What: Valspar Championship
Where: Innisbrook Resort (Copperhead), Palm Harbor, FL
When: March 8th-11th
Defending Champion: Adam Hadwin
FedEx Cup Points and Purse: 500 and $6,500,000
Last week we were treated to yet another incredible finish this season as Phil Mickelson finally captured a long-awaited victory over Justin Thomas at the WGC-Mexico. It was old-school beating new-school in a playoff hole that saw Phil record his 43rd career victory.
Last Week’s Results
Cabrera Bello: T3
Up this week is the Valspar Championship in Palm Harbor, Florida. Adam Hadwin was the winner here last year by a score of 14-under. He took the championship by one stroke over Patrick Cantlay. Two golfers have won this event more than once (K.J. Choi and Retief Goosen), but there has never been a back-to-back winner.
This event is usually skipped by the top PGA players and used as a bye week as we head into the countdown to the Masters, but we are treated to a very nice field this week. Guys like Spieth, McIlroy, Sergio, and Justin Rose are all making the trip. Additionally, Henrik Stenson makes his debut on American soil, and Tiger Woods has publicly announced he will appear here this week and next week at Bay Hill in Orlando.
We’ll see another par-71 course this week. Key stats such as strokes gained: approach and strokes gained: par threes as none of the par three holes measure fewer than 195 yards. Driving accuracy, strong iron-gam, and par-5 scoring are also important this week, as this course features some harsh tree-lines and doglegs. Copperhead is also, of course, home to the “snake pit,” which is the hardest finishing three holes on TOUR.
This Week’s Picks
Jordan Spieth: Once Spieth gets that great putter of his going, he should bust out a win soon enough. Aside from his MC at the WMPO, he hasn’t finished any lower than T20 on the year. The thing that has held Spieth back from winning has been his putter, which is one of his strong suits. Spieth won this event back in 2015 and is worth paying up for.
Justin Rose: Rose is a unique case this week, as you can put him under the consistency umbrella and not necessarily expect a win. Aside from his WGC wins and wins around the globe, Rose hasn’t won a PGA-ran since the 2015 Zurich Classic of New Orleans, where he finished 22-under. Before a missed cut here in 2015, he made eight straight cuts with six top-25s. His T37 last week was lower than expected, but it’s a very clear outlier.
Sergio Garcia: Since winning the Singapore Open, Sergio started his 2018 PGA season with two finishes of T32 and T33. Since then, he placed T7 last week in Mexico and seems to be catching fire again. He hasn’t missed a cut anywhere since October. That’s nine appearances since then, with two victories. He hasn’t appeared here since 2013 but posted a T7 and is perfect in cuts made in five starts.
Tony Finau: In three starts at the Valspar, Finau has two missed cuts and a fifth-place finish last year. If he had a better track record, he would be in my top tier. Finau plays well into this course, as he ranks 14th in strokes gained: approach the green, and in the top-25 in both par-3 and par-5 scoring. On the year, Finau’s worst finish is a T32 at the Sony Open aside from his missed cut at the WMPO. The heavy-hitter should have no problems this week.
Adam Hadwin: The defending champion here at Valspar has been quietly playing some great golf as of late since he fell off a cliff at the end of last year. The Canadian is a perfect nine-for-nine in cuts made this season with three finishes inside the top-10. This includes a T3 at the CareerBuilder back in January. He has also posted a T6 and a T9 in the last two weeks.
Henrik Stenson: Stenson is a proven winner with a great long-iron game. He also may come as a cheap option since he hasn’t played in a month, when he finished T60 in Malaysia. In his last three appearances at the Valspar, the Swede has posted a fourth-place finish to go along with a T11 and a T7. Stenson has also placed T2 and T7 so far on the season.
Paul Casey: Paul Casey is a great safety net this week. He hasn’t missed a cut anywhere in the world in nearly 14 months. Since October, his worst finish is a T49 two weeks ago at the Genesis Open, and this comes with seven top-19 finishes. Casey is a lot like Justin Rose this week in terms of safety, but his poor track record with two missed cuts in four appearances hold him back into tier three. The fact that Casey hardly ever wins also means you should just use him as a security blanket. (His only PGA tour win came in 2009.)
Tiger Woods: Very excited to finally write about Tiger this season. From a fantasy standpoint, it’s time to stop expecting or even wanting wins. It’s time to start looking at how Tiger can be a very reliable source of at least top-15s moving forward. That’s all I ask of him as long as he’s in my lineups. Tiger has actually never played at Valspar, but after his 12th place finish at the Honda Classic, you should feel pretty good if you see a cheap price in your league. The course plays well into his game because of his long-iron and 3-wood abilities off the tee.
Jason Dufner: Dufner has nine straight appearances here inside the top-30. He’s also playing some great golf on the year with three top-25s to go along with a perfect six cuts made. He ranks only 83rd in strokes gained: tee-to-green, but “Duff-Daddy” seems to shine on tough layouts with his great ball-striking prowess.
Matt Kuchar: In 10 trips to Copperhead, Kuchar has just one missed cut. He’s also placed inside the top-25 seven times. Yet to miss a cut this season in six tries, Kuchar’s best and worst finishes are a T5 at the WMPO and a T62 at the Genesis Open.
Bill Haas: Golf has a funny way of sometimes creating feel-good stories for the world to see. About three weeks ago, Haas was in a car crash where one of his friends in the car was killed. Since missing three straight cuts from mid-November to late-January, Haas has posted a T54 at the Famers and a T26 at the WMPO. It wouldn’t be a shock to see Haas play some inspired golf this week. He also ranks in the top-40 of strokes gained: approach-the-green and tee-to-green.
Rory Sabbatini: A six-time PGA Tour Winner, the 41-year-old South African has quietly put together seven cuts made in 10 starts this season. To go along with the cuts stat, he ranks in the top-25 of proximity to the hole scoring, and strokes gained: around-the-green. The fact that he’s already made 10 starts since October is quite surprising. What’s more surprising is that Sabbatini also has two top-25s on the year, with a notable T17 and T20 at the Honda Classic and at the Farmers. For his career at the Valspar, he has made nine cuts in 12 tries.