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Course Guide: This tournament is played on the tough Copperhead course at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, Florida. As a 7,340 yard Par 71, the course is tight off the tee but, unlike other typical Florida courses, the Larry Packard design has tree-lined fairways, plenty of elevation changes and dog-leg holes. Copperhead achieves this fairly unique layout as it contains 4 par-5s and 5 par-3s which is highly unusual for a Par 71 course. The course also features ‘The Snake Pit’ – namely holes 16 to 18 – which adds real bite to the closing stretch, especially on Sunday. The course received a $4.5 million restoration (not renovation) after Jordan Spieth’s win here in 2015, but still very much plays to the same tricky characteristics, with a real Carolina course feel to it.
Copperhead Course, Innisbrook Resort, Palm Harbor, Florida: Designer: Larry Packard, 1971 with Wadsworth renovation 2015. Course Type: Carolina-type, Technical, Medium Length; Par: 71; Length: 7,340 yards; Holes with Water Hazards: 9; Fairways: Celebration Bermudagrass overseeded with Ryegrass; Rough: Celebration Bermudagrass overseeded with Ryegrass 3.75″; Greens: 5,822 sq.ft average TifEagle Bermudagrass with Poa Trivialis overseed; Tournament Stimp: 12ft; Course Scoring Average 2012: 70.73 (-0.27), Difficulty Rank 30 of 49 courses. 2013: 72.22 (+1.22), Rank 7 of 43 courses. 2014: 72.43 (+1.43), Rank 6 of 48 courses. 2015: 71.86 (+0.86), Rank 10 of 52 courses. 2016: 72.62 (+1.62), Rank 6 of 50 courses. 2017: 71.51 (+0.51), Rank 17 of 50 courses. 2018: 71.97 (+0.97), Rank 6 of 51 courses. 2019: 71.98 (+0.98), Rank 6 of 49 courses. 2021: 70.96 (-0.04), Rank 20 of 51 courses. 2022: 70.23 (-0.77), Difficulty Rank 29 of 50 courses.
Course TPC Sawgrass Fairway Widths (yards): Below are the fairway widths for the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook and how they compare to recent courses that we’ve seen on Tour:
- Copperhead: 250 yards from the tee: 24 yards wide; 275:20; 300:21; 325:23 350:19.
- TPC Sawgrass: 250 yards from the tee: 31 yards wide; 275:32; 300:30; 325:28 350:20.
- Bay Hill: 250 yards from the tee: 32 yards wide; 275:33; 300:33; 325:39 350:29.
- PGA National: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:27; 300:25; 325:27 350:25.
- Riviera: 250 yards from the tee: 33 yards wide; 275:27; 300:26; 325:26 350:28.
- TPC Scottsdale: 250 yards from the tee: 33 yards wide; 275:30; 300:28; 325:27; 350:27.
- Pebble Beach: 250 yards from the tee: 33 yards wide; 275:33; 300:29; 325:30 350:26.
- Torrey Pines South: 250 yards from the tee: 26 yards wide; 275:27; 300:25; 325:24; 350:23.
- Pete Dye Stadium: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:27; 300:26; 325:26; 350:24.
- Waialae: 250 yards from the tee: 34 yards wide; 275:32; 300:34; 325:37; 350:34.
- Plantation Course: 250 yards from the tee: 59 yards wide; 275:61; 300:65; 325:60; 350:62.
Course Overview: The Copperhead course restoration in 2016 has not changed the characteristics of the challenge that players face. New green complexes, which still feature TifEagle Bermudagrass overseeded with Poa Trivialis, are slightly larger than original at circa 5,800 sq.ft average. But if turf conditions are firm and wind is a factor, a single-digit score under par is always likely to be a target for victory. In essence the changes have enhanced rather than materially changed the Copperhead test.
Positioned only a stone’s throw away from the Gulf of Mexico on the west coast of Florida close to Tampa, the course is not your typical Florida golf course. Instead many observers, myself included, suggest it’s far more typical of a Carolina set-up with changes of elevation, tree-lined fairways, multiple dog-legs and selected usage of water hazards making it a real gem and a true test of golf. The course features extremely tight fairways in combination with the majority of holes being on the long side. That’s a recipe for a tough golf course and sure enough that is exactly what the field this week will get.
When set-up correctly, Copperhead is a fast, tight and relatively long course, where attackable holes are relatively few. This is definitely a tougher test where a mature, Major-like, all-round game is required; unless soft and receptive turf conditions, as we have seen recently, allow for slightly freer scoring conditions.
