The 2019 Valspar Championship (21-25 March) will be just the sixth edition of a tournament which is held on the Par-71 Copperhead Course at the Innsbruck Resort, Palm Harbor, Florida. However, the course has hosted similar tournaments under a variety of names since 2000.
The course measures just over 7,300 yards and water features on a variety of holes. Undulating tree-lined fairways, many of which are dog-legs, also provide a stern test. The greens, which were made bigger during the 2015 restoration, normally run at around 11 on the stimpmeter.
However, what players fear most about the Copperhead Course are the final three holes which are famously known as the Snake Pit.
The sixteenth is a 475-yard par-4 known as The Moccasin and it features water all the way down the right-hand side. That’s followed by the 215-yard par-3 seventeenth which is known as The Rattler. Players then need to try and avoid the bunkers on both sides of the eighteenth fairway. The final green is also the most treacherous on the course and it slopes violently from back to front.
This year, the tournament follows The Players Championship in the PGA Tour schedule. But, despite that meaning that many of the big names that played at Sawgrass last week have opted to give the event a miss, the sponsors have still managed to attract world number one Dustin Johnson. The only other players ranked in the top-20 are John Rahm, Tommy Fleetwood, Jason Day, Paul Casey, and Patrick Reed.
Joint-fifth last week for Johnson was his best performance yet at Sawgrass, which shows that he is playing well enough to win anywhere. Despite that, as he missed the cut here on both his previous visits in 2008 and 2010, it’s hard to get enthusiastic about his single-figure price as he’s also not played here for eight years.
It also remains to be seen whether tournament debutants Rahm or Fleetwood can pick themselves up from the disappointment of failing to win last week, having gone out together in the final pairing on Sunday.
Jason Day also had a poor final round at Sawgrass, failing to hole any putts on his way to finishing eighth. His best finish in six previous appearances at the course is twentieth and he returns after a four-year absence.
It is possible to make a case for backing Casey or Reed this week. Casey is the defending champion after winning the 2018 edition, whilst Reed has finished runner-up twice in the last four years. But, after both missed the cut last week, they’re prices are hardly exciting.
That means this could be a week to give Sergio Garcia another chance to claim his first title of the year. He wasn’t quite at his best last week but still posted another highly-respectable performance at Sawgrass in finishing twenty-second. He’s also put together a run of solid performances here on his last four visits, finishing 15/16/7/4. Last year’s fourth place was also his first visit for four-years and it looks significant that he returns in a field lacking plenty of the world’s best players.
It could also be worth hoping that the disappointment of not winning The Players last week hasn’t got to Jim Furyk. Up until a few weeks ago, it looked like Furyk was simply biding his time until he reached 50 and could head to the Seniors Tour. However, his second-place last week followed finishes of 14/27/9 on tour and this is another venue where he’s shone at in the past. He was the winner in 2010 and runner-up in 2012. He also finished seventh in 2013 before occupying the position last year, which was his third-best performance of the season.
Another player that put up one of his top-three performances last season at this event was Jason Kokrak and the world number ninety is having a much more consistent year this year. He’s had two top-10’s here in his last four visits, whilst he’s also had two top-10’s in his last three tournaments. Last week’s forty-seventh place was about par for him on a course that doesn’t suit his game and he could be a value bet to bounce back at a course that obviously does.
One player that did catch the eye last week was Ryan Moore who, after starting with a round of 67, blew his chances with a second round 74. However, he rallied over the weekend, posting two rounds of 69 to finish in a tie for twentieth. He looks to be trending nicely towards playing well at next month’s US Masters and, after posting two top-5’s here in the last four years, this could be the week to catch him.