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Valspar Championship Betting Tips: Six each-way picks for Florida event

Valspar Championship: Back Jason Kokrak for success at 33/1
Valspar Championship: Back Jason Kokrak for success at 33/1

It was rather fitting, that on a week where the weather caused havoc and created plenty of drama in itself, that the 2022 PLAYERS Championship finished with the golfers producing a final round as wildly chaotic as the rest of the event. Cameron Smith coming out on top in a remarkable final round, in which he made just four pars in his final 18 holes.

All the time, challengers came and went, some seemingly dropping out of contention only to reappear near the top of the leaderboard a few holes later. An exception being India’s Anirban Lahiri, who barely put a foot wrong during the final round, bar a double-bogey on the 8th hole. Incredibly impressive considering the lack of form he’d shown coming into the tour’s flagship event.

Unfortunately for him, he couldn’t take advantage of his excellent drive down the last to give himself a good birdie chance and potentially force a playoff with Smith, who a few moments earlier made an excellent bogey after finding the water with his 2nd on the 18th. The bogey enough to see him run out a one-shot winner.

Onto this week and it gets no easier for the players. As we head to Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead Course for the Valspar Championship. An event that has been on the PGA Tour schedule since 2020 under various guises, taking place here at Innisbrook every time.

The Course

A par 71 measuring 7340 yards, the Copperhead Course is a classic tree-lined venue that offers a serious test of ball-striking. With the speedy, undulating bermuda greens ranking as the toughest greens to hit on tour.

The fairways, many doglegging offer their own difficulties, ranking below average for driving accuracy. Not only are the fairways not all that easy to find, it’s essential that you find the right side should you miss, to give yourself the best angle into these greens. With some sticky rough and plenty of water for errant shots, it’s easy to see why people have such difficulty finding these greens.

This all leads to a course in which low scoring is uncommon. Over the last ten renewals, the winning score has only bettered -10 on four occasions, with Sam Burns’ winning score of -17 last year the lowest winning score since Vijay Singh set the tournament record here in 2004 at -18. The event possessing an average winning score just over -11 over those last ten renewals.

With this in mind, what does it usually take for players to get it done around the Copperhead Course? The answer isn’t all that simple. 

Since Jordan Spieth winning in 2015, to the first of Paul Casey’s back-to-back victories in 2018, driving, or even accuracy off-the-tee wasn’t all that important. With none of those four winners ranking better than 27th that week in either SG: OTT or driving accuracy. Though that has been completely flipped on its head in the two most recent renewals, with both Sam Burns and Paul Casey driving the ball well, and pretty straight.

With how difficult it is to find the greens here, playing well around-the-greens is a must. None of those previous six winners ranked worse than 25th around-the-greens. Jordan Spieth in 2015 and Paul Casey in 2018 in particular, both excelling with their short game, ranking 2nd and 3rd respectively.

Putting has also been pretty important. Five of those six most recent winners have ranked no worse than 26th on the greens. Sam Burns last year and Adam Hadwin in 2017 the standouts in this regard, both ranking inside the top five in putting when winning.

The most important area has undoubtedly been approach. Of those last six winners, nobody ranked worse than 14th for the week, with four of the six winners ranking inside the top 10. Adam Hadwin at 2nd in 2017 and Charl Schwartzel at 3rd in 2016 the standouts. 

When hitting the greens is so tough, it’s not a surprise to see approach play a standout, generally being backed up by a good short-game. That isn’t to say driving it well isn’t important, as stated, in the previous two renewals it’s featured heavily in the makeups of the winning performances. Though I do put more important in the areas mentioned prior.

Valspar Championship Tips

Correlating Courses

A handful of correlating courses  work well with the Copperhead Course. Riviera Country Club is another classic, tree-lined course that asks serious questions of a player’s tee-to-green game, particularly in finding the greens, with the Genesis Invitational ranking only 2nd to the Valspar in average greens found. It’s a little tougher to drive than Copperhead but asks the same type of questions when missing the fairways and greens.

Two time Valspar winner, Paul Casey has a good record at Riviera, finishing 2nd there in 2015. The same can be said about 2017 Valspar winner, Adam Hadwin, who has finishes of 6th and 16th to his name at Riviera in recent renewals. Bubba Watson, a three time winner at Riv has finished 4th and 13th on recent visits to the Valspar. Whilst last year’s Valspar winner, Sam Burns has finished 3rd at Riviera. 

With the likes of Viktor Hovland, Jason Kokrak, Keegan Bradley and Cameron Tringale, along with less high profile names such as Vaughn Taylor, Sung Kang and Scott Stallings possessing form at both events. The form-ties between the two events are in abundance.

