PGA Tour Picks: Valspar Championship

By Tom LaMarre

At first look, it would seem that the PGA Tour didn’t do the Valspar Championship any favors when it revamped its schedule this year.

The Valspar, which will be played this week on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, Fla., falls between the Players Championship last week at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., and the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play next week at Austin Country Club in Austin, Texas.

And the Masters is only three weeks away.

However, even though Tiger Woods decided to skip the final event of the Florida Swing after finishing in a tie for second last year at Innisbrook, tournament organizers have wound up with a solid field to challenge the title defense by Paul Casey of England.

Top-ranked Dustin Johnson leads the way, along with several other players who contended last week at TPC Sawgrass, including Jon Rahm of Spain, Jim Furyk, Brandt Snedeker, Brian Harman and Jason Day of Australia.

“I like the Florida swing, how it is set up,” said Day, who was forced to skip the Arnold Palmer Invitational two weeks ago because of back spasms. “I look at the schedule each month and go, ‘OK, these are the main events I want to play.’ Obviously, the Players, and I try to build something around it.”

Others who will be on hand include major champions Sergio Garcia of Spain, Bubba Watson, Webb Simpson, Keegan Bradley, Henrik Stenson of Sweden, Charl Schwartzel of South Africa, Patrick Reed, Kenny Perry, Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa, Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland, Zach Johnson, Lucas Glover, Jason Dufner, Stewart Cink and Danny Willett of England.

Among the former Valspar champions are Schwartzel (2016), Adam Hadwin of Canada (2017), John Senden of Australia (2014), Kevin Streelman (2013), Luke Donald of England (2012), Gary Woodland (2011), Furyk (2010), Sean O’Hair (2008) and K.J. Choi of South Africa (2002, 2006).

Other notables include Steve Stricker, Rafa Cabrera Bello of Spain, Branden Grace of South Africa, Bill Haas, Charley Hoffman, Billy Hurley III, Russell Knox of Scotland, Hunter Mahan, Kevin Na, Nick Watney, Cameron Smith of Australia, Brendan Steele, Rory Sabbatini of Slovakia and Martin Laird of Scotland.

“I do like it,” said Simpson, the 2012 U.S. Open and 2018 Players champion. “I like knowing the tour is in Florida for a month straight. For me and my schedule, it sets up better this way. It’s a better rhythm to my year.”

So the Valspar might be last, but certainly is not least on the Florida Swing.


  1. Jason Day, Australia – A week after being forced to miss the Arnold Palmer Invitational because of a back injury, Day was in the chase before tying for eighth in the Players, his fourth top-10 this season. He is making his sixth start in the Valspar, but first in six years, and his best result on the Copperhead Course was a tie for 20th in 2012.
  2. Sergio Garcia, Spain – Has given himself chances to win the Valspar the last four times he played it, the best when he closed with a 65 last year to finish two shots back in solo fourth. He also tied for seventh in 2013. Garcia tied for 22nd last week in the Players with a closing 67, after a tie for ninth in the Honda and tie for sixth in the WGC-Mexico. 3. Dustin Johnson, United States – DJ posted four scores in the 60s to tie for fifth in the Players, three shots back, his fifth top-10 in 2019 including victories in the WGC-Mexico and the Saudi International. Johnson missed the cut on the Valspar in 2008 and 2010, failing to shoot 70 in four rounds, and hasn’t been back to the Copperhead Course since.
  3. Jon Rahm, Spain – Held the lead going into the final round of the Players before an ugly 76 dropped him into a tie for 12th, missing his sixth top-10 finish of the 2018-19 season, not counting a victory in the unofficial Hero World Challenge in December. Will try to bounce back when he makes his tournament debut in the Valspar Championship.
  4. Webb Simpson, United States – After tying 16th in his title defense at the Players, Simpson plays another event in which he has had success. He tied for eighth in the Valspar last year, tied for 10th in 2012 and finished one shot behind 2011 winner Gary Woodland. Was third in RSM Classic and tied for eighth in Sentry TOC this season.
  5. Gary Woodland, United States – The first of his three PGA Tour victories came in 2011 on the Copperhead Course, when he scrambled for a par on the final hole to beat Webb Simpson by one stroke. His best result in the Valspar since was a tie for eighth in 2014. Woodland has six top-10s this season and is fifth in the FedEx Cup standings.
  6. Paul Casey, England – Shot 65 in the final round of the Valspar last year to hold off Tiger Woods and Patrick Reed by one stroke for his second PGA Tour victory and first since the 2009 Shell Houston Open. Has come close to winning again twice this year with a solo second at Pebble Beach and a tie for third in the WGC-Mexico Championship.
  7. Patrick Reed, United States – Has performed well in the Valspar although he has yet to win it, losing in a playoff to Jordan Spieth in 2015 in addition to finishing one shot behind Paul Casey last year, and tying for seventh in 2016. Played well with three 69s in the Players Championship before a closing 78 dropped him to a tie for 47th.
  8. Adam Hadwin, Canada – Claimed the only victory of his PGA Tour career in the Valspar two years ago when he held off charging Patrick Cantlay by one stroke, and finished in a respectable tie for 12th last year in his title defense on the Copperhead Course. Has three top-10s this season, including a tie for second in the Desert Classic.
  9. Jim Furyk, United States – The 48-year old Furyk surprised almost everyone by finishing second in the Players, but it wouldn’t be a shock if he plays well in the Valspar, which he won in 2010 en route to claiming the FedEx Cup. He also tied for second in 2012, tied for seventh in 2013 and was solo seventh last year on the Copperhead Course.


  1. Abraham Ancer, Mexico – Three bogeys on the back nine Sunday in the Players cost him a third top-10 this season, as Ancer wound up T12. Finished T16 in 2018 Valspar.
  2. Joel Dahmen, United States – Two-time winner on PGA Tour Canada posted T12 in the Players Championship after a T9 earlier this season in the Farmers Insurance Open.
  3. Nick Taylor, Canada – Shot in 60s in last three rounds of Players to T16 in Players, looking like the guy won claimed only PGA Tour victory in 2014 Sanderson Farms.
  4. Ollie Schniederjans, United States – A triple-bogey at No. 17, where he his tee shot found the water, cost him a top-10 in Players. He finished T16 and flashed old form.
  5. Sung Kang, South Korea – Near lead after second-round 66, two-time Korean Tour winner slipped to T47 finish in Players after T6 in API. Finished T22 in 2016 Valspar.

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