US TOUR specialist Louis Ross (@LouisRoss67) bagged us a 70/1 place last week to continue his winning start to 2017. Here, he looks at the Valspar Championship.
Valspar Championship | 9th-12th March 2017 | Sky Sports
The PGA Tour broke new ground last week, not only taking a World Golf Championship to Mexico again, but also taking it to a challenging tree-lined beauty of a course that provided a competitive and exciting back nine on Sunday.
Dustin Johnson continued his imperious run of form whilst I continued to invest in him winning the first Major of the season next month. Yes, Augusta is just four weeks away and DJ is going to win it.
Tour heads back to Florida
It is back to Florida this week and the lovely Copperhead Course at the Innsbruck Resort in Palm Harbour, not far from Tampa on the windy west coast.
If you enjoyed last week, it’s more of the same really – just without the altitude and the massive advantage to those who hit it miles off the tee. Narrow tree-lined fairways and small greens mean this is a plotters course.
Copperhead is a par-71 of some 7,340 yards. Plenty of elevation changes and the aforementioned small targets make this a pretty difficult golf course. Ranking inside the top 10 of 52 courses most years, it is a true test of golf.
Unusually for a par-71, Copperhead features four par 5s and five par-3s. Water is in play on five holes and on most, par is a decent score.
Driving accuracy over length
Charl Schwartzel is the defending champion and the roll of honour features players that testify to the type of golfer that normally wins here. Jim Furyk, Luke Donald, John Senden and Kevin Streelman are all previous champions.
Without doubt this is a track that rewards driving accuracy over length. Greens that were relaid in 2015 were particularly slow last year but should have speeded up as they mature.
Who to back?
Choosing selections in this sort of tournament – shorn of the world’s best – is normally a combination of course and current form, allied with suitability of a golfers game.
The other factor I put great faith in is motivation. I am sure DJ was just that little bit better at Riviera because the right result would make him world number one for the first time.
Motivation is a primary ‘motivation’ for my first pick. See what I did there?
Billy Horschel (45/1 Paddy Power)
Billy Horschel has always been a player I am partial to and the number 72-ranked player on the planet needs a result this week.
A top-five finish should see him climb high enough to make it to the WGC World Matchplay where the top 64 players will tee off. A win will see him inside the top 50 – a place he needs to be if Augusta is going to be one of his appointments in April.
Billy Ho is in great form right now; fourth at the Honda Classic, this season he ranks first for Greens in Regulatio (a vital part of anyone’s game here), third in ball striking and 11th in total driving.
45/1 is a very fair price with Paddy Power paying out seven places.
Sean O’Hair (66/1 Bet365)
Another motivated man with good current form is Sean O’Hair. Just seven places below Horschel in the world golf rankings (OWGR), O’Hair likes Florida.
Two of his four tour titles have come in the Sunshine State including this one in 2008. Beaten in a play-off here in 2015 by a soon to be Major winning, Jordan Spieth. O’Hair has always been a quality ball striker and his relatively bad run up until around 12 months ago was mainly due to problems with the short stick.
Twenty-first in putting for the season is a telling statistic and 11th-place finishes at the Honda Classic and Sony Open in Hawaii have been performances that could have been so much better.
This guy has a big finish in him and he’s a very attractive each way proposition at 66/1 with Bet365.
Wesley Bryan (55/1 Stan James)
I have been wanting to get Wesley Bryan onside for a few weeks now and in a field of this standard – average, lets be honest – I think there’s a shade of value in him this week.
The rookie is coming off an excellent season on the Web.Com Tour where he excelled particularly on the putting surfaces he will find here. The Louisiana Open was won on Bermudagrass, a putting surface he grew up on and has been vocal about its suitability to his game.
In fact the best performance of his fledgling career was a fourth at the Honda Classic on Bermuda. That was following on from a fourth at Rivier.
What caught my eye in both performances was his ability to bounce back from dropping shots. For such a young player, I find him incredibly composed and annoyingly yet another of these hugely talented American kids who look like they have been playing for years. A huge prospect.
Finally I am going to find a way of backing Ryan Moore.
I am hesitant about taking him on at 25/1 as the guy just doesn’t win often enough. Moore is however in good form, particularly with the putter.
Third in putting average last week in greens where the winner missed seven putts inside 10 feet was eye catching. Course form is excellent too – fifth and third in the last two years as well as eighth on debut in 2007.
I’m still not sure I can take him on to close out a tournament like this though. However, I think he’s solid place material so rather than each-way at 25/1, let’s go with the better value of a Top 5 Finish at 15/2 with Betfred.
Moore is a very good bet to be somewhere on that leaderboard on Sunday night.
Valspar Championship – Billy Horschel (45/1 each-way Paddy Power)
Valspar Championship – Sean O’Hair (66/1 each-way Bet365)
Valspar Championship – Wesley Bryan (55/1 each-way Stan James)
Valspar Championship – Ryan Moore top-five finish (15/1 Betfred)