Worthy of note is that 3 of the last 5 winners here lost strokes off the tee, so top-level drivers of the golf ball may not have an advantage here. In reality it’s a second shot golf course, which undoubtedly favours a left to right fader.
Valspar Championship Winners: 2022: Sam Burns (-17); 2021: Sam Burns (-17); 2019: Paul Casey (-8); 2018: Paul Casey (-10); 2017: Adam Hadwin (-14); 2016: Charl Schwartzel (-8); 2015: Jordan Spieth (-10); 2014: John Senden (-7); 2013: Kevin Streelman (-10); 2012: Luke Donald (-13); 2011: Gary Woodland (-15); 2010: Jim Furyk (-13).
- 2022: Sam Burns 64-67-67-69 -17/267
- 2021: Sam Burns 67-63-69-68 -17/267
- 2019: Paul Casey 70-66-68-72 -8/276
- 2018: Paul Casey 70-68-71-65 -10/274
OWGR of Valspar Championship Winners: 2022: Burns 17; 2021: Burns 94; 2019: Casey 15; 2018: Casey 17.
Cut Line: 2022: -3; 2021: -1; 2019: +1; 2018: +3.
Lead Score Progression:
- 2022: Round 1 -7; Round 2 -14; Round 3 -18; Round 4 -17.
- 2021: Round 1 -7; Round 2 -12; Round 3 -14; Round 4 -17.
- 2019: Round 1 -5; Round 2 -6; Round 3 -9; Round 4 -8.
Tournament Stats: We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s event that are well worth a look. Naturally they’ll help to shape a view on players who could go well this week: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader | Combined Stats.
Published Predictor Model: Our published predictor is available here. You can build your own model using the variables listed on the left hand side. Top 10 of my published predictor are: Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Jordan Spieth, Matt Fitzpatrick, Justin Rose, Gary Woodland, Webb Simpson, Jhonattan Vegas, Keegan Bradley and Davis Riley.
Valspar Championship Winners & Prices: 2022: Burns 25/1; 2021: Burns 80/1; 2019: Casey 25/1; 2018: Casey 25/1; 2017: Hadwin 125/1; 2016: Schwartzel 33/1; 2015: Spieth 16/1; 2014: Senden 125/1; 2013: Streelman 200/1; 2012: Donald 11/1; 2011: Woodland 100/1; 2010: Furyk 30/1. Past 8 Renewals Average: 57/1. Overall Average: 66/1.
- 2022: Thursday: Sunny. High of 76. Wind WNW 6-12 mph. Friday: Partly cloudy. High of 82. Wind SW 10-15 mph, gusting to 22 mph. Saturday: Partly cloudy. High of 82. Wind SW 7-14 mph. Sunday: Mostly sunny. High of 76. Wind NNW 8-14 mph.
- 2021: Thursday: Mostly sunny. High of 86. Wind SSE 6-12 mph. Friday: Mostly sunny. High of 84. Wind WNW 10-15 mph. Saturday: Mostly sunny. High of 85. Wind NNE 4-8 mph. Partly cloudy. High of 84. Wind SW 10-15 mph.
- 2019: Thursday: Sunny. High of 71. Wind WNW 15-20 mph. Friday: Sunny. High of 70. Wind NW 6-12 mph. Saturday: Sunny. High of 75. Wind ENE 5-10 mph. Sunday: Sunny. High of 77. Wind E 5-10 mph.
- 2018: Thursday: Partly cloudy. High of 64. Wind NW 15-20 mph. Friday: Sunny. High of 66. Wind NNW 5-10 mph. Saturday: Partly cloudy. High of 72. Wind SE 5-15 mph. Sunday: Partly cloudy. High of 74. Wind SSW 10-15 mph.
- 2017: Thursday: Partly cloudy, with a high of 75. Wind WNW 8-12 mph. Friday: Partly cloudy, with a high of 76. Wind WNW 10-15 mph. Saturday: Sunny, with a high of 80. Wind NNE 8-15 mph. Sunday: Mostly cloudy, with a high of 75. Wind WNW 5-10 mph.
- 2016: Thursday: Partly cloudy, with a high of 84 degrees. Wind SE 10-20 mph. Friday: Partly cloudy, with a high of 82 degrees. Wind SE 10-20 mph. Saturday: Mostly sunny, with a high of 83 degrees. Wind S-SE 10-20 mph. Sunday: Cloudy, with a high of 78 degrees. Wind SW 10-20 mph.
