This week we remain in Florida, this time Palm Harbour for the Valspar Championship where World No.1 Jordan Spieth will look to defend his title.
Spieth got his second PGA Tour win here last year, a little under two years after his first at the John Deere Classic.
In the midst of what seems like an ordinary run of form for a player of his calibre, Spieth will be hoping he can regain his best form at a course he is clearly fond of. Before his win here 12 months ago, he also finished 7th in 2013 and 20th in 2014 so he will definitely like his chances again.
Other players in the field include Word No.7 Henrik Stenson who is second favorite behind Spieth, No.11 and second highest-ranked Englishman behind Justin Rose – Danny Willett and World No.18 Louis Oosthuizen.
Three players (Jim Furyk, Retief Goosen and Vijay Singh) have come here as major champions and won and Spieth won the Masters a month after winning here so the event definitely has a major feel about it, in its 15 renewals.
Horses for courses springs to mind here as well with Goosen and another two-time winner here, K.J Choi winning four of the 15 editions of this event.
Something else to note is that Goosen, Singh, John Senden and Mark Calcavecchia were all in their 40’s when they won this event, whilst Donald was 36 and Furyk 39, so an experienced head would certainly almost be favoured here to the up and coming youngster, despite Spieth breaking the mould last year, something he tends to do on a regular basis.
This may be due to the fact that the Copperhead Course is not a bombers paradise, despite being over 7,000 yards. Even at 7,340 yards the course still doesn’t play particularly long, but this flat par-71 layout does pose up plenty of challenges along the way.
Wind is often a factor here, and the “snake pit” as the 3-hole stretch between 16-18 is commonly known is one of the toughest 3-hole tests on the PGA Tour.
Course form is at the fore-front of my mind this week as whilst you cannot ignore current form, each of the last four winners here have posted top-10s at this course before winning, with Gary Woodland the only winner of the last five years to win without one (won on course debut in 2011).
Jason Dufner 33/1 (General) 1pt e/w: Dufner came 11th last week and although 11th looks like a great result on its own merit, it seemed even better last week.
On a course where it is advantageous to be a big hitter, you wouldn’t expect Dufner to excel, but he played really well last week, considering he had to go in with long irons all the time, but this was helped by a great putting day in Round 1. Dufner drained 189’8 ” ft of putts, which was a career-high and included putts of 47ft and 35ft so he certainly had a hot putter to thank that day.
Now playing in an event that should suit him to the ground, he should have every chance of contending. Copperhead is well-known for being a course that favours the more accurate players as opposed to the big-hitters and Dufner currently ranks a respectable 43rd in Driving Accuracy on Tour.
He also has a solid bank of course form here to boot, and that will serve him well given the last four winners here have all posted a top-10 here previously as aforementioned. His finishes here (most recent first) read – 24, 14, 21, 10, 28, 28, 17, MC.
So in 8 starts here he has only missed one cut (on course debut), has two top-15 finishes (including a top-10), and then finished no worse than 28th so he should be confident of a good week here, coming off the back of that great showing at Doral last week.
Dufner has had an up and down start to the season as he had two 9th place finishes the two weeks leading up to his win at the Career Builder Challenge, then missed his second cut of the season in Phoenix the week after, which then led him on a streak of not finishing higher than T51 for three starts before his 11th place finish last week.
He should be able to carry over his form from last week into this as he tends to ride hot streaks, and given the suitability of the course, I really do think he will better last week’s result.
He opened the week at 40/1 which was well over-priced, but I am still happy to recommend him at 33/1.
K.J Choi 50/1 (Betfair, BetVictor, Betway) 1pt e/w: K.J Choi is one of two players that has won this event twice and I truly believe he can make it a hat-trick this week, after a fine start to the season.
Choi has missed two cuts on the year, but other than that he’s consistently looked pretty good especially at Torrey Pines where he finished 2nd to Brandt Snedeker and at the Northern Trust Open where he was also in contention, eventually finishing in a tie for 5th.
He looks in control of his game at the moment, and currently ranks 23rd in Driving Accuracy which is a bonus heading into this week.
Since finishing 2nd here in 2010, he has missed two cuts and finishes of 46th, 21st and 44th when he’s made the weekend, so his recent form at the course is bit patchy, but I think there’s still plenty of value in backing him at 50/1, given the fact he has won round this track twice already.
Should he carry over his form from Riviera three weeks ago, he should definitely feature at the top of the leaderboard and the price is definitely appealing enough to chance that he does.
Sean O’Hair 80/1 (Coral, Ladbrokes, WilliamHill) 0.5pt e/w: My final pick this week is Sean O’Hair who has threatened over the last 12 months to get himself back in the winners’ circle for the first time since winning the RBC Canadian Open in 2011.
O’Hair started his resurgence in 2015 at this very event, losing out in a play-off to a certain Jordan Spieth which is no real disgrace considering the year he went on to have. He had to rely on a sponsor’s exemption to even get him into the field but a 4-under 67 in the final round was nearly enough to get him the win, but instead he found himself in the three-man play-off which also included Patrick Reed.
Since that week, O’Hair has added two top-10s (including a 4th at the Deutsche Bank Championship) and five top-20’s (two of which came this season) so consistency is finally creeping back into his game.
The most recent of those top-20’s came on his last start at the Honda Classic, and he will be hoping to carry that form into this week and improve on it, in order to make a run at the title for the second year in a row.
One thing that isn’t consistent about O’Hair is his course form. Between finishing 2nd here last year and winning(!!) the event back in 2008, he has finished 74th and 69th and then missed the remaining four cuts, so there is question marks over his suitability here.
When he finished 10th here in 2005 he was coming off the back of two mediocre finishes (T35 and T50) and when he won here in 2008 he had missed the cut the two previous weeks so he does not need to be in form in order to play well here.
He was in steady form last year before coming 2nd, finishing T29 at Pebble and T25 in the Honda very similar to his form this year (finished T35 at Pebble and 14th at Honda), so he could definitely play well again this week.
At 80/1 he is my last roll of the dice, and I think he’s an interesting one at that. All three players I have picked this week come with there risks, but I also think they represent great risk/reward value and all three are capable of winning, so I hope one of them can come up trumps this week.
Total Points staked this week: 5
Profit/Loss for 2016: -10