The PGA Tour will wrap up its trip through the Sunshine State this week with a stop on the west coast of Florida for the Valspar Championship. Last year’s version of the Valspar created a ton of buzz, as Tiger Woods contended for the first time during his 2018 comeback. Tiger eventually one shot short of Paul Casey, who returns to the Copperhead course at Innisbrook as the defending champion.
The field is certainly feeling the affects of the Players Championship move to March as just two of the top 10 players (Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm) in the world will tee it up in Palm Harbor. Moreover, two guys who contended at TPC Sawgrass—Tommy Fleetwood and Abraham Ancer—withdrew from the event after contending at The Players.
Though part of the Florida swing, Copperhead is not your traditional Floridian track. Hilly, undulating fairways combined with smaller greens give the players a stiff challenge. Ball striking and short game will be at a premium this week so stats such as strokes gained approach and strokes gained around the Green are recommended factors in setting your roster or making your plays.
Nuts and bolts
Course: Innisbrook Resort, Copperhead Course (7,189 yards, Par 71)
Defendingchampion: Paul Casey (274, -10)
Weather: Mostly sunny, highs in the low to mid 70s.
Patrick Reed (24/1, $10,800)
It’s not always easy to figure out what motivates Patrick Reed, but you’d think seeing his Ryder Cup nemesis win the Players would light a bit of a fire. Reed returns to Innisbrook, where he’s been extremely comfortable over the years. Four of his last five rounds at Copperhead have been in the 60’s, and he’s racked up three top 10s and two second-place finishes (2015, 2018) at the Valspar. Track record along with a super tight short game should equal success. Reed ranks 29th in strokes gained putting and 18th in strokes gained around the green.
Sergio Garcia (15/1, $11,300)
Speaking of stats, they all point towards success for Sergio Garcia. The Spaniard ranks high in all appropriate statistical categories this week, strokes gained approach (1st), strokes gained total (8th), and par 5 scoring (10th). Sergio’s ho-hum (T2) Players Championship was capped off with a 67 on Sunday, and his recent play at the Valspar shows the course fits his eye. Garcia has four finishes in the top 16 over the past eight years, and a final round 65 a year ago propelled him to finishing fourth.
Jason Kokrak (55/1, $9,700)
Kokrak sports the perfect type of game to contend at Copperhead. Yes he can send it off the tee, but his strength lies in his irons. He ranks fourth on tour in strokes gained apprach, 22nd in GIR percentage and 9th in strokes gained tee to green. Prior to a T47 at the Players Championship, Jason had reeled off consecutive Top 10s at the Honda and Arnold Palmer Invitational, and he finished inside the top 20 in five of his previous 6 events.
Rory Sabbatini (200/1, $8,600)
Fresh off a T35 at the Players, highlighted by opening rounds of 68 and 69, Sabbatini returns to Copperhead—where he’s been a cut making machine. The “other Rory” has made 10 out of 13 cuts at Innisbrook including last year’s T5, just three shots back of winner Paul Casey. Statistically Sabbatini ranks in the top 40 in par 5 scoring, which will be key this week.
Charlie Hoffman (200/1, $8,800)
Hoffman’s 2019 slump continued with a missed cut cut at the Players, marking his third consecutive MC and fifth in seven events in 2019. He also missed the cut in the last two editions of the Valspar. Until Charley figures out whatever he’s working on, steer clear.