Odds provided by BetMGM sportsbook.
Five of the world’s top 10 players are in the field this week and two of them have more than just victory in their sights.
That’s because Collin Morikawa and Viktor Hovland can overhaul World No. 1 Jon Rahm with the right result and, in so doing, they would become the first player to top the rankings who had been born after Tiger Woods turned pro.
The difficulty for them might be that this has not been a tournament that has traditionally favored the best players in the world.
On the other hand, Hovland might be encouraged that 12 of the 20 winners have been International golfers, most recently Englishman Paul Casey who won back-to-back in 2018 and 2019, but who had to withdraw at the start of the week after playing very well last week at TPC Sawgrass.
The tournament has been played on this track every year since 2000 with the exception of 2020 when it was canceled because of the Covid lockdown.
It is a par-71 at 7,340-yards but it is an unusual one because it has four par-5s and five par-3s.
You might therefore think that the short holes are rather more important than in a normal week but, in reality, it has proven to be the long holes that sort the wheat from the chaff.
In fact, six of the last seven winners ranked top three on the par-5s.
Why is this so? Well, it’s because the rest of the course is quite tricky. Driving has to be quite conservative and approach shots need to find quite small, slopey greens.
On those holes, the field is trying to avoid making bogey rather than hunting birdie.
Then, when they hit the four long holes, that’s when the par-breaking opportunities arise.
Gary Woodland knows exactly what it takes to win this event.
Back in 2011, he lifted the trophy here, his first on the PGA Tour, and since then he has added another three victories including the 2019 US Open.
That latter victory came at Pebble Beach which doesn’t share a lot in common with Innisbrook except that both feature elevation changes and undulating fairways – an important consideration, in fact.
Woodland missed the cut last week at TPC Sawgrass but that was not a massive surprise because the two previous weeks he had finished fifth in the Honda Classic and Arnold Palmer Invitational – both exhausting weeks.
So, all in all, having the weekend off was probably no bad thing, especially given that he’s been in good form and in the second of those top-fives he was superb on the par-5s which we’ve already learned is a key element of success this week.
Henrik Stenson once said of this course that long-irons are key, either from the tee or into the greens and it is something Woodland was told before he even won here on that debut 11 years ago.
“My coach Randy really wanted me to come,” he said. “He said it was a great fit for me because I hit a good 2-iron.”
Take the hint and back him each way in the outright at +4500 with Caesars Sportsbook which crucially pays out eight places.
Keegan Bradley loves a Thursday at Innisbrook.
He made his first visit in 2011, missed the cut, and didn’t return for another five years.
Then, in 2016, he shared the first-round lead. A year later he was tied sixth after 18 holes, the following year tied fifth, and then, in 2019, he was tied sixth again.
Last year he was the solo pace-setter with a 64 and he kept hold of that lead right until late in the week when Sam Burns overtook him and pushed him into second.
That alone might not be enough for another stab at a fast start, but Bradley should be motivated because last week he landed a two-shot penalty on Friday in the most unlikely circumstances when his ball was blown away on the wind when he was marking it.
He felt pretty sore about it at the time and even more so when he ended the week tied fifth, wondering what might have happened had he been closer to the lead.
That could further fuel his determination and another low round is not out the question.
Take him in the First Round Leader market with Unibet paying six places and an industry best price of +5000.
South Africans have enjoyed this course through the years.
Retief Goosen was a two-time victor and Charl Schwartzel also triumphed here.
Louis Oosthuizen is yet to win anywhere in the States, but he’s come mighty close on this course in his last four appearances.
He was seventh in 2016, T16th in 2018, second in 2019, and eighth (after a terrible start) last year.
He’s also in very consistent form and missed just one cut anywhere in the world since the middle of 2020!
DraftKings has paired him with Jason Kokrak this week and the numbers favor Oosthuizen.
He leads the head-to-head count 4-3 in the tournament and, more importantly, 11-3 since the start of 2021.
Take the -125 that he repeats the dose.
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|Tournament||The Valspar Championship|
|Location||The Copperhead Course, Innisbrook, Florida|
|Time||Thursday March 17 – Sunday March 20|
|How to watch||Thursday 2-6pm ET (Golf Channel), Friday 2-6pm ET (Golf Channel), Saturday & Sunday 1-3pm ET (Golf Channel) then 3-6pm ET (NBC). And all four days on Sky Sports.|
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Matt Cooper has been a sports journalist since 2009 with his work appearing at ESPN, Sky Sports, NBC, Sporting Life and the Planet Sport Network among many others, in addition to guest appearances on the BBC and CNN. Although a specialist in golf, who has traveled the world to cover the sport, Matt has also covered rugby, cricket, football and the Olympics. Email: [email protected]More info on Matt Cooper
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