I also like TPC Southwind, host of the St Jude Invitational. Another classic, doglegging, tree-lined course with water in-play. Both courses play very similarly off-the-tee whilst are both tough, though to varying degrees, into the greens. 

Last year’s Valspar winner, Sam Burns, once again ties the courses together, as he finished 2nd in the St Jude Invitational last year, losing out to Abraham Ancer in a playoff. Ancer himself possessing a good record here, finishing 16th and 5th in two visits. 2020 St Jude winner, Justin Thomas too has a good record here and Paul Casey pops up again, possessing a top 5 finish in Memphis. Cameron Tringale and Scott Stallings reappear with form at the two courses, whilst Troy Merritt, who has two top 10s at the Valspar, finished 2nd in the St Jude in 2014, strengthening the form-ties further.

Back to Florida and Bay Hill, host of the Arnold Palmer Invitational holds plenty of appeal, though I’m particularly keen on form there over the last three years. There’s been a noticeable increase in difficulty in finding the fairways, bringing it more in line with the numbers at the Valspar. With both courses ranking amongst the most difficult on tour in GIR. 

Viktor Hovland pops up again, finishing 2nd at the API this year. Whilst 5th place finisher there at Bay Hill this year, Gary Woodland, is a past champion at Copperhead, picking up the title in 2011. With Jason Kokrak, who has a really strong record in this event also going well in the latest three renewals of the API. Paul Casey and Sam Burns both relevant here too, as winners of the three previous renewals of the Valspar and hitting the top 10 at some point in the last three years at Bay Hill.

I would also like to mention both TPC San Antonio, home of the Texas Open and Harbour Town, home of the RBC Heritage as potentially offering further clues. Both courses rate of similar difficulty to Copperhead both off-the-tee and in GIR, as well as a similar level of difficulty around-the-greens. 

Jason Kokrak comes up again in relation to both events, possessing top 10s in each. Less renowned names like Sung Kang, John Huh and Denny McCarthy strengthen these links further. Whilst Kevin Streelman has excellent records at both events, putting up multiple top 10s over the years and is a past champion here at the Valspar. 

Weather

There’s some rain in the forecast preceding the start of the event and again on Saturday. This does appear to be the only blot on the forecast and with calm, dry conditions predicted throughout the rest of the week, I feel a potentially soft course and little wind may mean we see some lower than usual scoring at Copperhead this year again.

Field

As of now, we still have a strong field lining up at the Valspar, though it has been depleted with the withdrawal of two-time winner Paul Casey. No doubt still suffering from just missing out yesterday.

We currently have five of the world’s top 10 stated to be teeing it up. World #2 and #3, Collin Morikawa and Viktor Hovland amongst them. They’re joined by last year’s winner, Sam Burns, with another five past winners: Adam Hadwin, Charl Schwartzel, Kevin Streelman, Luke Donald and Gary Woodland all heading to Innisbrook.

Selections

Justin Thomas currently heads the market at 10/1. Followed by the duo of Collin Morikawa and Viktor Hovland at 11/1. With Dustin Johnson at 14/1, who came through in round four of THE PLAYERS to nab a 9th place finish out of nowhere.

My instinct was to discount anyone who was in the mix at the business end of THE PLAYERS, as I expect them to feel drained but I’m not sure that’s exactly how some of these youngsters, Viktor Hovland and Sam Burns to mention two, will be thinking. For Burns, this may well be the perfect place for him to get back into the flow of things following his disappointing final round at Sawgrass.

Having said that, with the question marks following such a chaotic event last time out, I’m not interested in getting involved right at the top of the market here. For all I think that top three in the betting should go well.

And for all I don’t hate the chances of Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Fitzpatrick and Shane Lowry, there’s a player here at a bigger price than all three. Someone who has won three times on the PGA Tour in 18 months and who possesses an excellent record at Innisbrook, Jason Kokrak, and he’s this week’s main selection.

Golf betting tips
Jason Kokrak
33/1
Odds correct as of 2022-03-15 18:45 Odds subject to change.

Jason Kokrak going from PGA Tour journeyman to three-time tour winner over the last 18 months has been well documented. He lost his maiden tag at the CJ Cup in October 2020, doubled up just five months later with success in the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial and made it three in just over 12 months, when picking up the Houston Open on his final start of 2021.

Onto this year and though Kokrak has failed to threaten, he’s playing consistently well. He hasn’t missed a cut in six starts, with a finish of 17th at the Sony Open his best. Though a pair of 26th place finishes, in the Genesis Invitational and Arnold Palmer Invitational, offer much more promise for this week. Both in stronger fields and on difficult courses. Indeed also two of the courses I mentioned as correlating courses.