- 2015: Thursday: Partly cloudy, with a high of 85. SW wind at 10-15 mph. Friday: Partly cloudy with a high of 86. Wind SW at 10-15 mph. Saturday: Partly cloudy, with the temperature reaching 83. Wind SSW at 10-15 mph, with gusts to 25 mph. Sunday: Partly cloudy, with a high of 85. WNW wind at 10 mph.
Weather Forecast: The latest weather forecast for Palm Harbor, Florida, is here.
Tampa Bay had a dry(ish) February, with only 9mm of rain in March to date. We tend to get firm, releasing conditions here, but with rain forecast for Monday and over what looks a wild weekend, I can see a soft course presenting itself at some stage. Temperatures will be 23-24 degrees Celsius (73-75 Fahrenheit) across the opening 54 holes, dropping to a chilly (for Florida) 16 degrees Celsius (61 Fahrenheit) on Sunday. But it’s the wind and strength of it that we need to take note of this week. 25 -30 mph southerly winds on Friday continue across Saturday morning, before they turn to the north west as a front, which contains thunderstorms. Saturday could well be a wash-out. Sunday still sees 15-20 mph northerly winds, on a course that is likely to be soft and receptive and if we slip into Monday winds lessen a notch, with temperatures as low as 12 degrees Celsius (54 Fahrenheit) early in the morning.
Player Strokes Gained Rankings: These top 25 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to The American Express/Abu Dhabi Championship which includes both PGA Tour and DP World Tour events, where recorded. Player rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:
- Top 25 SG Off The Tee: 1) Victor Perez; 2) Jhonattan Vegas; 3) Gary Woodland; 4) Luke List; 5) Carson Young; 6) Tyler Duncan; 7) Brent Grant; 8) Taylor Moore; 9) Sam Stevens; 10) Adam Long / Dylan Wu; 12) Sam Burns; 13) Aaron Rai; 14) Garrick Higgo / Justin Thomas; 16) Erik van Rooyen; 17) Ryan Gerard / Alex Smalley; 19) Brian Harman / Brandon Wu; 21) Marty Dou / Chad Ramey; 23) Matt Fitzpatrick / Kramer Hickok; 25) Richy Werenski.
- Top 25 SG Approach: 1) Ryan Gerard; 2) Akshay Bhatia; 3) Kevin Roy; 4) Keegan Bradley; 5) Justin Thomas / Gary Woodland; 7) Cole Hammer; 8) Jordan Spieth; 9) Wyndham Clark / Tommy Fleetwood / Justin Rose; 12) Justin Suh; 13) Matt Wallace; 14) Ludvig Aberg / James Hahn; 16) Robby Shelton; 18) Eric Cole / Will Gordon; 20) Pierceson Coody / Jhonattan Vegas; 22) Austin Cook / Ryan Moore / Victor Perez; 25) Byeong Hun An / Carson Young.
- Top 25 SG Around The Green: 1) Augusto Nunez; 2) Jimmy Walker; 3) Zac Blair; 4) Tommy Fleetwood / Matt Wallace; 6) Justin Thomas; 7) Ben Griffin; 8) Matthias Schwab / Jordan Spieth; 10) Sam Burns; 11) Adam Hadwin; 12) Robby Shelton; 13) Harrison Endycott / K.H. Lee; 15) Byeong Hun An; 16) Michael Kim / Kevin Streelman / Brian Stuard; 19) Austin Cook / Patrick Rodgers / Robert Streb; 22) Wyndham Clark / Justin Rose / Nick Taylor; 25) Matt Fitzpatrick.
- Top 25 SG Tee to Green: 1) Ryan Gerard; 2) Justin Thomas; 3) Victor Perez; 4) Akshay Bhatia; 5) Tommy Fleetwood; 6) Keegan Bradley / Stephan Jaeger; 8) Wyndham Clark / Gary Woodland; 10) Jhonattan Vegas / Carson Young; 12) Justin Rose / Jordan Spieth; 14) Kevin Roy; 15) Aaron Rai; 16) Garrick Higgo; 17) Adam Hadwin; 18) James Hahn / Taylor Moore; 20) Ben Griffin / Matthias Schwab / Sam Stevens; 23) Robby Shelton / Alex Smalley / Matt Wallace.
