The PGA Tour will turn to the Florida swing this week at the Valspar Championship.
They do not have designated status this year, which means a drop in field strength compared to some recent events. Still, there are some big names making the trip, notably Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Matt Fitzpatrickand back-to-back champions Sam Burns,
This week’s host is the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort. They have played here since the inaugural edition in 2000.
It plays a par 71 of 7,340 yards. It seems to be a reasonable length at first glance but the course design makes this play a bit long.
Golfers are urged to hit low-under-drivers on par 4s, which creates a lot of mid-iron and long-iron approaches. As Scott Stallings To put it last year, “You have to be a good player out of the middle of the bag. Lots of 175-, 190-, 200-yard shots.”
Looking at last year’s event, only 31 percent of approach shots originated from inside 150 yards. Not a wage-friendly course.
Water comes into play for nine holes which sounds great but is a huge relief compared to recent events at TPC Sawgrass, Bay Hill and PGA National. One way to look at the effect of water is the rate of large numbers. In Innisbrook, the field appears to be double bogey or worse on 1.8% of holes, compared to an average of 2.9% for the other three Florida locations.
Tree lines and doglegs urge golfers to shape their shots. Smart striking is key here as there are little opportunities to make birdies to make up for silly little mistakes.
Looking at the turf, it’s another week of overseed conditions. The Greens is relatively small at 5,822 square feet, while also being heavily sloped as you would imagine from a classical looking design.
Aside from last year, this is one of the toughest scoring environments they’ve faced all year, outside of the majors.
Through some previous quotes, let’s try to break down the course to see how it will play out.
Justin Thomas In 2022: “It’s a tough golf course if you’re not playing well and driving it well. It’s like Sawgrass or Riviera to me where you put the ball in play or at least you Keep it on the right.” The holes in the tees make me feel like you could do some damage.”
bubba watson In 2019: “I hit a lot of toughness off the tee to get the ball into play. Even though it was laid back, I relied on my iron game to hit some of the greens and that’s exactly what I did.”
Adam Hadwin On 2022: “It’s similar to the courses I grew up on, through the trees. You have to work the golf ball both ways. You have to be in position off the tee, otherwise you’re blocked on some holes.” Let’s go.”
A situation-based curriculum with an emphasis on patience.
Using historical data we can look at overperformance and underperformance on this week’s host courses and compare this to all courses played on Tour. Here are the ones that shared a lot of overlap:
TPC San Antonio
TPC River Highlands
Thursday: Max 75 degree sunshine. Winds 5 to 10 MPH, gusts up to 20 MPH.
Friday: Sunny with a high temperature of 80 degrees. Winds 12 to 18 MPH, gusts up to 30 MPH.
In the beginning of the week it looks relatively calm but as the week progresses windy and rains come.
golfers to watch
There’s something to be said about it and certainly “fitting the golfer’s eye” and Thomas says it fits that box for him. “I’ve loved it since playing junior tournaments here. And I just, yeah, this is a place where I feel like I can make my way really well and I feel like every time I play I can shoot 7-, 8-, 9-under, although it can play pretty tough.” He has finished in the top 20 in four out of five trips, while missing the cut in the other. This includes a T3 from last year but he is still looking for his first win on the Copperhead course.
He is the back-to-back champion at Innisbrook Resort. It’s been a mixed bag for Burns in the lead up, grabbing a pair of Top 15s before missing back-to-back cuts and then a few at the Beach Players (T35) last week. He has finished T30 or better in 11 of his 12 career visits to the Copperhead course.
A fast start is ideal for Bradley on the Copperhead course. This was the site of their infamous first round lead missed loss, but they gained revenge in the return tours. In fact, Bradley has been T6 or better after the first round in five of his last six starts, including another first-round edge in the 2021 edition. He was runner-up that week and I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets back into contention on a tougher track.
The Canadian athlete passed four rounds under par last week, but didn’t record low enough to put him in a fair fight. That steady, boring golf works well at Innisbrook though, and he’s proved that in the past with one win and two other Top 15s in his last five attempts.
He has finished inside the top 40 in eight (of 10) rounds since the caddy switch. Now he has returned to the site of his first (and still his only) 54-hole lead. Definitely a promising youngster to keep an eye on this week.
1. Justin Thomas
2. Jordan Spieth
3. matt fitzpatrick
4. Sam Burns
5. Keegan Bradley
6. Adam Hadwin
7. Tommy Fleetwood
8. Brian Herman
9. justin rose
10. denny mccarthy
11. wyndham clark
12. justin suh
13. Maverick McNealy
14. Victor Perez
15. KH Lee
16. Davis Riley
17. Gary Woodland
18. ben griffin
19. Alex Smalley
20. Stephen Jagger