead challenge this week then should be right in his wheelhouse.

The World Number 19 has plenty of game, we know that, but I like him in a grind. 4th on his PGA Tour debut at the 2018 Safeway Open on the classical Silverado course came at -13/275, and 2019 saw him breakout in Florida, with 3rd (-9/279) at Bay Hill behind Francesco Molinari and 4th (-6/278) here at Copperhead behind Paul Casey. Our cards had been marked.

So it wasn’t the hugest of shocks when Im won his first PGA Tour title in Florida at PGA National the following year with a winning score of -6/274, backing that up the week after with 3rd (-2/286) at Bay Hill, where we were on Tyrrell Hatton at 55/1.

This season has been solid with a couple of milestones. 2nd at Augusta National in November was the South Korean’s first Major Championship contending performance and 2021 has seen him go on to finish 5th at Kapalua, 12th at PGA West and top 10 again in Florida, with 8th at PGA National. The eagle-eyed among you will again see that these results were all on Bermudagrass.

13th last time out in singles competition at Harbour Town saw him 4th after 36 and 54 holes in South Carolina and his performance was interesting as he ranked 12th for Total Driving, 4th for Total Accuracy and 8th for Ball Striking. 18th for both Strokes Gained on Approach and Tee to Green were fascinatingly his best performances since that 5th at Kapalua. Put simply, I love his chances this week. RESULT: T29

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Justin Rose 1.5pts EW 40/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

Justin Rose seems a good bet this week at a course where he’s had lots of success. This will be Justin’s 11th appearance at Copperhead since his debut here in 2004 and his results show 10 top-30 finishes, of which 6 are top-20s. His last 5 visits here to Innisbrook include a 5th (2011), 8th (2014) and a 5th (2018). He’s also ranked in the top 12 for Strokes Gained Tee to Green here 4 times across 2005, 2008, 2011, 2014 and was 3rd for Strokes Gained Putting here on his last visit in 2018.

Asked about his liking for the Copperhead course, Rose replied in 2014, “You can’t fake it around here.  Typically that’s always been in my wheelhouse, It’s been one of my favourite venues on Tour for a while now.”

And despite a relatively poor last 15 months for Rose, with Covid undoubtedly not helping the 40 year-old when it come to scheduling, momentum seems to be building. Back in February, 2nd in Saudi Arabia was Justin’s biggest haul of World Golf Ranking points for 2 years. He then went into the weekend in 7th spot at Bay Hill, before having to withdraw with a bad back. And that meant he was well under the radar at The Masters where he shot an amazing -7/65 to be the Thursday leader and was in contention for the rest of the week, before eventually finishing 7th. 11th last week in New Orleans with Henrik Stenson was good fun and stress-free.

A 10 time winner on the PGA Tour, Rose comes with win equity and his trademark Greens in Regulation game seems to be returning. 15th (Saudi), 5th (Bay Hill) and 8th (Augusta) for Greens Hit in his last 3 outings, a strong week in Tampa Bay would see him take a big step towards Ryder Cup qualification and continue to build momentum prior to the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, where he finished 3rd in 2012. RESULT: MC

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Keith Mitchell 0.5pt EW 160/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Unibet

I’ll finish with a couple of “bombs” at big prices. Keith Mitchell is a bomber who loves Bermudagrass greens and can grind. The 2019 Honda Classic winner at -9/271, Keith the week after went on to finish 6th at Bay Hill, a feat he bettered by one position in 2020 when finishing 5th. Those 2 finishes came at -8/280 and Even/288, so on Bermudagrass greens in Florida, Keith undoubtedly has history.

2021’s best finishes have been 14th at Waialae Country Club, 17th at TPC San Antonio and last week’s 4th spot at TPC Louisiana, when he partnered Brandt Snedeker. All came on green complexes with Bermudagrass within their structure. The 29 year old, University of Georgia graduate played some outstanding stuff last week in Louisiana, especially in the four-ball formats. Indeed Saturday featured back-to-back Eagles – a rare feat on the PGA Tour.

But at 130th in the FedEx Cup and with his PGA National victory exemption coming to a close at the end of this Regular Season, Mitchell still has work to do to keep his full playing privileges. And a visit to Copperhead where he famously Monday Qualified and finished 11th on his only appearance when a Korn Ferry Tour player back in 2017, could well be the right course at the right time this week. RESULT: 69th

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Chase Seiffert 0.5pt EW 250/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

Chase Seiffert is extremely visible across my 8 week tracker statistics which you can read above. 20th for Driving Accuracy, 8th for Greens in Regulation and 23rd for Scrambling; from a Strokes Gained Perspective he ranks 23rd for Tee to Green and 15th for Strokes Gained Current Form. So I was slightly surprised to find him as deep at 250/1 with 8 places each-way.

Into his second season on the PGA Tour, he has already landed full each-way payouts for backers. 4th at the 2020 3M Open at TPC Twin Cities, only a month ago he finished 3rd at the PGA National hosted Honda Classic in his home state. That tournament featured fast fairways and releasing TifEagle Bermudagrass greens, with some blustery wind on Thursday for good measure.

So I’m thinking that the grind of relatively high scoring on a tough course should suit, the 29 year old, Florida State University graduate, who grew-up and resides up the Gulf of Mexico coast in Panama City, Florida. Well worth a speculative bet in my opinion. RESULT: MC

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 16:35BST 26.4.21 but naturally subject to fluctuation.