- Top 25 SG Putting: 1) Ludvig Aberg; 2) Sam Ryder; 3) Victor Perez; 4) Trevor Werbylo; 5) Justin Suh; 6) Sam Burns / Matti Schmid; 8) Anders Albertson / Zach Johnson; 10) Ryan Gerard; 11) Maverick McNealy; 12) Chad Ramey; 13) Ben Taylor / Nick Taylor; 15) Eric Cole / Andrew Novak / Adam Schenk; 18) Cameron Champ / Peter Malnati; 20) Pierceson Coody; 21) Denny McCarthy; 22) Brian Harman / Justin Lower; 24) Ben Griffin / Kelly Kraft.
- Top 25 SG Total: 1) Ryan Gerard; 2) Victor Perez; 3) Ludvig Aberg / Justin Thomas; 5) Justin Suh; 6) Tyler Duncan; 7) Pierceson Coody / Sam Ryder; 9) Wyndham Clark; 10) Keegan Bradley / Ben Griffin; 12) Tommy Fleetwood / Justin Rose / Kevin Roy; 15) Zach Johnson / Ben Martin; 17) Eric Cole / Adam Hadwin / Taylor Moore; 20) Jordan Spieth; 21) Jhonattan Vegas; 22) Akshay Bhatia / Michael Kim; 24) Sam Burns / Carson Young.
For a summary of the Strokes Gained Performances from this week’s field here at Copperhead Course, Innisbrook since 2016 click here.
Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the Strokes Gained Stats of the Valspar Championship winners since 2016 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:
- 2022, Sam Burns (-17). SG Off the Tee: 56th, SG Approach: 3rd, SG Around the Green: 13th, SG Tee to Green: 4th, SG Putting: 8th.
- 2021, Sam Burns (-17). SG Off the Tee: 16th, SG Approach: 14th, SG Around the Green: 23rd, SG Tee to Green: 5th, SG Putting: 3rd.
- 2019, Paul Casey (-8). SG Off the Tee: 6th, SG Approach: 7th, SG Around the Green: 9th, SG Tee to Green: 1st, SG Putting: 43rd.
- 2018, Paul Casey (-10). SG Off the Tee: 50th, SG Approach: 7th, SG Around the Green: 3rd, SG Tee to Green: 6th, SG Putting: 15th.
- 2017, Adam Hadwin (-14). SG Off the Tee: 47th, SG Approach: 2nd, SG Around the Green: 25th, SG Tee to Green: 5th, SG Putting: 4th.
- 2016, Charl Schwartzel(-8). SG Off the Tee: 52nd, SG Approach: 3rd, SG Around the Green: 23rd, SG Tee to Green: 4th, SG Putting: 12th.
Strokes Gained Tournament Skill Averages:
- SG Off the Tee: 38th, SG Approach: 6th, SG Around the Green: 16th, SG Tee to Green: 4th, SG Putting: 14th.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of Valspar Championship winners since 2010 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this tough Florida golf test:
- 2022, Sam Burns (-17). 305 yards (18th), 57.7% fairways (38th), 69.4% greens in regulation (13th), 33’9″ proximity to hole (35th), 68.2 % scrambling (40th), 1.58 putts per GIR (1st).
- 2021, Sam Burns (-17). 305 yards (12th), 65.4% fairways (14th), 58.3% greens in regulation (35th), 32’7″ proximity to hole (10th), 73.3 % scrambling (30th), 1.57 putts per GIR (2nd).
- 2019, Paul Casey (-8). 307 yards (11th), 67.3% fairways (9th), 63.9% greens in regulation (5th), 41’1″ proximity to hole (65th), 61.5 % scrambling (47th), 1.65 putts per GIR (5th).
- 2018, Paul Casey (-10). 302 yards (17th), 46.2% fairways (68th), 61.1% greens in regulation (30th), 35’10” proximity to hole (23rd), 82.1 % scrambling (3rd), 1.68 putts per GIR (7th).
- 2017, Adam Hadwin (-12). 287 yards (37th), 63.5% fairways (27th), 70.8% greens in regulation (5th), 29’11” proximity to hole (5th), 76.2 % scrambling (7th), 1.65 putts per GIR (2nd).
- 2016, Charl Schwartzel (-8). 292 yards (30th), 44.2% fairways (65th), 65.3% greens in regulation (10th), 34’10” proximity to hole (12th), 60.0 % scrambling (45th), 1.64 putts per GIR (2nd).
- 2015, Jordan Spieth (-10). 275 yards (26th), 59.6% fairways (51st), 63.9% greens in regulation (36th), 35’3″ proximity to hole (47th), 69.2 % scrambling (18th), 1.65 putts per GIR (2nd).
- 2014, John Senden (-7). 279 yards (20th), 57.7% fairways (50th), 72.2% greens in regulation (3rd), 31’6″ proximity to hole (6th), 60.0 % scrambling (35th), 1.75 putts per GIR (12th).
