Valspar Championship Each-Way Tips: Im can flourish in Florida again

US golfer Gary Woodland
Can Gary Woodland return to winning ways?

The PGA Tour returns to Florida and, after tipping a 125/1 winner in his last PGA Tour preview, Dave Tindall has three each-way selections for the Valspar Championship...

"The 23-year-old also showed progressive form on the 2021 Florida Swing with T28 at the WGC-Workday Championship, T21 at Bay Hill, T17 at Sawgrass and T8 when defending at the Honda."

Back Sungjae Im E/W @ 31.030/1

Main Bet: Sungjae Im each-way @ 31.030/1

A scan of past results/stats on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club throws up some fairly obvious clues.

Lots of the same names appear - indeed there are three multiple champions in its relatively short 21-year history - so course form counts for plenty.

Also, this is a place for tee-to-green merchants and, in terms of relative weighting, Strokes Gained Off The Tee and Approach look more important than Around The Green.

The fact that 12 of the 19 editions (last year's was cancelled) have been been won by non-Americans is the final steer that takes me towards Sungjae Im.

Two of those previous victories went to his South Korean compatriot KJ Choi which may or not mean anything but Im certainly has plenty going for him this week.

That includes the price. I must admit I like Corey Conners but the Canadian is just 20/1. Im (19th) is 19 places better than Conners (38th) in the world rankings and yet his odds are 50% higher at 30/1.

What's more, Im has superior course form even though both have only played here once.

Conners was an encouraging T16 on his one start in 2018 but Im posted tied fourth on his only appearance two years ago.

The Korean had finished third in the Arnold Palmer Invitational two starts earlier while last year two appearances on the Florida Swing produced another top three at Bay Hill and a breakthrough first win at the Honda Classic.

The latter was achieved with 6-under; the last two editions of the Valspar have been won with winning scores of -8 and -10. The obvious conclusion: Im is suited to a tough test in Florida.

The 23-year-old also showed progressive form on the 2021 Florida Swing with T28 at the WGC-Workday Championship, T21 at Bay Hill, T17 at Sawgrass and T8 when defending at the Honda.

He was ranked in the top 10 for SG: Off The Tee in all four of those events and has a season ranking in that category of 7th.

Now for the elephant in the room: his horror show at Augusta National.

It will be forgotten now that he was actually 2-under after 8 on day one and still level par playing the easy-ish par-5 15th. A birdie there and three closing pars would have put him in the top eight after round one.

Im hit a decent approach just over the back of the green at 15 but from there racked up a quadruple-bogey 9 after two visits to the water. It spooked him and the rest of his tournament was a train-wreck.

To his credit, he put that missed cut behind him with a good display at the RBC Heritage, opening 68-65-69 to sit tied fourth with 18 to play before dropping to T13 on Sunday.

But his SG: Approach numbers were encouraging and his past record not only on this course but in the Sunshine State as a whole makes me think he can outrun his 30/1 odds.

Next Best: Lucas Glover each-way @ 71.070/1

The 'Class of 2009' isn't exactly something that gets talked about.

After all, the Major winners that year were all ranked over 100/1 as Angel Cabrera took the Masters, Lucas Glover the US Open and Stewart Cink the Open Championship before YE Yang completed the year of the underdog by taking down Tiger Woods in the USPGA.

But it may just have sneaked into Glover's mind that one of 2009's Fab Four, Cink, is thriving again after two wins already in this campaign.

Okay, that's my slightly prosaic 'in' to putting him up this week but there are several more practical reasons too.

Innisbrook is a place that Glover likes. he was fourth there back in 2007 and has racked up five more top 25s since, including tied 13th in the most recent running in 2019.

He's still a factor in Florida events as shown by a quick scan of his results in recent seasons: top 10s at Bay Hill in 2017 and 2019, sixth at the Players in 2017, fourth at the 2019 Honda Classic and even runner-up in the 2018 Web.com Tour Championship.

