Defending Champ: Jordan Spieth
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Valspar Championship Field
144 Players | T70 and Ties Make the Cut
We may not have noticed at the time, but the schedule realignment for 2016 really benefited the Valspar Championship. Normally a TOUR afterthought, a couple elite names fused with the regular grinders, the shifting of the WGC-Match Play tournament to March has kept many of the International players in Florida. So, why not keep fresh at Copperhead?
Defending champion Jordan Spieth is back to defend against playoff loser Patrick Reed and a collection of second-tier PGA regulars: Harris English, Bill Haas, Matt Kuchar, Webb Simpson, Danny Lee, Gary Woodland, and Kevin Na. They’ll be joined by internationals Henrik Stenson, Danny Willett, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, Branden Grace, and Graeme McDowell to pad the strength of the field.
Valspar Championship Key Stats
Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green
Bogey + 3-Putt Avoidance
Par 4 Scoring Efficiency 400-450 yards
Valspar Championship Course
Copperhead | Par: 71 | 7,340 Yards
Annually one of the toughest tracks on TOUR, Copperhead requires players to use more logic off the tee than almost any other course. Accuracy is key, however hitting the fairway isn’t always necessary. Weird, right? Instead of aiming for middle of the largest patch of short stuff, players need to hit specific spots from the tee box to give them the proper angle on approaches. Playing out of the rough on the correct side of the hole is much easier than being in the fairway on the wrong side. It’s like Quail Hollow in that sense. Except, at Quail Hollow, players must bomb it to hit spots; at Copperhead, they’ll be clubbing down to to increase precision.
Historically, bombers haven’t faired as well as accuracy mavens. Most of which has to do with lengthy (And Bendy!) Par 5s. They’re just a bit too long for deep drivers to truly take advantage, and much harder than at most courses. Generally, Par 5s are where the field scores. The Par 5s at Copperhead are still some of the easier holes, eagles just aren’t made. Not that you ever bank on eagles, but their absence highlights how players will have to work to make birdie on Par 5s, instead of merely tapping in eagle misses. Only East Lake (2) and Firestone (8) ceded fewer eagles than Copperhead (9) in 2015.
Valspar Championship Picks
Jordan Spieth – Let’s see, Spieth the No. 1 player in the world, defending champ, and finally gets a course that is tailored to his skill set. Don’t forget, this is where Spieth finally broke through last year to kick off his historic run. Before Valspar, he was just an up-and-comer that hadn’t won in a year-and-a-half.
Gary Woodland – Yes, Woodland is a bomber, but he’s shown he’s plenty comfortable clubbing down at Copperhead. The 2011 winner, Woodland has a mixed track record in Tampa (MC/T8/MC/T29/1st), but enters in excellent form, making seven straight cuts and sits 12th in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green.
Harris English – Like Woodland, English has been lurking since Phoenix. He’s posted two T10s in his last three starts and two T10s at this event two the last three years. Plus, he hasn’t failed to play the weekend since November, a run of six events. His putting has been sneaky good too. English sits 29th in Strokes Gained: Putting.
Henrik Stenson – Of all the internationals teeing off at Valspar, Stenson is the best equipped to tame Copperhead. The Swede’s the prototype for a player that succeeds on this layout: An accurate driver, great ball striker, and quality putter who still gains strokes tee-to-green. It wasn’t a surprise when he finished 4th in his debut last year.
Patrick Reed – Reed has been piss poor lately – T52/T93/T6???/157/ T56 – not good. However, he was the runner-up a year ago and is still doing the little things well: 3-Putt Avoidance (8th), Scrambling (21st), Total Driving (24th), Ball Striking (32nd), and Par 4 scoring (15th). Reed’s risky, but almost guaranteed to be low-owned this week. A worthy gamble for a player with his upside.
Webb Simpson – Webb caught the early flight from Tampa in his last appearance two years ago, but had reeled off four straight T20s at Copperhead in his previous starts. As usual, his T2G game (13th), Ball Striking (2nd), and GIR (4th) are on point, and his scoring from the key range (P4 400-450 yards) is one of the best in the field (5th). If he can just putt to the field average, he’ll be in contention.
Matt Kuchar – Safety, that’s what you get with Kuch. His run of 17-straight made cuts is the second best current streak on TOUR (Stenson is first with 31 in a row). He scores on Par 4s and putts the lights out, you want to roster him.
Graeme McDowell – McDowell’s game went away for about two years, but has covertly been returning over the last six months. Since winning during the swing season, GMAC just keeps cashing checks (3/T29/MC/5th, T28), and now, at a course where his accuracy is a significant advantage (4th), expect to see him on the first page of the leaderboard.
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