- 2013, Kevin Streelman (-10). 271 yards (48th), 69.2% fairways (11th), 68.1% greens in regulation (11th), 35’5″ proximity to hole (39th), 65.2% scrambling (28th), 1.67 putts per GIR (4th).
- 2012, Luke Donald (-12). 264 yards (75th), 73.1% fairways (9th), 66.7% greens in regulation (43rd), 32’8″ proximity to hole (22nd), 75.0% scrambling (7th), 1.65 putts per GIR (6th).
- 2011, Gary Woodland (-15). 297 yards (7th), 57.7% fairways (54th), 70.8% greens in regulation (29th), 37’7″ proximity to hole (65th), 66.7% scrambling (14th), 1.65 putts per GIR (5th).
- 2010, Jim Furyk (-13). 261 yards (59th), 67.3% fairways (16th), 72.2% greens in regulation (4th), 33’9″ proximity to hole (24th), 75.0% scrambling (3rd), 1.67 putts per GIR (3rd).
Tournament Skill Averages:
- Driving Distance: 30th, Driving Accuracy: 34th, Greens in Regulation: 19th, Proximity to Hole: 29th, Scrambling: 23rd, Putting Average 4th.
Let’s take a view from players as to how Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort sets up and what skill sets the course favours:
Sam Burns (2022): “On 18 I hit an okay 3-wood, didn’t hit it great. Just it’s just kind of a position shot, just trying to get it in the fairway. Then we had 183. So just trying to hit a 185 7-iron. Got a couple past, but fairly straightforward putt from there. I honestly thought I missed it. It hit something and kind of shot little right halfway. But it caught the right side.”
“It’s only Thursday. I think the golf course, the greens are really receptive with the rain we’ve gotten the last week. Yeah, I think the golf course will continue to firm up after we get some sun and wind and I think it’s going to play really well the next few days.”
Sam Burns (2021): “Well, I think these greens are all Bermuda and that’s what I grew up on. So I’m just comfortable around those. I think just playing on them every day back home, you’re used to seeing grain, you kind of don’t even think about it, but you know it’s there and you’re kind of calculating it in. So I think I just feel comfortable on these greens.
“Well I think the golf course is changing quickly. I think you could see it when we started the back nine, just the greens completely changed, a lot more bounce to them, they quickened up a little bit there, especially when the wind blew a little. So I think just managing the ball around the golf course, putting it in the right spots will be important tomorrow.”
“Yeah, it’s like I said, I think before this moment, before I won, I really thought that I just needed to play so well and I needed to do everything perfect. I couldn’t make a mistake, and that’s just not true. I think for me today I just knew that if I could put the ball in the right spots with the golf course playing difficult that I was putting it well enough that I liked my chances. So I don’t know, I think everybody’s different, but for me it was just managing the golf course, managing my ball around the golf course and putting yourself in the right spots.”
Paul Casey (2019): “It’s a great golf course. I think it’s one of the best we play on Tour. Might be the best one we play on the Florida swing. You know I like it because I’m defending champion. Champions always like the golf courses they win on. But it’s really quality. It’s very tough as well. The difference between hitting the green and landing just short, the dispersion of where the shots finish is high. There’s a premium on ball striking. Scoring’s never that low around here. Bogeys do happen. Disappointing on 9, but everybody’s going to make bogeys. If you can just minimize those, it puts you in a good position. But it’s wonderful playing with world No. 1 the last two days and see the quality of his game and quality of mine was pretty good too.”
“I like slopey greens, these are very, very difficult greens, but that’s the way I kind of like them. It’s why I play well at places like Augusta as well. Johnny hinted that, my caddie’s running off to go watch some golf this afternoon because it’s going to get entertaining because it’s so difficult to figure out where that wind is coming from. Very rarely on this Copperhead Course do you face the same direction twice. So you’re always having to make slight adjustments for the wind and then you can’t quite figure it out. It’s a difficult golf course. The greens are so firm, you can’t get a tee in the ground to repair a ball mark. You need one of those metal pitch mark repairers.”
Paul Casey (2018): “To me it’s one of the best courses on Tour. I think without question one of the best courses on Tour. My caddy, Johnny McClaren won here before with Luke Donald. He thought it would really suit my game. I hit a lot of greens in regulation. We discussed again trying to get the flow of the travel. We thought it fit really nicely in the schedule, everything about it, you know, the people, Copperhead, there’s just a lot of positives to it. It’s actually pretty easy decision, to be honest. Actually questioned why I haven’t played it more in the past because actually I haven’t played it that well. Surprising. I did like it and as soon as I turned up, I had a good feeling anyway and obviously I’ll be back next year but it’s one I probably would have on the schedule forever. I still don’t like 16.”