He was renowned as a superb ball-striker who struggled with the short game. Though it’s been massive improvements with the putter in the last 18 months that has engineered his success. Going from ranking outside the top 100 virtually every season before 2020/21, where he finished the year as the 6th ranked putter on the PGA Tour. Something which he has continued this year, currently sitting 20th on the greens at this early point in the season.

The ball-striking was also strong last year, particularly off-the-tee, though he has struggled a little in that respect this year. Not necessarily driving it poorly, but not to the standard we’ve seen from him in recent years. However there is plenty of encouragement with the approach play, where he’s put up positive strokes-gained numbers on his last four starts.

After missing his first three cuts here at Innisbrook, his performances at the course have gone from strength-to-strength. In his seven starts following those MCs he’s finished 14th or better five times, missing just one cut. His best effort coming in 2019 when he was runner-up to Paul Casey. He’s also started to putt the greens well here, following years of struggling on these tricky surfaces.

Further to this, there’s an abundance of correlating course form for Kokrak. He’s finished runner-up at the Genesis Invitational, whilst additional top 10 finishes are found in the Texas Open, the RBC Heritage and as mentioned, has finished no worse than 26th in his three visits to Bay Hill for the Arnold Palmer Invitational the last three years. His best effort coming last year when 8th. None of this form is isolated as he also possesses multiple other top 20s at the aforementioned events.

He played all four rounds last week but in finishing 53rd was never really involved in the business end of the tournament, so should come into this feeling a little fresher mentally, than some of those at the top of the betting. With his game ticking along nicely this year he looks primed to add to his superb record here and can go one better than that 2nd place finish in 2019.

Gary Woodland
50/1
Odds correct as of 2022-03-15 18:50 Odds subject to change.

The 66/1 that I initially had down for Gary Woodland was a huge price, the same price he was for the PLAYERS Championship in fact, with that I’m not too concerned about taking this shorter number, as I think it’s more reflective of his chances here at a course in which he’s tasted victory before.

That early price was no doubt a reaction to his missed cut last week but I’m inclined to forgive anyone a bad week at Sawgrass, even those on the right side of the draw, such was the unusual nature of the event. Previous to that Woodland had reeled off two 5th place finishes on the bounce, including looking like a winner of the API and looked like a player getting back to something like his best.

In those two 5th place finishes, Woodland gained strokes in every area. Looking particularly good on the greens but was also excellent in approach, with solid performances off-the-tee and around-the-greens complimenting those areas of his game nicely.

Woodland’s victory here came all the way back in 2011 in his debut at the event. He added to this with an 8th place finish in 2014, though will have to overcome three straight missed cuts in a row in his previous three visits.

Woodland’s claims were definitely enhanced with that 5th at Bay Hill two starts ago. Whilst a 6th place finish in Texas last year also points to a player who is capable of reversing the poor run of form he’s endured at the course recently.

In missing the cut last week, Woodland will be fresher than many in this field. If he can bounce back from that and reproduce the kind of golf he’d shown on his previous two starts, he can get back to playing well in this event.

Adam Hadwin
66/1
Odds correct as of 2022-03-15 18:55 Odds subject to change.

Canada’s Adam Hadwin has enjoyed a strong start to 2022. As a past champion here, picking up the title in 2017 and with some really high class approach play on show from him so far in 2022, he looks primed for another shot at victory on the Copperhead Course.

That strong start to the year has seen Hadwin finish inside the top 26 in four of his six starts. With a best of 9th last week at THE PLAYERS Championship. Where he flew up the leaderboard in round four thanks to a final round 67, claiming his first top 10 of the year.

That high class approach play was once again on show, as he ranked 14th in the field with his irons. Of his other five starts this year he’s ranked 16th, 10th and 33rd in his made cuts, also playing well in approach in his one round around the South Course at Torrey Pines in the Farmers Insurance Open. With his missed cut at the Genesis Invitational being the only week where he failed to fire in approach. This all adding up to a player ranked 30th on tour this season.

This is complimented by the rest of his game, where he continues, for the most part, to show the quality with his short-game that he is known for. Whilst he doesn’t rate highly off-the-tee, he is all about accuracy and ranks 23rd this season.

It is fair to say that outside his victory in 2017, his record in the Valspar is a little underwhelming. 12th the following year is his next best effort but other than that he’s missed three cuts and finished 71st in four other career starts.

He does possess some strong correlating form, finishing 6th at the Genesis Invitational, possessing a generally strong record there and has also finished 6th in the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Hadwin has been in good form since the back end of last year. With his approach play and short-game looking in good shape, I think he can pick up where he left off last week at Sawgrass and take advantage of some more mentally weary opponents to pick up a 2nd title at the Valspar.

