Valspar Championship 2024 Tips: Six each way picks for Florida

 | March 18 | 

21 mins read

jamie worsley pga tour

After the excitement of the PLAYERS, Golf expert Jamie Worsley is back with one of his long-form previews and six more each-way predictions for victory at the Valspar Championship. 

Valspar Championship Betting Tips

  • 1.25 pts Adam Hadwin each-way (1/5 - 8 places) - 45/1 
  • 1 pt Sepp Straka each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 55/1
  • 1 pt Doug Ghim each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 55/1 
  • 1 pt Taylor Moore each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 66/1
  • 1 pt Mackenzie Hughes each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 100/1
  • 1 pt Lee Hodges each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 125/1

Most knew what would happen if Scottie Scheffler finally got the putter under control to compliment the unmatchable brilliance of his tee-to-green game, and over the last two weeks we have emphatically received proof.

Following his wide-margin success at Bay Hill two weeks ago, Scheffler entered the final round of last week’s PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass needing to claw back a five-shot deficit to record a second successive win. Not only that, but he had to attempt to do so with a neck injury that had impacted him throughout the previous three days.

Throw in the quality of the opposition in front of him, including overnight leader Xander Schauffele and two of last year’s major champions, Wyndham Clark and Brian Harman, and it made what Scheffler did on Sunday all the more special.

There was a sense of inevitability about how that final round would unfold early on. Scheffler holed out for eagle from the fairway on the 4th and following birdies on 8 and 9, he’d closed the gap at the top.

He didn’t put a foot wrong on the back nine, making three more birdies to set the clubhouse target of -20. Whilst Brian Harman was typically tenacious and Xander still had a shot going down 18, it was Wyndham Clark – who responded brilliantly to an iffy start on his back nine to get back to within one – who ultimately suffered the biggest heartbreak. His birdie putt on 18 looked destined for the bottom of the hole but proceeded to perform a horrific horseshoe, causing the ball to lip out and handed the trophy to Scheffler.

It was a win that firmly establishes Scheffler as the man to beat as major season edges nearer and if the putter holds up, we could be set to witness one of the most impressive seasons in recent memory.

That first major of the year at Augusta is just three weeks away but before an extended two-week stay in Texas as the prelude to The Masters, the PGA Tour first finishes off its stretch in Florida, with the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead Course.

TOURNAMENT HISTORY

The Valspar Championship debuted on the PGA Tour in 2000 (originally called the Tampa Bay Classic) and has always been held here, at Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead Course.

It was initially played towards the end of the calendar year before switching to this March slot in 2007, where barring a short-lived shift to May in 2021, it has remained.

The tournament boasts an impressive list of winners, with Vijay Singh holding the tournament scoring record after his 2004 victory with a score of -18; whilst we’ve also seen other major champions take home this title, such as Jordan Spieth (2015) and Charl Schwartzel (2016).

However, only four players have recorded multiple wins in this event: KJ Choi (2002, 2006), Retief Goosen (2003, 2009), Paul Casey (2018, 2019) and Sam Burns (2021, 2022).

That list of two-time winners does a good job in demonstrating the international flavour of the Valspar Championship; with just ten of the twenty-two renewals of the event having been won by US players.

Last five winners:

  • 2023 – Winner: Taylor Moore (-10); runner-up: Adam Schenk (-9)
  • 2022 – Winner: Sam Burns (-17, playoff); runner-up: Davis Riley (-17)
  • 2021 – Winner: Sam Burns (-17); runner-up: Keegan Bradley (-14)
  • 2019 – Winner: Paul Casey (-8); runners-up: Jason Kokrak, Louis Oosthuizen (-7)
  • 2018 – Winner: Paul Casey (-10); runners-up: Tiger Woods, Patrick Reed (-9)

Taylor Moore won his first PGA Tour title at the Copperhead Course last year, producing an impressively composed final-round display to take down a leaderboard that included Jordan Spieth, Tommy Fleetwood, Sam Burns and Wyndham Clark close behind. He returns and looks to become the third straight one-time Valspar winner to successfully defend their title.