Adam Hadwin (2017): “Yeah, it was a great day, I played really solid, a lot of fairways, a lot of greens again. Made a couple bombs that probably shouldn’t have gone in, but good speed and was able to pick the right line and just real solid golf tee-to-green. Every time I got off-line, I got myself back in position and when I was able to be aggressive, I was aggressive and hit good shots. Just striking it real solid right now, which is what you need it do around this Copperhead golf course. you get going sideways on this golf course, it’s tough enough that it will punish you and you can run up a tally pretty quickly. But the other side of things is that guys are going to have to shot a good score to catch you.”
Charl Schwartzel (2016): “Well, the first time I played, I didn’t play very well. But you know, the more I played it, I felt like it’s a golf course where you need sort of experience to play. You need to learn how to play this golf course. It looks like an easy course, because it’s not very long on distance, but man, the way you’ve got to shape the shots, the way you’ve got to think, the variety of clubs you use, it’s just a really good golf course. You’ve got to really think your way around it, and you very seldom get the guy that plays badly otherwise. You’ve got to bring a good game here to compete.
Well, the Snake Pit is really only 16, if you’re asking me. 16 is a dangerous hole. Whatever makes you feel comfortable off the tee, whether it’s an iron just short in the fairway and a 3-wood, that’s fine. It’s avoiding the water and the trees on the left, really. You can’t bail. You hit left, you make bogey, anyways. You hit it in the water, you’re going to make probably double. So it’s getting it off the tee just in play and if you’re going to play that hole, 2-over for the week, you’re going to be in contention in this tournament. 17 and 18 is not really that difficult of holes. I mean, hitting 6-iron, 7-iron into 17, and 18 is your choice, what you want to do. If you drive it, you’ve got to wedge it. If you hit 2-iron off the tee, you’ve got 8-iron in. To me, those holes are not that dangerous. But 16, be careful. Just get the ball in play.”
Jordan Spieth (2015): “This course, it’s a very difficult golf course, it’s definitely tougher than average. If you see guys that come out and play well here, they’re likely to play well on the harder courses and the bigger tournaments just because that kind of course suits their game more, I guess. You have to work the ball both ways here. It requires all sorts of shots, punch shots, launching it in the air and obviously some discipline on the greens.
The greens aren’t very severe here. They’re grainy and certainly they can be very quick in certain places where they can put pins but they’re not going to be greens where you really, really worry too much about your speed control. You can be aggressive putting out here which is nice. But it’s tough. I mean the wind – in the past couple years the wind has picked up. Looks like we may get really lucky this week, these next four days and not have much wind and scores could be lower, especially with the softer conditions than previous years. Yeah, it’s still tough to hit the fairway and the greens, the rough is really sticky and if you’re a foot off the green and it just off the fringe, it’s about as tough as it gets because the rough is not quite high and thick enough to where you just play like a bunker shot and it’s not thin enough to where you can hit a normal chip. You got to almost feel like your way through and try and judge it perfectly.”
John Senden: “I think you need to play pretty solid golf to do well around here because it’s narrow in spots, the greens are smaller. You know, it’s a very strategic golf course. I think you see players that say the veteran players that play win around here because it’s not totally a bomber’s golf course. Doral probably is. This place is not. It’s narrow. It’s different. It’s got sort of shorter golf holes than, say, Doral. If you’re smart around here you can actually do really well. If you try to sort of tear it apart by bombing it, it’s much more narrow than probably Doral. Doral visually looks – all you see is the bunkers. Here you see more tree line. Even if you do lay it back a little bit here you can still score well.”
Jim Furyk: “I’d say the one thing here, you do get a lot of greens that have quite a bit of pitch and slope to them, especially back to front, and so you have to hit some putts here that feed to the hole. You get a lot of six footers here that are more than a cup of break and you don’t see a lot of that in Florida as well. You get a lot of right edge and left edge, ball out, inside right. Here you have to fit a lot of putts that really feed into the hole and that helps a little bit for getting ready for Augusta.”