Glover definitely fits the bill of being a tee-to-green type and gained 11.954 strokes in that category when fourth in the Texas Open two starts ago. His Approach play did the heavy lifting (7.084) while he drove the ball nicely too.

Shock, horror he's even been putting well too. Glover was 4th for SG: Putting on the Bermuda greens of Florida at the Honda Classic where he finished T19 and was also T22 for SGP at the Heritage. That's some step up from his season SG: Putting ranking of 147th.

Add an upturn on the greens to his usual strong iron play, top four in Texas two starts ago and a liking for the course and Glover makes each-way appeal at 70/1.

Two other names to consider for 'next best' are Jason Kokrak (runner-up in 2019 and two other top eights at the course) and Russell Henley (good form and also owning a top 10 here).

But they're both the same price as Im and I know which one I prefer at 30s.

Final Bet: Gary Woodland each-way @ 61.060/1

It's 10 years since Gary Woodland showed he was more than just a big-hitting athlete by winning this event and becoming a PGA Tour champion.

Woodland now has a Major on his CV after landing the 2019 US Open - when put up by yours truly on this website at 70/1 - although he's not shown up much recently.

There's an obvious explanation and he addressed it in the Texas Open where he closed 67-69 to bank a share of fourth spot.

"The last 27 holes have been really good. Driving the golf ball great, which is what I needed to do. I needed to some get rounds under my belt, especially going to next week (Augusta).

"When I play well, I drive it well, so that's been an emphasis this week and it's been good so far."

Woodland was then asked about the hip issues and COVID diagnosis which have hampered his play for a while.

"I feel great," he said. "That's exciting. That's been a little frustrating because I was feeling well, not playing great, then COVID hit.

"But it was a nice reset for me mentally. Then come out here and get ready, drive the golf ball well and set up well for next week."

Woodland went on to finish T40 at the US Masters but it's hard to class that as disappointing given that he'd missed four of his previous five cuts at Augusta. He finds it hard, as shown by these quotes after round one: "It's tough. I feel like I just got in the ring with Mike Tyson or somebody. It was brutal out there."

This week's course is obvious a better fit and he followed up his 2011 win with a tied eighth in 2014.

He's also shown he can flourish on another tough Florida layout by finishing runner-up (2017) and T8 (2020) at the Honda Classic.

Former World No.12 Woodland ranked 6th for SG: Tee-to-Green (9.474) when T4 at the Texas Open so a repeat of that would serve him well this week.

Have a punt at 60/1.

Full disclosure: Im and Glover didn't make the cut at last week's pairs event (Zurich Classic) although they were partnering out-of-form players ranked outside the top 100 in the world (Byeong Hun An and Chez Reavie).

It's fairly easy to gloss over those performances but if you do want to use that event to build an argument then Keegan Bradley (T4 with Brendan Steele) and playing partners Brandt Snedeker and Keith Mitchell (also T4) would all have taken some positives.

Bradley is showing signs of a revival after a run of five top 30s (including T10 at Bay Hill) in six starts. Mitchell is a Florida/Bermuda specialist while Snedeker was sixth in Texas and has a fourth and an eighth here.

Bradley is 70s while Mitchell and Snedeker are both 100/1.

As for the market leaders, 10/1 Dustin Johnson is still not in the best of form while 8/1 favourite Justin Thomas has to shake off his Masters collapse when all set to challenge.

Preference, from an each-way perspective, would be for Paul Casey and Patrick Reed at 20s. Casey is seeking a three-peat here while Reed is a two-time Valspar runner-up.

Casey just appears to have gone off the boil a little though.

Dave's 2020/2021 P/L

Staked: £840.00
Returned: £1812.12
P/L: +£972.12

2019/2020 P/L: +£13.83
2018/2019 P/L: -£338.25
2017/2018 P/L: +£362.84
2016/2017 P/L: +£1179.89

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