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PGA TOUR: Ben Everill's Valspar Championship preview

The Florida swing comes to an end this week with the Valspar Championship where Sam Burns will look to become the first player since Steve Stricker (2009-11) to win the same PGA TOUR event three years running. 

The Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor is no piece of cake so those looking for a little bit of rest after a tough PLAYERS Championship are in the wrong place. Narrow fairways demand accuracy and the Bermuda greens take some taming. 

A par 71 of 7,340 yards the course also houses the infamous Snake Pit as its finish. The par-4 16th of 475 yards has a tight fairway with trees left and water right that demands precision from the tee before an approach to an elevated green. The 215-yard par-3 17th comes next before the 445-yard par-4 18th finisher that has bunkers lurking either side with a back to front sloping uphill green. 

Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green is imperative this week as the last six winners have all ranked inside the top six in this category while the course itself has ranked in the top seven on TOUR over the last four editions. 

As is the case most weeks, a premium exists on Strokes Gained: Approach, particularly given how the rough is as high as four inches in some spaces. Six of the last eight winners were inside the top seven in this metric, the other two not worse than 14th. 

With four par 5s despite the par 71 total, players must take advantage of the long holes. Five of the last six winner ranked inside the top five in Par 5 Scoring, four of whom either led the field or were second. 

Given the last two key stats above we will drill down on approach shot results in relation to par from 250-275 yards, and 275 plus yards this week. 

Here is a look at the players in this field currently ranking inside the top 20 on TOUR in these key stats.

Valspar Championship odds


11 – Justin Thomas
16 – Jhonattan Vegas
17 – Tommy Fleetwood


10 – Akshay Bhatia
13 – Russell Knox 
14 – Gary Woodland
16 – James Hahn
16 – Nick Hardy
20 – Kevin Roy 


5 – Justin Thomas
8 – Garrick Higgo
9 – J.T. Poston
11 – Patton Kizzire
11 – Jhonattan Vegas
14 – Brian Harman
18 – Akshay Bhatia
18 – Matt Fitzpatrick
18 – Jordan Spieth 
18 – Tommy Fleetwood

Approach from 250-275 (RTP)

2 – Jhonattan Vegas
2 – Brandon Matthews
2 – Vincent Norrman
2 – Akshay Bhatia
2 – Harry Hall
2 – Luke Donald
13 – Kevin Tway
14 – Matt Wallace
14 – Max McGreevy
17 – Chesson Hadley
20 – Beau Hossler

Approach from 275+ (RTP)

1 – Brent Grant
2 – Brian Stuard
2 – Jimmy Walker
2 – Michael Kim
2 – Trey Mullinax
2 – Matti Schmid
2 – Luke Donald
2 – Richy Werenski
2 – Rory Sabbatini
2 – Kyle Westmoreland
16 – Justin Rose
16 – Justin Thomas

16 – Adam Long
16 – Nate Lashley
16 – Tyler Duncan


Justin Thomas is the favourite at 11/1 ahead of former Valspar champion Jordan Spieth at 12/1 and U.S. Open winner Matt Fitzpatrick at 16/1. Two-time defending champion Sam Burns is next on the board at 18/1.

Thomas has four top 18 finishes from five starts at Innisbrook, including a T3 a year ago. He’s looking to level up from his last three starts this season which read T20, T21 and T60 last week.

Spieth, the 2015 champion, returns for the first time since 2018 when he missed the cut. He’s riding three top 20s in his last four starts this season including a T19 last week. 

Fitzpatrick is making just his third trip having missed the cut in 2018 but finishing T5 a year ago. Sandwiched a T14 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational between missed cuts recently at the Genesis Invitational and PLAYERS Championship. 

Burns was T12 and T30 in his first two starts at the Valspar before winning the last two editions. Played his first weekend since the WM Phoenix Open at THE PLAYERS (T35).

My lean is towards Thomas via multiple stats above plus the fact he won’t likely play the following week at the WGC – Dell Technologies Match Play, meaning his focus should be high. But you can’t discount Burns who is by far the best putter on Bermuda greens in this field. The bet365 boost option of 20/1 for Burns should be considered heavily. And another former champion – Adam Hadwin (22/1) is another to consider.


Justin Suh is coming off two straight top six results and is a top-notch tee to green player making him a consideration at 35/1 and in any match ups. 

Brandon Wu (55/1) is trending in the right direction coming off two straight top 20s and Jhonattan Vegas (70/1) still has the relevant statistics in his favor despite a rough PLAYERS missed cut.  


Young firebrand Akshay Bhatia at 100/1 could be worth a sprinkle coming off a recent runner up in Puerto Rico, not to mention his name coming up multiple times above. 

Another to keep an eye on might be Vincent Norrman, the Swedish 25-year-old TOUR rookie. A T21 in Puerto Rico was his personal best but now he hits a place his tee-to-green and long approach game can thrive. Then there is the fact he went to college at Georgia Southwestern and was T5, third, and T7 in the Copperhead Championship from 2017-19. 

Good luck with all your choices!

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