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2018 Valspar Championship Fantasy Preview
Course: Innisbrook Resort – Copperhead Course (Palm Harbor, Florida)
Yardage: 7,340 – Par 71
Field: 140 players
Recent Valspar Championship Winners
2013: Kevin Streelman
2014: John Senden
2015: Jordan Spieth
2016: Charl Schwartzel
2017: Adam Hadwin
Another week, another playoff as the storylines just keep rolling in this season. Justin Thomas appeared to be ready to go back-to-back after a jaw-dropping 119-yard hole out for eagle on his 72nd hole. With Tyrrell Hatton, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, and Phil Mickelson hot on his trail, only Mickelson was able to match Thomas after 72 holes. Thomas flew a gap-wedge over the green and Phil dropped his shot about 15 feet away. Thomas may have been unnerved after the clumsiest cameraman of the year nearly stepped on his ball. After JT left his chip well short, Mickelson nearly won in style with a perfect-weighted putt just curling off the lip and somehow not falling in. Thomas would miss his par putt allowing Mickelson to win his first tournament since the 2013 British Open. At 47 years old, Mickelson is not done on this circuit yet.
The Tour heads back across the Gulf to Palm Harbor, Florida for the Valspar Championship. Normally one of the lighter fields, this year the Valspar Championship field is pretty impressive. The Euros make up most of the top-end salaries this week with five of the six highest priced players being from across the pond. Those five are Rory, McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson making his 2018 debut to the states, Justin Rose, and the always steady Paul Casey. Jordan Spieth is the only five-digit priced American. Tiger Woods has bounced back up after an impressive showing at the Honda Classic. The next tier is full of talent with Tony Finau, Ryan Moore, Gary Woodland, Adam Hadwin, Adam Scott, Branden Grace, Webb Simpson, Byeong Hun-An, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Matt Kuchar, Louis Oosthuizen, Kevin Na, Cameron Smith. For under $8K you can get three of the last five runners up on Tour in Chez Reavie and Luke List. Jason Dufner, Patrick Reed, Ollie Schniederjans, Bill Haas, Ross Fisher, Kevin Streelman, Brandt Snedeker, Chasson Hadley, Charles Howell III, Ryan Palmer, Bryson DeChambeau, Charley Hoffman, Jamie Lovemark, J.B. Holmes, Ian Poulter, and Kyle Stanley, all can be had for reasonable prices this week. That long list of players leaves out plenty of other quality golfers. This is a truly deep tournament field this week.
Back to sea level we go as a 7,300-plus, Par 71 golf course actually plays the full yardage. No more of this calculating the playing yardage that Mexico City required. Some serious math was needed for players to figure out what club to hit from 150 yards. A lot of the time, a pitching wedge was going too far, and did you notice essentially everyone in the field routinely reaching 580-yard par 5s last week? Although the course is playing far longer this week, 7,300 is still right around an average length course for this particular breed of golfer. Tree-lined fairways make the decision easier for golfers to club down off the tee. The challenge this week is the mid to long iron game as there will be far fewer wedge shots into greens this week.
Strokes gained: approach as per-usual will be a key indicator of success. Normally, a Par 71 means that there are 3 par 5s, but at Innisbrook, there are actually four par 5s and five par 3s. The shortest par 3 is measured out to 195 yards out, which means players will be attacking greens from about 200 yards or longer roughly half the time. With that in mind, I like players who rank highly in Birdie or better % from 200-plus yards. One of the harder courses on the schedule, Innisbrook plays above par almost every year. The greens here are some of the toughest to hit, making up and down for pars crucial, in addition to churning out a few birdies each round. I like players who gain in the Strokes gained: Around the green department. I mentioned how there are five ar 3s and a full complement of par 5s; make sure to look at the best scorers in those categories with par 3 scoring slightly more important than Par 5 scoring. The 13th, 15th, and 17th holes are all par 3s that play between 200-215 yards, so golfers will have to feel very comfortable hitting from that range, if they plan on making some noise on the back nine on Sunday.
Strokes Gained: Approach
Birdie or Better % 200+
Strokes Gained: Around the Green
Par 3 Scoring
Par 5 Scoring
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