Valspar Championship preview with Skeeter McGillicuddy
Round three of the Florida swing where to be frank the place is at it’s best. Florida that is. The Copperhead course is a tree-lined undulating par 71 of around 7300 yards. I say 7300 but you’ll notice that these courses vary considerably in length day to day throughout a PGA Tour event depending on the prevailing conditions and to some extent the scoring day to day.
While a par 71 the course does have 4 par fives and as we know these are always where a score is made – irrespective of the fact that the 5th averaged over par last year.
Amen Corner, The Bear Trap and now The Snake Pit, a paean to marketing the final 3 at Copperhead do present a challenge being a par 4-3-4 combination.
The profile of a winner? Gary Woodland won in 2011 but prior to Woodland and since then the winners are not known for their power hitting. I refer to Donald, Streelman, Senden and Speith.
I can’t have any of these though Streelman is coming into some tee to green form and Speith is Speith.
Spieth’s win last year and world ranking aside he seems strangely out of form – in all departments. Normally his freakish putting masks a less than stellar tee to green game (for a World number one) and its testimony to his competitiveness that despite being out of sorts he managed a 17th place at the Cadillac last week.
We write off Speith at our peril but that opens up the field.
First up Harris English. We identified English as a man coming into form a few weeks back and a 3rd and a 10th place since has vindicated this to an extent. Here he has 2 top 10’s in 4 starts including a 10th last year and half his 14 rounds here have been under 70. As alluded to weeks back our faith rests in his putting and on that front he has come to the fore with post Sony Open strokes gained putting figures right up there.
Justin Thomas. Thomas had an amusing exchange with his old mucker Speith last week with the challenge that the loser shaved their head (which Speith declined) and some curious dynamics unfolded. Both of them struggled. A similar thing happened with Rory and Dustbin. Rory struggled and you couldn’t help but wonder if Dustbin’s extraordinarily bad round didn’t contribute. Partly on this basis I’m going to ignore Thomas’s limp finish last week. That and fact he putted well last week, is 6th in the Fed Ex race and has 11 top 10’s from 51 PGA Tour event starts.
Ryan Moore. Back from a 2 week break and coming off a 10th at Riviera, Moore posted his 2nd top 10 at this event with a 5th place last year. Three top 10’s from just 6 events this season including 16 rounds in the 60’s (from 23), Moore looks well placed to deliver.