PGA Tour Valspar Championship: Spieth fancied to double up at 21/1

Golfer Jordan Spieth
Jordan Spieth - fancied to well again at Copperhead

The Florida Swing signs off at Copperhead this week, where Tyler Moore will seek to emulate Paul Casey and Sam Burns and defend the title...

  • Deere Run one of four strong course links

  • Slow start can be overcome at Copperhead

  • Read my Singapore Classic preview here!


  • Tournament History

    Having first been staged in the autumn of 2000, as an opposite field event, the Valspar Championship switched to March 17 years ago to become part of the Florida Swing.

    The 2020 edition was lost to the pandemic and the 2021 edition was staged in May after the PGA Tour's resumption, but this is the third year running that the event is back in it's now traditional March slot.

    Venue

    Copperhead Course, Innisbrook Resort, Palm Harbour, Florida

    Course Details

    Par 71, 7,340 yards, stroke average in 2023 - 71.94

    Designed by Larry Packard, Copperhead was opened in 1974. Prior to the establishment of this event the course was restored in 1999 and it underwent a $4.5m restoration after the 2015 renewal.

    All the fairways were re-grassed with Celebration Bermuda and the greens re-grassed with Tif Bermuda.

    COPPERHEAD 18th 2023.jpg

    It's a tough undulating, tree-lined track with many dog-legged fairways and an unusual layout, with four par fives and five par threes.

    The primary rough has exceeded three inches in each of the last three renewals and water is in play on a number of holes. The smaller than average greens are usually set to run at around 12.5 on the Stimpmeter.

    The four par fives (holes one, five, 11 and 14) are consistently the three easiest holes on the course and the last three holes are tough and known as the Snake Pit...

    With water right and trees left, there's no bailout off the tee whatsoever at the par four 16th and it's been the hardest hole on the course in four of the last five renewals.

    The toughest on the layout again last year, it averaged 4.37 but for the second year in-a-row, the winner birdied the hole on the way to victory.

    Last year's winner, Taylor Moore, holed a monster putt there in regulation and Sam Burns made a rare birdie three there in extra time two years ago to defend the title.

    The par three 17th is no cakewalk, and you need to get your drive away nicely on the tricky 18th, which was the fifth hardest hole on the course 12 months ago.

    Prior to the pandemic, Copperhead was the first or second hardest par 71 encountered on the PGA Tour in each of the previous six years and it averaged almost a shot over-par last year, but it averaged below par for the previous two editions and Burns reached 17-under-par to win on both occasions.


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    TV Coverage

    Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 11:30 UK time on Thursday

    Last Eight Winners with Exchange Prices

    • 2023 - Taylor Moore -10 75.074/1
    • 2022 - Sam Burns -17 27.026/1 (playoff)
    • 2021 - Sam Burns -17 80.079/1
    • 2020 - Event Cancelled
    • 2019 - Paul Casey -8 34.033/1
    • 2018 - Paul Casey -10 28.027/1
    • 2017 - Adam Hadwin -14 90.089/1
    • 2016 - Charl Schwartzel 48.047/1 (playoff)
    • 2015 - Jordan Spieth 16.015/1 (playoff)

    What Will it Take to Win the Valspar?

    Taylor's driving was solid enough last year. He ranked 10th for Driving Distance, 35th for Driving Accuracy, and second for Strokes Gained: Off the Tee, but the driving stats can be largely ignored here given the six winners before him averaged only 37.8 for SG: Off the Tee.

    This is a second shot course and Moore confirmed that 12 months ago, ranking second for Greens In Regulation, fifth for SG: Approach and second for SG: Tee to Green.

    Taylor Moore wins Valspar.jpg

    The six winners before him averaged 6.0 for SG: Approach and 4.17 for SG: Tee to Green and so far, 14 of the 22 course winners to date have ranked 11th or better for GIR.

    The two recent back-to-back winners, Sam Burns and Paul Casey, both ranked inside the top ten for Putting Average and a hot putter is usually essential, but Moore only ranked 26th for PA. Retief Goosen (when winning for the second time here in 2009) is the only other winner that didn't rank inside the top-20 for PA.

    Is There an Angle In?

    This isn't your typical Florida test so looking at results at other events in the state won't necessarily help but there are at least four courses that appear to correlate nicely so we're not short of angles in!

    John Huston, K.J Choi, Vijay Singh and Jim Furyk have all won both this event and the Sony Open at Waialae Country Club. Lots of players have been placed at both events and some have been placed in one and won the other. The 2021 Sony winner, Kevin Na, was second here in 2014 and the multiple Sony winner, Ernie Els, traded at odds-on to win this one in 2012.

    As many as four men have also won this event and the John Deere Classic - Jordan Spieth, John Senden, Sean O'Hair and Vijay Singh, and it should really be five. The 2016 John Deere Classic winner, Ryan Moore, threw this one away nine years ago.

    The 2021 John Deere winner, Lucas Glover, was fourth here in 2007 and he sat third at halfway here three years ago. The aforementioned Na and Moore were tied for second.

    Last year's runner-up, Adam Schenk, who was matched at a low of 2.01/1, has JDC form figures reading MC-6-4-W-4 and the 2017 John Deere winner, Bryson DeChambeau, only finished 27th here on debut six years ago.

    He actually withdrew in 2019 on his only other appearance in this event but even he has form at both courses given he won the 2014 All-American Athlete Conference Championship at Copperhead.

    Brett Quigley, who never got to win on the PGA Tour, finished second in both events, so that's definitely a tournament to consider.

    Schenk subsequently lost a playoff in the Charles Schwab last year, an event won by Burns the year before, and they're two of a number of players to have played well both here and at Colonial Country Club.

