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PREVIEW: 2023 PGA Tour – Valspar Championship

Damien Kayat previews the 2023 Valspar Championship and highlights a South African young gun who could upset the applecart in Florida.

Garrick Higgo - PGA Tour - Valspar Championship

Damien Kayat previews the 2023 Valspar Championship and highlights a South African young gun who could upset the applecart in Florida.

Two women looking excitedly at cellphone

2022/2023 US PGA Tour
Valspar Championship
Copperhead Course, Innisbrook Resort, Palm Harbour, Flordia
16th-19th March

TPC Sawgrass served up yet another thrilling week of golf in what is turning into one of the most memorable seasons in recent PGA Tour memory.

Scottie Scheffler regained the World No.1 ranking from Jon Rahm, winning by five shots and establishing himself as the one to beat at Augusta.

Scheffler became only the third man- after Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus- to simultaneously hold the Masters and Players titles.

The Valspar Championship

The Tour now moves on to the final leg of the Florida Swing: the Valspar Championship. This event began life in 2000 as an opposite-field affair.

Previously staged in autumn, the event switched to March sixteen years ago to be incorporated into the Florida Swing.

The 2020 edition was lost to the pandemic while the 2021 Valspar was staged in May (after the resumption of the tour). This week will offer some respite from the pressure cooker atmosphere of the Players.

Copperhead Course

The Copperhead Course was designed by Larry Packard and opened for business in 1974. It has undergone various renovations over the years (the last of which coming after the 2015 renewal).

This is a tough, tree-lined test that has plenty of undulations and exacting doglegs. The final three holes- affectionately known as the Snake Pit- will test the players’ collective nerve come Sunday.

Players will often have to be in the correct position from the tee to attack these small Bermuda greens. This is very much a second-shot course and GIR is often a vital stat to consider.

This used to regularly be ranked as the hardest par 71 on the entire PGA Tour. But it seems to have played far easier in recent season, with Sam Burns twice finishing with a 17-under-par score.

The Contenders

Sam Burns will be looking to be the first man since Steve Stricker to win the same event for three successive seasons- Stricker won the John Deere Classic between 2009 and 2011. But he arrives in pretty poor form and will be hard to back this week.

Actually, most of the top contenders this week are in a rut. Justin Thomas finished 60th at Sawgrass and hasn’t looked his usual self of late.

Reigning US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick has missed three of his last five cuts as he recovers from neck surgery. Jordan Spieth probably makes the most sense near the top of the markets. But the way he capitulated at Bay Hill still haunts me.

Elsewhere, approach specialists such as Tommy Fleetwood and Keegan Bradley also leap off the page.

Past Winners

2022: Sam Burns (-17) *playoff
2021: Sam Burns (-17)
2020: event cancelled
2019: Paul Casey (-8)
2018: Paul Casey (-10)

To Win Outright:

Justin Thomas 9/1 | Jordan Spieth 12/1 | Matt Fitzpatrick 16/1 | Sam Burns 18/1 | Justin Rose 22/1

Value Bets

Justin Suh – To Win 33/1 | To Place 7/1

Justin Suh has made his last eleven cuts and has finished 6th or better in two of his last three starts. He finished 5th at the Honda and picked up an impressive 6th place finish at a stacked Players field. I think that the Korn Ferry Tour Player of the Year has real chance to shine at Copperhead. He has ranked 24th or better in SG: Approach in four of his last five starts. He was 2nd tee-to-green at the Honda (which will prove vital to success at this challenging tree-lined test).

Garrick Higgo – To Win 75/1 | To Place 16/1

2021 Palmetto Championship winner Garrick Higgo has actually been quietly assembling some pretty solid form of late. The 23-year-old South African has made five of seven cuts this year. The highlights have been top-20 finishes at Pebble Beach and PGA West. Over this period, the South African actually ranks 10th in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green and Greens in Regulation.

The Man to Beat – Adam Hadwin- To Win 25/1 | To Place 11/2

I have opted to swerve some of the more high-profile names this week in search of decent below-the-line value. Canadian Adam Hadwin won this event in 2017 and has played Copperhead well ever since. He finished in a tie for 7th last year and comes into this event with some really solid form under his belt. He has five top-25 finishes in his last eleven starts (including a T13 at the Players). He finished 5th in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-green around Sawgrass (which bodes well for this test).

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