The month-long Florida swing of the PGA Tour concludes in the Tampa Bay area this week with the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club in Palm Harbor, Florida. The event is traditionally held between the Arnold Palmer Invitational and The Players Championship, leading to several top golfers skipping this event, but this year, the tournament is held after both and has also seen a big increase in the purse ($6.9 million in 2021 to $7.8 million this year), so there is a stronger field this year.
Among those making their debut on the Copperhead Course is world’s No. 2-ranked golfer Collin Morikawa, as he and 19 other golfers in the world’s top 50 are here and ready to challenge Sam Burns, who is defending his title from a year ago.
The tournament has been held at the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook since its inception in 2000. It’s a par-71, 7,340-yard track that isn’t as flat as most courses in Florida, especially for one so close to the coast. Holes 16-18 are known as the “Snake Pit” and provide a big challenge to golfers finishing up their round. The toughest hole here last year for the pros was the par-4, 475-yard 16th that features plenty of water.
Vijay Singh holds the course record here, shooting an 18-under 266 in 2004, when the tournament was played in October. Burns’ -17 here last year came in May, as the PGA Tour had a modified schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The best score here in March was a -15 by Gary Woodland in 2011.
Repeat winners here include Retief Goosen, K.J. Choi, and Paul Casey, who won back-to-back tournaments here in 2018-19. Casey was set to play here this week but withdrew on Tuesday.
Not only did Collin Morikawa suffer his first finish outside of the top 10 at The Players Championship last week, he missed the cut entirely, giving him some extra time to prepare for his first shot at Copperhead and adding some motivation as well. It’s probably fair to throw out the MC last week based on the weather conditions that those who played late in the first round had to endure at TPC Sawgrass. Morikawa won in Dubai last fall on the European Tour, but he’s still looking for this first PGA Tour win of the season, and there’s no better time to tune-up for next month’s Masters than winning here in Tampa Bay.
Justin Thomas is very narrowly favored over Morikawa and Viktor Hovland, who is also at +1100. Hovland finished third here in his debut at Innisbrook and has three-straight top-10 finishes, including a runner-up at the Arnold Palmer Invitational two weeks ago and a ninth last week—where he aced the famous Island Green 17th hole.
Thomas came into The Players Championship as the 2021 winner but finished a somewhat disappointing 33rd last week after coming in the top 10 in five of his previous six tournaments. He finished 13th here in 2021 and missed the cut prior to that in 2017, so while he’s been good this year, he hasn’t had a great history on the Copperhead to warrant being the betting favorite.
When Dustin Johnson gets hot, it’s straight fire for the 2020 Masters and FedEx Cup champion. After going 5-0-0 in the Ryder Cup, Johnson was 45th, 25th, and missed the cut in three events prior to last week’s Players Championship. Johnson was looking at a finish similar to his first two after shooting a 76 on Saturday, but he then tied the TPC Sawgrass course record with a 9-under 63 on Sunday to finish ninth. He also finished sixth here in 2019 in his last attempt at the Valspar Championship.
Had a return to his 2021 form at TPC Sawgrass last week before struggling in the final round. He comes to Tampa Bay having scored three top-10s in his last four visits, including a runner-up finish in 2019—one of 12 second-place finishes in his PGA Tour career as he seeks his long-awaited first win in the United States (his lone PGA Tour win is the 2010 Open Championship).
As the defending champ here. He finished ninth at Bay Hill two weeks ago and was leading The Players Championship after two rounds before fading a bit to end up 26th. Those results snapped a rough streak where he missed three-straight cuts after a sizzling fall that saw him win the Sanderson Farms Championship and had four more top-seven finishes to close out 2021.
Has flown under the radar a bit this year but has had some decent results as of late. He was runner-up at the Saudi Invitational after losing on a miracle putt by Harold Varner III and followed that up with a 14th the following week at the WM Phoenix Open. He was 68th at The Players Championship after a rough third and fourth rounds, but he shot a 68 in difficult conditions in the second round. The Florida native also finished fourth here in 2019 and was 13th last year.
Was runner-up here a year ago but had at least a share of the lead after each of the first three rounds. He’s also coming off an 11th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and a fifth at The Players last week, so he’s in fine form.
Of the top favorites, we favor Hovland, Johnson, and Morikawa over Thomas and Xander Schauffele. Oosthuizen and Burns are solid mid-level picks, while we also like Bradley as a flier given his history here and solid play over the last two weeks.
|GOLFERS||ODDS TO WIN 2022 VALSPAR CHAMPIONSHIP|
|Tyrrell Hatton / Abraham Ancer / Matthew Fitzpatrick||+2500|