Kevin Streelman: “Got to put it in the right spots. As we know on this golf course, you’ll make some bogies pretty quickly. It’s clear this is, a lot of players would say, their favourite course in Florida that we play. They love it because of shot playability. You hit everything from 4-iron to driver off the tees, shape them both directions. You have par-5s you can go for and some you lay back. You’ve got par-3s. You have to be so exact where you leave it. There’s no let up out there but it’s very fair at the same time. People say last week maybe pushed the envelope a little bit. This week there’s no pushing the envelope. You got to step up and hit a golf shot. You got to step up on 16 and hit a great drive. There’s little room to bail. You got to man up and hit golf shots out there.”
Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for the winners of the Valspar Championship since 2010:
- 2022 – Sam Burns: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 3rd, Round 3: 3rd.
- 2021 – Sam Burns: Round 1: 7th, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
- 2019 – Paul Casey: Round 1: 29th, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
- 2018 – Paul Casey: Round 1: 8th, Round 2: 2nd, Round 3: 11th.
- 2017 – Adam Hadwin: Round 1: 12th, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
- 2016 – Charl Schwartzel: Round 1: 25th, Round 2: 15th, Round 3: 8th.
- 2015 – Jordan Spieth: Round 1: 38th, Round 2: 2nd, Round 3: 2nd.
- 2014 – John Senden: Round 1: 45th, Round 2: 35th, Round 3: 3rd.
- 2013 – Kevin Streelman: Round 1: 70th, Round 2: 31st, Round 3: 1st.
- 2012 – Luke Donald: Round 1: 10th, Round 2: 4th, Round 3: 7th.
- 2011 – Gary Woodland: Round 1: 6th, Round 2: 5th, Round 3: 4th.
- 2010 – Jim Furyk: Round 1: 2nd, Round 2 2nd, Round 3: 1st.
Shots From the Lead: Below are the last 12 Valspar Championship winners and where they were positioned in terms of shots from the lead during the tournament:
- 2022 – Sam Burns: Round 1: level, Round 2: 3 back, Round 3: 3 back.
- 2021 – Sam Burns: Round 1: 3 back, Round 2: level, Round 3: level.
- 2019 – Paul Casey: Round 1: 4 back, Round 2: level, Round 3: 1 ahead.
- 2018 – Paul Casey: Round 1: 3 back, Round 2: 2 back, Round 3: 5 back.
- 2017 – Adam Hadwin: Round 1: 6 back, Round 2: 1 ahead, Round 3: 4 ahead.
- 2016 – Charl Schwartzel: Round 1: 4 back, Round 2: 4 back, Round 3: 5 back.
- 2015 – Jordan Spieth: Round 1: 5 back, Round 2: 1 back, Round 3: 1 back.
- 2014 – John Senden: Round 1: 4 back, Round 2: 8 back, Round 3: 2 back.
- 2013 – Kevin Streelman: Round 1: 8 back, Round 2: 7 back, Round 3: level.
- 2012 – Luke Donald: Round 1: 6 back, Round 2: 3 back, Round 3: 3 back.
- 2011 – Gary Woodland: Round 1: 3 back, Round 2: 2 back, Round 3: 2 back.
- 2010 – Jim Furyk: Round 1: 2 back, Round 2: 1 back, Round 3: 3 ahead.
Incoming Form of Valspar Championship winners since 2010:
- Sam Burns: 26th TPC Sawgrass/9th Bay Hill/ MC Riviera/MC TPC Scottsdale.
- Sam Burns: 4th New Orleans/39th Harbour Town/MC TPC San Antonio/MC TPC Sawgrass.
- Paul Casey: MC TPC Sawgrass/3rd Mexico/25th Riviera/2nd Pebble Beach.
- Paul Casey: 12th Mexico/49th Riviera/8th Pebble/9th Abu Dhabi.
- Adam Hadwin: 34th Riviera/39th Pebble/12th TPC Scottsdale/49th Torrey.
- Charl Schwartzel: 17th Doral/45th Riviera/1st Tshwane/9th Nedbank.
- Jordan Spieth: 17th Doral/4th Riviera/7th Pebble/MC Torrey Pines.
- John Senden: 46th PGA National/18th Riviera/MC Pebble/69th PGA West.
- Kevin Streelman: MC Puerto/41st PGA National/27th Riviera/40th Pebble.
- Luke Donald: 6th Doral/56th Riviera/46th Abu Dhabi.
- Gary Woodland: 6th PGA National/MC Pebble/5th TPC Scottsdale/58th Torrey.
- Jim Furyk: 37th Doral/35th Pebble/20th Riviera/1st World Challenge.
First Round Leader Analysis: First round leader(s), their wave and winning score since 2010. Full First Round Leader stats are here.
