Our golf scribe gives his tips for this week's PGA tour event, the Valspar Championship.
The PGA tour returns from its merry jaunt across the border with many of the elite players choosing to rest their clubs in preparation for next week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational - an event that is sure to have added significance in the light of the great man’s death. That is not to say, however, that there is an inordinately weak field this week. Henrik Stenson will look to cap his PGA return in style while Justin Thomas will want to exorcise some of last Sunday’s demons by winning his fourth title this year.
The Copperhead Course is considered by many on tour to be amongst the toughest on tour. It’s an unconventional Floridian course in that it’s defined by tree-lined fairways and undulating terrains. Its shares a closer DNA with courses like Colonial and Southwind, which are found further along the East Coast. Course designer Larry Packard has stated that he wants the golfers to utilise every club in their bag. It’s perhaps best known for its rather gimmicky final three holes - dubbed the 'Snake Pit': designers love their little marketing tools. The par 4 16th is ranked inside the 5 toughest holes on the PGA Tour, while the 215 yard Par 3 17th also has the ability to derail a solid round.
The PGA Tour has got off to a rollicking start this year, with winners such as Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas emphasising the depth and competitiveness that currently resides in the tour. Stenson will view this as the perfect opportunity to get his Fed-Ex Cup campaign going while Justin Thomas will look to keep his phenomenal season ticking over.
Valspar Championship | Thursday 9 March - Sunday 12 March | Copperhead Course, Innisbrook Resort, Florida
2016: Charl Schwartzel (-7)*playoff | 2015: Jordan Spieth (-10)*playoff | 2014: John Senden (-7) | 2013: Kevin Streelman (-10) | 2012: Luke Donald (-13)*playoff
To Win Outright:
Henrik Stenson 10/1 | Justin Thomas 11/1 | Patrick Reed 28/1 | Ryan Moore 28/1 | Gary Woodland 28/1
Ryan Moore - To Win 28/1 & To Place 6/1
Moore isn’t exactly in the greatest form, but a tie for 28th last week seems to indicate that he could be turning around. A depleted field will also encourage him, while he currently sits inside the top 25 for driving accuracy. But my main point of interest lies in his recent from at Copperhead. He has finished inside the top 5 for the last two seasons, so this week could represent the perfect opportunity for Moore to kick-start his stuttering season.
Charles Howell III - To Win 35/1 & To Place 15/2
The man with arguably the most fluid swing on tour is an excellent bet, particularly in the place market. He seems a rather big price when you look at all the pertinent statistics. The journeyman pro has made ten consecutive cuts, which have included four top 10 finishes, including an impressive tie for 2nd at the Farmers Insurance Open. He also has finished inside the top 10 here for the previous two seasons, making for a tangible mix of historical success and recent from.
Cameron Tringale - To Win 175/1 & To Place 38/1
This one constitutes my proverbial shot in the dark this week. Tringale has had an extremely inconsistent season, missing his fair share of cuts along the way. He did, however, show some form at the Genesis Open, where he had to settle for a tie for 8th as Ricky Fowler romped towards the title. Tringale also has a couple of top 25 finishes here in the past. While it’s highly doubtful that he will win this weekend, I think 77/2 in the place markets seems fairly reasonable for an enigmatic figure on tour.
The Man to Beat
Gary Woodland - To Win 28/1 & To Place 6/1
Woodland is perhaps the most underrated player currently plying his trade on the PGA Tour. He already has two 2nd place finishes this year, including a tie for 2nd at the Honda Classic just two weeks back. A week before that he finished in a tie for 5th at Pebble Beach. He understandably dropped off the pace last week with the bumper field, but this week’s diminished offering should make him a clear frontrunner. He also broke through for a win here in 2011, only to follow that up with a tie for 8th in 2014. So he obviously has a keen eye for this course and is in the midst of some electrifying form.