THE COURSE

Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead Course was designed by Larry Packard in 1971 and prior to becoming the home of this event in 2000, it hosted the JCPenney Classic – a mixed team event sanctioned between the PGA Tour and LPGA – from 1990-1999.

This traditionally tree-lined course regularly produces one of the toughest tests on the PGA Tour, averaging a winning score of -11 across the last ten renewals. Though Sam Burns’ two -17 winning scores are among the lowest scoring events over the event’s history, we are still yet to see anybody make into the -20s under par.

It measures in as a relatively lengthy 7340-yard par 71 and has the unusual makeup of just 9x par 4s (380-475 yards), 5x par 3s (195-235 yards) and 4x par 5s (560-605 yards).

Reasonably hilly for a Florida course, with moderate elevation changes on many holes, the Copperhead Course sees players navigating tight, doglegging corridors of play that are framed by tall and densely-populated pine trees throughout.

The fairways are narrow and the landing areas are made to feel smaller by smart strategic bunkering. With rough that was grown out to 3.75 inches last year, not only are these fairways tough to hit but the punishment for missing them has become even more severe. Whilst of the nine holes on which water is in-play, it is generally more of a threat off-the-tee.

A more strategic approach is often required with driver, with trees that can impede approaches into the greens making it imperative to find the correct side of the fairways. This is no easy task and the difficulties faced with driver certainly play a part in this being one of the toughest courses for approach play on tour.

Like last week, the fast, undulating and smallish greens at the Copperhead Course use bermudagrass on the base but are overseeded with poa trivialis at this time of year. Many of them are elevated and shaped either narrow or shallow to make hitting them all that more difficult; resulting in the course possessing the second-lowest GIR percentages on tour.

The putting surfaces are well bunkered and with that thick rough being cut closer to the greens last year, it was no surprise to see successful scrambling percentages drop significantly for that edition. We should expect the penalty for errant approach play to be similarly potent this time around.

Obvious birdie chances around the Copperhead Course are hard to come by. The quintet of par 3s are tough and long, with the 195-yard 4th the only one at under 200 yards; whilst there are no monster par 4s, many of them have to be plotted around with danger lurking on every shot; and though representing the best scoring opportunities on the course, the series of strongly-protected par 5s are no gimmes.

THE WEATHER

Conditions could be troublesome this week, with storms/rain predicted in the build-up to the event and returning again on Friday/Saturday.

The rain may make the greens and some of the pin positions more accessible when the players are out on the course, though with gusts of over 20mph also in the forecast, taking advantage of potentially softer conditions won’t be plain sailing.

KEY STATS

  • SG: Approach
  • Proximity 200+ yards
  • Greens-in-Regulation

The Copperhead Course provides a strong all-round challenge but it can be overcome with high-quality ball-striking; iron play carries particular importance.

Taylor Moore hit the ball superbly when winning last year, which included ranking 2nd in greens-in-regulation and 5th in approach.

Sam Burns was strong in approach for both of his victories, especially so in 2022, ranking 3rd. A year that saw the 1st and 2nd-ranked approach players, Matthew NeSmith and Justin Thomas, both finish tied for 3rd.

Paul Casey was 6th in GIR and 7th in approach when winning in 2019, following on from a top-10 ranking in approach in 2018; Adam Hadwin in 2017 and Charl Schwartzel in 2016 ranked 2nd and 3rd respectively on their way to winning this title.

With five par 3s at over 195 yards and those four par 5s, the long irons carry more weight than the wedges here. Therefore those who excel over/around the 200 yard mark should have the advantage.

  • SG: Off-the-Tee

The last five winners of this event have been quality drivers of the ball and this area comes a close second in importance to approach play.

Taylor Moore matched his quality approach play with excellence off-the-tee last year, ranking 2nd; with runner-up, Adam Schenk ranking inside the top 10.

Davis Riley drove his way to a 2nd-place finish in 2022, leading the field OTT there and of the top 4 in 2021, nobody ranked worse than 26th; three ranked inside the top 15.