- 2022 – Burns / Hadwin / Lipsky / Vegas – 1AM/3PM -7/64 35/1, 66/1, 80/1, 125/1.
- 2021 – Bradley – AM -7/64 75/1.
- 2019 – Dahmen / Straka – Both AM -5/66 100/1 & 250/1.
- 2018 – Conners – AM -4/67 200/1.
- 2017 – Herman – AM -9/61 125/1.
- 2016 – Bradley / Duke / Howell III – AM/PM Split -4/67.
- 2015 – Davis – PM -6/65.
- 2014 – Chalmers/Every/Perez – 1AM/2PM Split -3/68.
- 2013 – Stefani – PM -5/66.
- 2012 – Harrington – AM -10/61.
- 2011 – Casey – AM -7/64.
- 2010 – Willis – AM -6/65.
For the record, here’s the breakdown of Bermudagrass PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:
- 6 – Justin Thomas.
- 5 – Jordan Spieth.
- 4 – Zach Johnson.
- 3 – Sam Burns, Kevin Kisner.
- 2 – Luke Donald, Jason Dufner, Justin Rose, Webb Simpson, Robert Streb, Jimmy Walker.
- 1 – Ryan Armour, Keegan Bradley, Wesley Bryan, Cameron Champ, Stewart Cink, Austin Cook, Tyler Duncan, Adam Hadwin, James Hahn, Jim Herman, Garrick Higgo, J.B. Holmes, Patton Kizzire, Martin Laird, Andrew Landry, Adam Long, Peter Malnati, J.T. Poston, Rory Sabbatini, Kevin Streelman, Brian Stuard, Nick Taylor, Michael Thompson, Jhonattan Vegas, Gary Woodland.
In the past 11 renewals elite players Jim Furyk (2010), Luke Donald (2012), Jordan Spieth (2015), Charl Schwartzel (2016), Paul Casey (2018 & 2019) and Sam Burns (2022) have all won here at Copperhead at relatively short odds. Furyk (30/1) had won the Chevron Challenge at Sherwood CC in the preceding December and was absolutely focused on winning his first PGA Tour title since 2007. Luke Donald (11/1), on the other hand, fresh from winning the 2011 Race to Dubai and PGA Tour Money List, was in a battle with Rory McIlroy over the World Number 1 spot. Copperhead was the perfect course at the perfect time. Jordan Spieth (16/1) in 2015 had unbelievably gone 17 months since his only PGA Tour victory at the 2013 John Deere Classic. He was in decent form and had won the 2014 World Challenge played in Florida the previous November. Charl Schwartzel (30/1) arrived in Tampa after winning in his home country only 4 weeks prior. Always one to follow when in good form, the World Number 32 (at the time) took the opportunity to win his first tournament in the United States since the 2011 Masters.
In Paul Casey, going back to his first win in 2018 (25/1), the World Number 17 (at the time) had not won on the PGA Tour for just under 9 years. His form in to Tampa included top 10s in Abu Dhabi and at Pebble Beach and the previous week in the WGC-Mexico Championship he finished 12th off the back of a fast finishing -5/66 on Sunday at Chapultepec. 2019 saw him win (25/1) with prior year form of 2nd at Pebble Beach and 3rd at the WGC Mexico Championship. From a betting perspective, he had been very popular at The Players Championship last time out, when missing the cut.
And in Sam Burns we have a player who goes for a hat-trick of Valspar wins this week. His first win in 2021 came when he had just broken into the World’s top 100 players, but last year he ranked 17th in the OWGR. The Florida Swing had seen him finish 9th at Bay Hill and 26th the week before at The Players. That undersells his performance at Sawgrass, where he had been 2nd after 54 holes and played in the Sunday/Monday final group.
From the non-elite (at the point of victory) perspective, in Gary Woodland (2011), Kevin Streelman (2012), John Senden (2014), Adam Hadwin (2017) and Sam Burns (2021) we have 5 Valspar champions who had between them only 1 PGA Tour victory previously. That was the 2006 John Deere Classic won by Australian Senden, 8 years prior to winning here. His price was 125/1. Naturally the other 4 winners were all PGA Tour maidens, winning at 100/1 (Woodland ), 200/1 (Streelman), 125/1 (Hadwin) and 80/1 (Burns) respectively. It’s undoubtedly a broad spectrum of winners.
Copperhead, as ever, is likely to offer a very stern test for a stronger than usual field in Tampa this week. So I’m looking for players who are in form with the putter, who are comfortable tough golf course players, and who have shown the ability this season to manage their games and scramble well.