It continues to be a very chalky PGA Tour season as Dustin Johnson won the WGC-Mexico Championship which was his second win and so far, all but one winner in 2017 is ranked inside the top 25. The tour now heads to the Westin Innisbrook-Copperhead Course in Palm Harbor, Florida for the Valspar Championship, formerly known as the Tampa Bay Championship, and the Transitions Championship before that. The field strength goes down this week coming off a WGC event but there are plenty of solid names.
Last week, we had 49 of the top 50 players in the world in the field but that number drops to just 15 this week. Included are six players ranked in the top 25 highlighted by No. 6 Henrik Stenson and No. 7 Justin Thomas. The defending champion is Charl Schwartzel and that is not good news for him. The Valspar Championship has never had a back-to-back winner while only three of 16 defending champions have finished in the top 10 a year later. Seven of the last 11 winners were 35 years of age or older which shows experience plays a big role in finding success here.
After ranking as the fourth hardest par 71 on tour six years ago (out of 11), Copperhead ranked as the fifth easiest on tour five years ago but in 2013, it was ranked as the hardest par 71 on tour. Three years ago, it finished +1.43 to par, the second highest average since 2007. It eased up somewhat in 2015 but last year it finished +1.62 to par. As evidenced five years ago, it can be tamed as long as mistakes are kept at a minimum. Keeping the ball in the fairway is a must as the layout is tight so players that are wayward off the tee will be penalized.
One big statistical aspect this week is ball striking but not just the typical ball striking but leaning more towards Stroke Gained: Approach-the-Green. Being accurate here is essential and being accurate into the green is most important since birdie chances usually are few and far between. That also brings bogey avoidance into play as players cannot give strokes away. Last year, 13 players who are in the field this week finished in the top ten in bogey avoidance and all of those finished in the top 25 including six players in the top ten.
Henrik Stenson and Justin Thomas are co-favorites at +1,000 and it is a pretty big drop-off after that. Former champion Gary Woodland and Ryan Moore are next at +2,400 followed by Daniel Berger at +2,500, Bill Haas and Matt Kuchar at +2,800 and Patrick Reed at +3,000. Of the other notable former champions, Charl Schwartzel is +5,000, Luke Donald is +6,000, Jim Furyk is +6,600, Sean O’Hair is +7,000 and Kevin Streelman is +11,000.
Fargo’s PGA Tour Valspar Championship Six-Pack
Matt started the PGA Season with a WIN on Justin Thomas (+1,900) and backed that up with a HUGE WIN on Hudson Swafford (+5,500)! He posted six outright winners last season and has now picked the winner 19 times over the last two-plus PGA Tour seasons! He continues the winning with a Six-Pack at the Valspar Championship!