Paul Casey won a notably driver-heavy edition in 2019. He ranked 6th OTT and each of his four closest challengers ranked 13th or better; Bubba Watson in 4th ranking 3rd.

  • SG: Putting (poa trivialis overseed)
  • Scrambling

Only one of the last eight winners have ranked outside the top 30 on the greens, with each of the previous three ranking inside the top 10. Therefore, those who have excelled on similar greens need to be respected.

With greens that rank as some of the toughest to find on tour, good scrambling numbers is a regular feature among contenders. The top 4 last year all ranked top 15 in scrambling and no winner since 2015 has ranked worse than 26th.

  • Par 5 Scoring

As mentioned, the limited scoring opportunities here come on the par 5s and players will need to take advantage of those holes when they come around.

CORRELATING EVENTS (COURSES)

Charles Schwab Challenge (Colonial Country Club)

The classic, tree-lined Colonial Country Club ranks very closely to the Copperhead Course in most ball-striking statistics, with the narrow, doglegging fairways and small greens both challenging to find. This has resulted in the Charles Schwab Challenge and Valspar Championship developing notable form-ties.

Notable correlating form:

Sam Burns:

Valspar (1st, 1st) / Charles Schwab Challenge (1st)

Jordan Spieth:

Valspar (1st) / Charles Schwab Challenge (1st)

Jim Furyk:

Valspar (1st, 2nd) / Charles Schwab Challenge (2nd, 4th)

Sean O’Hair:

Valspar (1st, 2nd) / Charles Schwab Challenge (2nd)

Adam Hadwin:

Valspar (1st) / Charles Schwab Challenge (5th, 8th)

John Senden:

Valspar (1st, 2nd, 2nd) / Charles Schwab Challenge (5th, 8th, 9th)

Jason Kokrak:

Valspar (2nd) / Charles Schwab Challenge (1st, 3rd)

Kevin Na:

Valspar (2nd) / Charles Schwab Challenge (1st)

Boo Weekley:

Valspar (2nd) / Charles Schwab Challenge (1st)

Adam Schenk:

Valspar (2nd) / Charles Schwab Challenge (2nd)

Davis Riley:

Valspar (2nd) / Charles Schwab Challenge (4th)

Scott Stallings:

Valspar (3rd) / Charles Schwab Challenge (4th, 4th)

Genesis Invitational (Riviera Country Club)

Riviera Country Club is another traditional tree-lined course of an almost identical length to the Copperhead Course. Its speedy greens are the third-toughest to find on tour (just behind this week’s event); part of a tee-to-green test that compares closely and includes an emphasis on quality with the long irons.

Notable correlating form:

Luke Donald:

Valspar (1st, 4th, 4th) / Genesis (2nd, 3rd)

Paul Casey:

Valspar (1st, 1st) / Genesis (2nd)

Sam Burns:

Valspar (1st, 1st) / Genesis (3rd)

Charl Schwartzel:

Valspar (1st) / Genesis (3rd, 5th)

Adam Hadwin:

Valspar (1st) / Genesis (4th, 6th)

Bill Haas:

Valspar (2nd) / Genesis (1st, 3rd)

Charles Howell III:

Valspar (2nd, 5th) / Genesis (1st)

Jason Kokrak:

Valspar (2nd) / Genesis (2nd)

Keegan Bradley:

Valspar (2nd) / Genesis (2nd, 4th)

Kevin Na:

Valspar (2nd) / Genesis (2nd, 3rd, 4th)

Ryan Moore:

Valspar (3rd, 5th) / Genesis (4th)

Sangmoon Bae

Valspar (2nd) / Genesis (8th, 8th, 12th)

Wells Fargo Championship (Quail Hollow Club)

Quail Hollow is a real ball-strikers course and possesses similar averages in driving accuracy and greens-in-regulation, with approach shots favouring those who excel with their long irons. Additionally, the speedy greens are close in size to this week and use the same poa trivialis overseed.

Notable correlating form:

Sean O’Hair:

Valspar (1st, 2nd) / Quail Hollow (1st)

Jim Furyk:

Valspar (1st, 2nd) / Quail Hollow (1st)

Vijay Singh:

Valspar (1st, 2nd) / Quail Hollow (1st)

Paul Casey:

Valspar (1st, 1st) / Quail Hollow (4th, 5th)

Gary Woodland:

Valspar (1st) / Quail Hollow (4th, 5th)

Kevin Streelman:

Valspar (1st) / Quail Hollow (6th, 9th)

Bill Haas:

Valspar (2nd) / Quail Hollow (4th, 4th)

Webb Simpson:

Valspar (2nd) / Quail Hollow (2nd, 4th)

Abraham Ancer:

Valspar (5th) / Quail Hollow (2nd)

Ryan Moore:

Valspar (3rd, 5th) / Quail Hollow (5th, 6th)

Arnold Palmer Invitational (Bay Hill)

A couple of fellow Floridian events now, starting with the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Its greens are the hardest to find on tour – one ahead of the Valspar – and it also possesses similar driving accuracy percentages. With proximity on approaches over 200 yards important, the ball-striking test there compares closely to this week.

Notable correlating form:

Vijay Singh:

Valspar (1st, 2nd) / API (1st)

Sean O’Hair:

Valspar (1st, 2nd) / API (2nd, 3rd)

John Senden:

Valspar (1st, 2nd, 2nd) / API (4th)

Gary Woodland:

Valspar (1st) / API (5th)

Adam Hadwin:

Valspar (1st) / API (6th)

Keegan Bradley:

Valspar (2nd) / API (2nd, 3rd)

Jason Kokrak:

Valspar (2nd) / API (4th, 6th, 8th)

Kevin Na:

Valspar (2nd) / API (2nd, 4th)

Troy Merritt:

Valspar (6th, 8th) / API (3rd)

Ryan Moore:

Valspar (3rd, 5th) / API (4th, 5th)

THE PLAYERS Championship (TPC Sawgrass)

I’m going to finish with last week’s PLAYERS Championship host, TPC Sawgrass. The agronomy there is much the same as this week, from the fairways to its small and quick greens. With similar ball-striking averages the two events have been able to develop plenty of crossover form.

Notable correlating form:

KJ Choi:

Valspar (1st, 2nd) / PLAYERS (1st)

Jim Furyk:

Valspar (1st) / PLAYERS (2nd, 2nd)

Kevin Streelman:

Valspar (1st) / PLAYERS (2nd

Charl Schwartzel:

Valspar (1st) / PLAYERS (2nd)

Paul Casey:

Valspar (1st, 1st) / PLAYERS (3rd, 5th)

Luke Donald:

Valspar (1st, 4th, 4th) / PLAYERS (2nd, 4th)

Webb Simpson:

Valspar (2nd) / PLAYERS (1st)

Kevin Na:

Valspar (2nd) / PLAYERS (3rd, 6th, 7th)

Heath Slocum:

Valspar (2nd) / PLAYERS (4th)

Keegan Bradley:

Valspar (2nd) / PLAYERS (5th, 7th)

THE FIELD

This week’s field is headed by two of the players who finished in 2nd behind Scottie Scheffler last week: #5 Xander Schauffele and #8 Brian Harman.

There are a further five players from inside the world’s top 25, including back-to-back winner in 2021/2022 and current world #19, Sam Burns.

Burns is one of seven former champions in attendance, joined by Taylor Moore (2023), Adam Hadwin (2017), Jordan Spieth (2015), Kevin Streelman (2013), Luke Donald (2012) and Gary Woodland (2011).

Min Woo Lee and Cameron Young represent the most high-profile duo of a long list of Valspar debutants; each of the five Q-School graduates for 2023 will also tee it up; and look out for current #6 amateur and local man, Nick Gabrelcik, who has finished inside the top 10 in each of his last seven starts on the collegiate scene.

SELECTIONS

Market leaders: Xander Schauffele 17/2, Jordan Spieth 14/1, Justin Thomas 14/1, Sam Burns 14/1, Cameron Young 22/1, Tony Finau 22/1

There’s a decent amount of quality at the top of the betting this week but all come with question marks over them, which were enough for me to steer clear.

The benefit of the top of the market being strong is that we get a fair bit of value elsewhere and despite missing the cut last week, former Valspar winner Adam Hadwin looks nicely priced to bounce back at the Copperhead Course.

1.25 pts Adam Hadwin each-way (1/5 - 8 places) - 45/1 

Prior to last week’s missed cut, Hadwin had been enjoying a positive start to 2024, recording two top 10s in his first seven starts. They came when finishing 6th in The AmEx and just three starts ago he was an excellent 4th in the Genesis Invitational; a result that came off the back of his previous missed cut, in the Phoenix Open.

The Canadian had been hitting the ball well before last week, gaining strokes in five of his six previous starts in approach and three out of six off-the-tee, therefore I’m happy to forgive him one poor display at TPC Sawgrass, a course that can so easily catch people out.

He is a steady all-rounder, combining his precision-based ball-striking game with a generally quality short game. This complete set of qualities is what has enabled him to forge a good record here; not only winning the event in 2017 but he has since recorded finishes of 12th in 2018 and 7th in 2022. Where he has continually looked good on these greens.

Hadwin’s profile is enhanced by an attractive book of correlating form, which includes finishes of 4th and 6th at Riviera; finishes of 5th and 8th at Colonial; along with further top 10s in Florida in the Arnold Palmer Invitational and PLAYERS Championship.

1 pt Sepp Straka each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 55/1

Sepp Straka had been largely underwhelming after making a promising start to the season when 12th in The Sentry. However, he returned to form with a top 20 at Sawgrass and looks a good price to follow up on that in the Valspar.

Straka followed that opening effort in Hawaii by missing three of his next five cuts and recorded a best of 26th at Pebble Beach. He continued to drive the ball well throughout this period, ranking 17th OTT over his last twenty rounds, but struggled for consistency in the rest of his game.

He suddenly found this consistency last week, firing rounds of 68-70-70-70 to finish 16th in THE PLAYERS Championship. This was a result engineered by an impressive tee-to-green display, ranking 10th and aided by further rankings of 2nd in scrambling and 5th in greens-in-regulation; a repeat of which would serve him well this week.

The big Austrian showed plenty of promise on his one-and-only try at the Copperhead Course, finishing 46th in 2019. A 5-under 66 there was enough to see him share the lead in round one and despite recording a pair of 76s over the next three, he again displayed his potential with a 69 in round three.

Straka’s ranking of 21st in proximity in approaches from 200-225 yards this season shows further that he has the long game to contend here and with his good record in THE PLAYERS – with his 16th this year added to a 9th in 2022 – acting as another indicator, he was an easy selection at the price.

1 pt Doug Ghim each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 55/1 

Former #1 amateur, Doug Ghim’s progress has been steady since making the jump to the pro ranks in 2018. However, signs this season suggest he may be ready to start fulfilling some of his immense potential and the Copperhead Course looks a great fit for him to record a first professional win.

Ghim is quite simply playing the best golf of his pro career currently. After missing the first two cuts of the season he has finished no worse than 16th in his last five starts, recording a top 10 when 8th in the Mexico Open and last week, he finished 16th in THE PLAYERS.

He has looked a strong tee-to-green player since making that step up and is again impressing in this area in 2024, ranking 11th on the PGA Tour; owing especially to the strength of his approach play, where he ranks 13th. Complimenting that with a strong scrambling game, ranking 13th and an accuracy-dependent driving game.

The reason he hasn’t hit the heights promised is that the putter has so often undone all of his good work. Though this has not been the case this season, seeing him ranking 32nd on the greens. When added to his T2G performances it makes him the 4th-best player in strokes-gained total on tour.

If able to bring that superb all-round play to a course where he finished 27th on his second try last year, and a place where his 6th and 16th-place finishes in THE PLAYERS should act as a positive indicator, Ghim can follow Taylor Moore in recording his first PGA Tour win in the Valspar Championship.

