After Phil Mickelson rolled back the years last week it is over to Tiger Woods to follow suit this week when he tees it up in the Valspar Championship for the first time. After a sojourn to Mexico last week the pick of the PGA Tour heads to Tampa Bay for what should be a very good tournament.
The Masters is beginning to loom large on the horizon and a number of star players are well aware of that as they tee it up in what looks like a very competitive event. Adam Hadwin will look to tame the Snake Pit once again and defend the title.
2017 – Adam Hadwin
2016 – Charl Schwartzel
2015 – Jordan Spieth
2014 – John Senden
2013 – Kevin Streelman
2012 – Luke Donald
2011 – Gary Woodland
2010 – Jim Furyk
2009 – Retief Goosen
2008 – Sean O’Hair
We are back at the Copperhead Course at the Innisbrook Resort in Tampa. This is one of my favourite courses on the circuit as danger is in play often. The Snake Pit, holes 16-18 regularly play over par making this a real tough test of golf even though the track only measures 7,340 yards for a par 71.
The course is heavily treelined so there is a real premium on accuracy and ball striking this week. The greens look larger than they are and with five par 3s around this place good quality iron shots are essential to put a score up. We’re looking for straight hitters this week with length not so much in play.
It would be easy to think that this week is all about Tiger Woods but it isn’t. The support cast is fantastic this week with Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose all teeing it up.
There is a decent European contingent this week too headed by Paul Casey and Matthew Fitzpatrick while quality American players such as Tony Finau, Ryan Moore and Webb Simpson also tee it up. Adam Scott needs a big week to make the Dell Match Play.
Jordan Spieth is a surprise 17/2 favourite this week. I say it is a surprise but that is only because his putter is causing him some angst at the minute and there is no getting away from that. If he can sort out the putting then as a former champion here it would be no surprise if he is to go in again. He is making positive noises about the state of his game but we need to see it on the golf course.
The second favourite for this tournament is Rory McIlroy at 14/1 but that looks very short both for the company he is up against here and the form he has been showing recently. He can win anything he wants when he is playing well but he doesn’t look to be in that form and you’ve got to think he’s got more than one eye on Augusta next month.
Another man with more than an eye on that is Sergio Garcia and he is 16/1 to win this title. I can’t back Sergio over the next few weeks. Not only is he defending a major for the first time next week but his lady is expecting their first child next weekend so the last thing we need is him to pull out halfway through which while understandable does our wallet no good.
Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson are both 20/1 to win the title this week. I’ll go onto Rose in a little while but it still amazes me that Stenson has never got his hands on this trophy because the course looks set up perfectly for him. His form coming in this week isn’t how it has been in the past though and apart from living in Florida he hasn’t got enough going for him for my liking here. It is 28/1 bar those named.
I’m going to allow myself an extra main bet this week having had a good February. The first is pretty obvious in Justin Rose. He is a ball striking machine these days and if he can get the putter hot then I would expect his excellent form to return. We know he plays well at this time of year and with Augusta on the horizon he’ll be looking to go into that tournament with a win under his belt. I would not be surprised if that comes here.
Ryan Moore is in decent form right now and he should love this place. He finished in the top 10 of the Genesis Open a couple of weeks ago even though that course is too long for him and at the Honda Classic recently he led the field in fairways hit and GIR. If his long game works like that here he is going to be in business. He arrives here with three top 20s in a row which includes fifth in 2015 and third in 2016. I think he’ll go well here.
Byeong-Hun An is once again putting decent numbers together and he is a golfer I always take notice of when that is the case. He is a brilliant driver of the ball and the rest of his game stands up to scrutiny too. We know he can win on treelined tracks when we saw him blow the field away at the BMW PGA a few years ago. He was sixth in Dubai recently and fifth at the Honda two weeks ago where his all-round game ranked second overall. Don’t be surprised if the Korean goes the distance here.
It is hard to believe that at 66/1 we can field Zach Johnson in the outsiders section but we can. To be honest even at this price the only reason he is in this section is because his Florida Swing form leaves a little to be desired. In truth that is a surprise because this course should be ideal for his ball striking qualities. He’s no mug with the putter either. Zach hasn’t played here since 2013 but I fancy his return could be a profitable one.
Four times in his last seven tournaments Austin Cook has ranked in the top five for fairways hit and at Riviera last time out he led the putting statistics too so if he can combine though efforts he is going to go well here. Cook has already won the RSM Classic this season and he could easily have won the CareerBuilder but for a poor final day. He fired in a second round 66 at Riviera which is a decent effort. That highlights he is hitting the ball well and hopefully he’ll get a result to further show that here.
PLACED – Back J.Rose to win Valspar Championship (e/w) for a 1.5/10 stake at 21.00 with Betfair (1/5 1-7)
Back Z.Johnson to win Valspar Championship (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 67.00 with Betfair (1/5 1-7)
Back A.Cook to win Valspar Championship (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 101.00 with Betfair (1/5 1-7)
Back them here:
Back R.Moore to win Valspar Championship (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 41.00 with Coral (1/5 1-7)
Back B-H.An to win Valspar Championship (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 46.00 with Boylesports (1/5 1-7)
Back him here: