PGA Preview: Valspar Championship

I’m here to pick winners and I’m hoping to continue consecutive weeks of strong finishes.

The Course: Innisbrook Resort (Copperhead)

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The course is a 7,340 yards and a par-71. The “Florida Swing” continues and the players will face a tough test. The course isn’t ridiculously long and you don’t have to hit the ball as far as the contenders at Trump National Doral. The course does receive some criticism for setting up as a “putting contest.” I don’t think that’s fair, however, people love Augusta National and it sets up for a “putting contest” every year. The margin of victory has been slight in recent years. The course isn’t covered in water hazards and I think it’s probably more of a fair test for the players than we had last week. The course had a renovation recently and should look good on TV.

Storylines: 

  • Jordan Spieth comes in looking to show signs that he’s the elite player that was so dominant last year and to begin the 2016 season at the Tournament of Champions. I don’t put much weight into his 30-under par performance in Hawaii in January (many people did) and want to see him strike the ball better this week.
  • On the topic of Spieth, he played two rounds at Augusta before going to play at the WGC-Cadillac. I totally understand that majors are important but his obsession with the Masters is odd considering that he’s not playing great right now and the courses aren’t similar. Spieth may be gearing up for the few tournaments he’ll play in Texas prior to the Masters.
  • Adam Scott may not be the top player in the OWGR, but he’s the best there is right now.
  • Vijay Singh is in the field this week and it’s always good to watch him play. He’s got one of the smoothest swings I’ve ever seen and he was a dominant force on the PGA Tour for many years.
  • The statue at the course is pretty intense.

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Levi’s Picks: 

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Jason Dufner

I’m hoping for another good run and I like my team this week. Per usual, I’m only taking one player in the top 5 of the OWGR and only three total players in the top 20. This week my team will consist of Jordan Spieth, Henrik Stenson, Danny Willett, Kevin Na, Jason Dufner and Gary Woodland.

Spieth (#1 in OWGR) is the defending champion. He’s one of the best putters on tour and he won’t need to hit the ball ridiculously far to win this week. I have already talked about him in the storylines for this week and I think Under Armour is probably the most interested in his performance. They’ll want him to be as hot as possible going into April when they release their first line of golf shoes at retail stores.

Stenson (#7 in OWGR) finished 4th here last season. He’s a great player and is someone that I pick fairly frequently because his game is really balanced. He’s a veteran that still has plenty of power. He’s 39 yrs. old now and I am surprised that he’s recording his best finishes in major championships later into his career. Willett (#11 in OWGR) is hot right now. He’s moving rapidly up the rankings after a tough 2011 season.

Na (#26 in OWGR) doesn’t have the distance to win on certain courses, however, he’s finished T-10 and 2nd in prior Valspar Championships. Na is going to get to play a course that values his steady play and won’t punish him for only hitting the ball short (180th in driving distance). Dufner (#62 in OWGR) is returning to his form this season. He’s lost weight and went through some distractions away from the game last season. I think he’s turned the corner. Gary Woodland (#69 in OWGR) won this tournament in 2011 and has been making the cut consistently in recent starts. Woodland has tremendous power (2nd on the PGA Tour in driving distance) and hits plenty of greens. He’s not a great putter and that might be a reason to panic on this course. He’s won here before and I’m banking on his good vibes giving him some confidence with the putter this week.

The Winner is: Danny Willett

Golf - British Masters - Day One - Woburn Golf Club
Danny Willett (who slightly resembles Henrik Stenson)

I am a fan of Jordan Spieth and he’s a huge favorite this week. Unfortunately, no player has ever won this event in consecutive years. Stenson and the majority of my picks are going to hit their fair share of fairways and greens. I don’t think that these guys are putting quite as well as Willett right now. He’s got good power, hitting tons of greens and is putting very well. He’s got limited exposure on the PGA Tour and was the top amateur player in the world in 2008. He’s primarily playing on the European Tour (he’s from England) and he’s coming in off a T-3rd last week.

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