US Masters odds
Cameron Tringale
66/1
Odds correct as of 2022-03-15 19:30 Odds subject to change.

Jason Kokrak set going a trend of winless golfers finally picking up victories in 2020, with players like Tom Hoge, Talor Gooch and Luke List also entering the winner’s circle recently. Cameron Tringale very much falls into the same category, as a player who could’ve and probably should’ve won. He can follow them in picking up that elusive first title this week in Florida. 

He arrives here at the Valspar, an event in which he has a good record, having twice finished 3rd at the Copperhead Course, in inconsistent form. Tringale has teed it up six times this year and missed the cut on four occasions, though when he has made the cut he’s performed well, finishing 3rd in the Farmers Insurance Open and 13th at the Genesis Invitational.

He can’t be struggling too much with his game to go well at such strong events on tough courses. This is indeed reflected in his stats, where he’s looked good in approach and around-the-greens all year, though has struggled a little off-the-tee and with the putter, particularly in his two most recent starts. Something he’ll have to put right this week, though such is the quality of his iron play and short game he may only need to bring them both to an even keel this week to contend. 

Tringale’s correlating form gives extra encouragement. He’s finished in the top 10 at the Texas Open on three occasions, whilst also putting up top 10s in the Genesis Invitational and St Jude, amongst plenty of other top 20s.

There’s no doubt his last couple of performances have been poor but just three starts ago he was finishing 13th in a stacked Genesis Invitational. Back at a course in which he has an excellent record, I expect Tringale to improve those wayward elements of his game in recent starts and if able to continue to show the quality he’s shown in approach and around-the-greens all season, can finally break that duck at a course he goes so well at..

Kevin Streelman
100/1
Odds correct as of 2022-03-15 19:30 Odds subject to change.

I’m going to round off this week’s picks with a couple of three-figure selections, starting with Kevin Streelman. Another former winner who produced an eye-catching iron performance in a 22nd place finish at THE PLAYERS Championship last week and who I’m hoping to catch at just the right time. 

Streelman’s year has been a bit of a mixed bag but I think his performances have offered much more promise than the earlier results showed. He’s finally started to put together some decent results in his last three starts, finishing 16th in the Honda Classic and 22nd in THE PLAYERS, with a MC at the API lodged in between. 

For all he’s missed four cuts in seven, he’s continually played well off-the-tee and around-the-greens. Whilst he started the year hitting his irons well, it tailed off a little in the missed cuts in Phoenix and at the Genesis but bounced back last week, seeing him rank 18th in the field. Though it’s the putter that stands out, as he started the year putting poorly, resulting in those missed cuts but it’s no coincidence that in finding some more solidity on the greens, he’s put up his best finishes of the year so far.

Streelman is a bit of a streaky putter but by and large he putts well here at Copperhead. This no more on evidence than when he won here in 2013, as he ranked 3rd that week in putting. Outside of that victory he’s hit the top 20 twice more, finishing 10th in 2012 and 18th in 2017, though much like Woodland he’ll be looking to bounce back from three missed cuts in a row at the Valspar.

In addition to his strong finishes here, he possesses multiple top 10/20s, both at TPC San Antonio in the Texas Open and at Harbour Town in the RBC Heritage.

If he can maintain the form he’s shown in approach and with the putter in recent weeks, Streelman can use the knowledge he’s gained in how to win around here and pick up a first title in eight years.

C.T Pan
125/1
Odds correct as of 2022-03-15 19:30 Odds subject to change.

Finally I’m going to take a chance on Taiwan’s C.T Pan. He missed the cut last week at Sawgrass but with the quality of his short-game and the form he’s found in approach the last couple of starts, he can bounce back this week at a course which sets up well for him.

Pan started the year a little off the boil, missing two cuts and finishing 78th in his opening three events. He’s turned that form around in his next three starts though, first finishing 9th in the Genesis Invitational and followed it with a 16th in the Honda Classic, before missing the cut last week.

He’s been excellent around-the-greens all year and has looked a little better on the greens in recent starts, looking particularly good in that 9th place finish at the Genesis. Though it’s the approach play, where he’s gained strokes in his last two starts that stands out and is often the key to his better performances. 

He’s played the Copperhead Course three times, missing the cut on his first two visits but improved on his latest start, finishing 42nd last year, where he drove it solidly and figured out the nuances on and around the greens. 

He has some very appealing pieces of correlating form. His solo tour victory coming at the RBC Heritage in 2019 at Harbour Town. Whilst he’s also got a top 10 and top 20 at the Genesis Invitational and a further top 20 in the St Jude.

These traditional, tight(ish) treelined courses are where Pan excels most. If he can continue to fire with his irons, he can improve on a mediocre record in this event to date.

Golf odds
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