    Last but not necessarily least, form at TPC River Highlands, home of the Travelers Championship, also crosses over regularly.

    Jordan Spieth links all five venues nicely. Third place is his best finish at the Sony Open so far but he's won here, at Colonial, at TPC River Highlands and twice at Deere Run.

    Is There an Identikit Winner?

    Course form stands up ridiculously well here and in its relatively short history, we've now seen four men win the event twice and a number of winners have also finished runner-up. The 2015 winner, Spieth, traded at a low of 2.1211/10 last year before eventually finishing third.

    Burns, Casey, KJ Choi and Retief Goosen have claimed the prize on multiple occasions and Choi is one of five winners to have also finished second. He finished runner-up behind Jim Furyk in 2010 and Furyk himself subsequently finished second in 2012.

    O'Hair, Senden (twice) and Singh have all also won the event and finished second and Patrick Reed, who was second to Casey in 2018, has finished runner-up twice.

    Overseas players have a reasonably strong record and an American has won only ten of the first 21 editions.

    Winner's Position and Price Pre-Round Four

    • 2023 - Taylor Moore tied fourth - trailing by two 13.012/1
    • 2022 - Sam Burns tied third - trailing by three 4.94/1
    • 2021 - Sam Burns - tied for the lead 3.814/5
    • 2020 - Event Cancelled
    • 2019 - Paul Casey - led by a stroke 3.55/2
    • 2018 - Paul Casey T11th - trailing by five 120.0119/1
    • 2017 - Adam Hadwin - led by four strokes 1.51/2
    • 2016 - Charl Schwartzel - solo eighth - trailing by five 32.031/1
    • 2015 - Jordan Spieth - solo second - trailing by a stroke 3.185/40

    In-Play Tactics

    Having trailed by six strokes after round one five years ago, Adam Hadwin hit the front at halfway and he extended his lead to four with a round to go. Casey was in front before round four in 2019, and Burns was tied with Keegan Bradley with a round to go in 2021 but straightforward front-running winners are a rarity here.

    Jim Furyk was three clear through 54 holes before winning in 2010 but he's the only other winner to hold a clear lead going in to the final round and 11 of the last 16 winners have come from behind.

    Having sat second at halfway, trailing Corey Conners by two, Casey began the final day trading at 120.0119/1 in 2018 after a poor back-nine on Saturday had seen him drop outside the top-ten. Casey recorded the win having made just 21 putts in round four but he was far from the first winner to come from off the pace...

    The 2016 winner, Charl Schwartzel, who was matched in-running at a high of 90.089/1, trailed by four after rounds one and two and he was a 32.031/1 chance on Sunday morning, as he trailed by five.

    The 2015 winner, Spieth, was matched at a high of 30.029/1 after a slow start in 2015 and the runner-up, Patrick Reed, hit a high of 150.0149/1 after he struggled at the beginning of the week. Spieth sat tied for 38th and five off the lead after round one and Reed trailed by seven in a tie for 80th but as many others have done before them, they were able to make up the lost ground.

    Having hit a high of 290.0289/1, Senden was still tied for 35th and fully eight shots back at halfway ten years ago, whilst Mark Calcavecchia, the 2007 winner, was ten back after round one and still six back at halfway. Although he was tied for the lead after round three, Streelman was eight behind after day one and still seven behind at halfway 11 years ago.

    Luke Donald won a four-man playoff here in 2012 and he and his playoff protagonists had all started slowly. They were five, six, six and eight strokes back after round one and still three, three, four and seven back at halfway.

    Do not give up hope if your picks don't really spark on Thursday or Friday. This is definitely a course where lost ground can be made up over the weekend.

    Market Leaders

    Xander Schauffele will need to pick himself up after last weekend's disappointing defeat at Sawgrass.

    xander schauffele 2021 masters.jpg

    The world number five traded at odds-on during round three but a lacklustre two-under-par 70 on Sunday saw him finish tied for second and he looks short enough at around 8/19.00.

    Schauffele hasn't won anywhere since claiming the Scottish Open in 2022 and, as demonstrated last week, he's not the most reliable in-contention.

    Having won the Travelers Championship two years ago, and having finished third at Colonial in 2020, he has form at a couple of courses that correlate nicely with this week's venue. He was 12th here on his only previous visit two years ago.

    Sam Burns has 2024 form figures reading 33-6-10-3-10-30-45, so his last couple of starts have been slightly disappointing. But he did shoot an eye-catching 65 on Saturday at Sawgrass last week.

    With course form figures reading 12-30-1-1-6, his chance is extremely obvious but he's just fractionally short for my liking at 14/115.00.

    Next up in the betting is Justin Thomas and he's very easy to dismiss at 16/117.00. Thomas hasn't won since he came from off the pace to capture his second US PGA Championship title almost two years ago.

    Thomas has a decent bank of course form reading 10-18-MC-13-3-10 but he's missed two of his last three cuts and, at a bigger price, I prefer the chances of his pal Jordan Spieth.

    Selection

    Like Thomas, Spieth missed the cut last week at Sawgrass and that's definitely a bit of a worry, but he won his last title, the RBC Heritage in 2022, after missing the cut at the US Masters. He very nearly won the Masters on debut 10 years ago after missing the cut in Texas.

    Spieth hasn't been a regular here of late so it's perhaps significant that he returns after last year's third given that was his first visit since 2018 when he missed the cut.

    Back Jordan Spieth @ 22.021/1

    Bet here

    His course form figures prior to his weekend off six years ago read 7-20-1-18 and I thought he was a fair price at 22.021/1.


    Now read my Singapore Classic preview here!


    *You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter


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