Valspar Golf Championship Preview

By Mick McGill ( @MickSportsNews )

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The PGA Tour stays in Florida this week as we head to the Copperhead course at the Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbour for the Valspar Championship.

This is a Par 71, 7340 yard course. The tournament was founded in 2000 and has always been played at the Copperhead course. There are five Par 3′s and four Par 5′s to contest and the closing three holes (16,17,18) are rated amongst the most challenging closing stretch on the Tour.

The fairways and Greens are Bermudagrass with the fairways being tighter than most courses on the tour and the greens smaller than average. The Par 4, 460 yard, 16th hole is the most difficult on the course with water along the whole right hand side. This can create havoc if the wind is coming in from the left.

This event has gone through a few names changes in its short history. It was originally known as the Tampa Bay Classic from 2000-2001, however there was no tournament in 2001 due to September 11 terrorist attacks. In 2002 it became the Tampa Bay Classic Presented by Buick. After one year of sponsorship from Buick it became the Chrysler Championship from 2003-2006. Pods then sponsored it in 2007-2008 as the PODS Championship until it became the Transitions Championship from 2009-2012. Last year it was known as the Tampa Bay Championship presented by EverBank. (Bit of a mouth full). In September last year the Valspar Corporation signed a four year deal to become the title sponsors of the event, giving us yet another name change!

After two stellar fields at the WGC Cadillac Championship and Honda Classic in the past two weeks we still have a good turnout of top players for this tournament with players such as Jason Dufner, Graham DeLaet, KJ Choi, Paul Casey, Brandt Snedeker and Marc Leishman taking part.

The Top Five in betting this week are: 16/1 Harris English, 18/1 Jordan Spieth , 20/1 Matt Kuchar, 20/1 Luke Donald and 25/1 Justin Rose.

Looking at the Copperhead course this week we can expect to so some real challenging golf as it can play difficult at times, especially if the wind decides to make things exciting which always plays a part in Florida. This can cause a lot of problems for many players especially those with little experience on the Copperhead course. The Par 5′s will also play a major part this week as they are all reachable for most players, so Par 5 stats should be closely monitored.

When looking at the past winners of this tournament they have all ranked highly in Greens in Regulation stats and have been good ball strikers, so again keep this in mind when looking for the winner as most of the greens are smaller than the tour average. It will also pay to look at good Par 3 performers as there are 5 of them to contend with this week. Taking all this into consideration I have two players who fit the bill.

Harris English 16/1 

There is a good crop of young talented golfers hitting their stride on the PGA Tour in the last 12 months and one such player is Harris English. After turning Pro in 2011 he found his way onto the PGA Tour in 2012 and has not looked back since.

Last year he won the FedEx St Jude Classic in June then followed it up with his second title in November at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba. His World ranking jumped from 136th at the start of last season to be 38th at present. If he keeps going like this Harris could be inside the Top 20 real soon.

He has started 2014 with a lot of confidence. Seven starts have resulted in six finishes inside the Top 20! First up was a T11th at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, then a 4th at the Sony Open, T33rd Humana Challenge, 9th Phoenix Open, T10th Northern Trust Open, T9th WGC Accenture Match Play and finally a T16th WGC Cadillac Championship.

With form like that English’s third tour victory is just around the corner.

If you look at his stats leading into this week we can expect to see him contending on Sunday as the course should set up well for his game. 13th in Driving Distance, 6th in Greens in Regulation, 4th in Birdie average, 4th in Scoring average, 5th in Par 3 birdie or better, 11th in Par 4 birdie or better, 10th in Par 5 birdie or better, 3rd in Ball Striking, 28th in Scrambling and 2nd in All Round rankings. Not to mention 5th in the FedEx Cup standings.

I usually stay clear of the favourites when it comes to the golf, however this week it is impossible not to jump on board the Harris English bandwagon. He represents an excellent Each Way bet and I expect a collect this week.

Stuart Appleby 150/1 

While I am very keen on Harris English winning this week I have decided to look further afield for a good longshot selection this week. Appleby last won on the PGA Tour in 2010 when he won two tournaments. During 2011, 2012 and 2013 he contested a total of 96 tournaments and managed a woeful three Top 10 finishes. One in each year to be exact.

Roll forward to 2014 and we have a new rejuvenated Stuart who has already had two Top 10′s from his six starts to date. The encouraging part is that he has not missed a cut in any of those six starts.

Last week at the Honda Classic Appleby finished T8th with rounds of 69-69-65-72 to finish just three shots behind the Winner Russell Henley. Perhaps this is the year that sees Stuart get back into the form that saw him reach as high as World No13 in 2004. There is still plenty of life left in the 42 year old and he could surprise at big odds! Well worth a look at in Top 10 markets too.

Good Luck and Good Punting.

 

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