1 pt Taylor Moore each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 66/1

Speaking of Taylor Moore, I was taken aback by the defending champion’s price this week considering his solid form this year, and I’m taking him to replicate the achievements of Paul Casey and Sam Burns in successfully defending the Valspar Championship.

Moore didn’t suffer the usual post-win slump that many first-time winners do in 2023, following that victory with two further top 5 finishes when 4th in the Rocket Mortgage Classic and 5th in the St Jude Championship. Earning him a first trip to East Lake for the Tour Championship.

Though he hasn’t really threatened the top of the leaderboard in similar fashion so far in 2024, the Texan has caused reason for concern. He hasn’t missed a cut yet; has fired just six over-par rounds out of twenty-seven and comes into this week after a similarly commendable performance at Sawgrass to that which he produced last year, finishing 31st. Which should set him up well for his crack at a repeat success here.

He is hitting the ball well, ranking top 25 in GIR and gaining strokes overall both in approach and OTT. His long game credentials are improved by the quality he possesses with the long irons, ranking 36th in approaches over 200 yards last season and is a similar 42nd in that area this year.

That specific approach quality goes a long way to showing why Moore really took to the Copperhead Course last year, as he led the field in ball-striking to get the better of a star-studded group of challengers. With the putter looking improved as we’ve moved back to these bermuda-based greens in recent weeks, I think he can turn his stable 2024 performances so far into a contending display this week.

1 pt Mackenzie Hughes each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 100/1

Mackenzie Hughes is putting together an eye-catching run of results and with his often erratic ball-striking looking under more control over recent weeks, this proven winner looks a big price in Florida.

Hughes began the season with a 25th-place finish in The Sentry and has only missed one cut in his following six starts, in the Mexico Open. He has followed that with two encouraging results over his next two starts, finishing 30th at Bay Hill two weeks ago and produced his best strokes-gained performance of the year last week, finishing 26th at TPC Sawgrass.

Those last two performances have been a result of the Canadian finally finding something with his ball-striking. They are the first events since 2022 in which he’s gained strokes in approach/OTT in the same week, which when added to his typically excellent short game, resulted in him ranking 11th tee-to-green in THE PLAYERS.

Though he’s missed three of his four cuts in the event, he did show promise with a 13th-place finish in 2019. Whilst a top 10 at Colonial and several positive efforts at TPC Sawgrass and Riviera make me more optimistic.

Hughes has been unusually slow to get going on the greens this year, which is a slight concern. Having said that, the results he’s achieving without that normal asset show how much more controlled his long game is currently and if he can maintain that, whilst rediscovering form with the flat stick, he’d be a huge player this week.

Many ifs and buts, though as a proven winner and at a three-figure price, it looks a risk worth taking.

1 pt Lee Hodges each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 125/1

Lee Hodges has shown some positive signs over recent starts and if stepping it up again this week, he can make his price look big by Sunday evening.

Hodges has looked strong in approach all season but was struggling for results due to issues on the greens and lacking control with the driver.

He turned it all around in the Genesis Invitational, finishing 24th thanks to sacrificing some distance in favour of accuracy OTT, ranking 5th in driving accuracy and complimenting that with his best putting performance since last year’s 3M Open, ranking 12th.

Whilst he missed his next cut in the Cognizant Classic, where the putter and driver briefly went awry, he has rectified that and this time maintained it in his last two starts; ranking 7th in putting and 11th in driving accuracy when 12th in the Arnold Palmer Invitational and in last week’s PLAYERS Championship he ranked 13th in driving accuracy and 19th in putting, to see him to a 35th-place finish.

All of that has been achieved whilst remaining solid with his approach play and a repeat should see him to a best-yet display at the Copperhead Course.

Hodges has played here twice before, missing the cut in 2022 and finishing 63rd last year. Though on both occasions he arrived in worse form, especially with his approach play. Rock-solid efforts at Bay Hill, Riviera and Colonial give added reasons for optimism and suggest he is capable of going much better.

You can find all Jamie's latest Golf Betting Tips over on our dedicated golf Insights hub.

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