Valspar Champs guide
A preview and best bets for this week's PGA Tour event - the Valspar Championship in Florida
By Dave Tindall Twitter: @DaveTindallgolf. Last Updated: 11/03/14 6:03pm
The view from the first tee at the Copperhead course
Mention of the Valspar Championship will caused furrowed brows and blank looks amongst PGA Tour fans.
But the lightbulbs of recognition flash on when we realise that this is the Florida event played at the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club in Palm Harbor.
Valspar (an international manufacturer of paint and coatings for those interested) is the latest sponsor for a tournament whose previous guises include the Tampa Bay Classic (2000-2), the Chrysler Championship (2003-2006), the PODS Championship (2007-8), the Transitions Championship (2009-2012) and the Tampa Bay Championship (2013).
This event has occupied an Autumn slot in the past but since 2007 it's been played in March.
As usual, Sky Sports will have coverage of all four days, with the first live transmission at 7pm on Thursday (SS4).
Beware of the 'Snake Pit'
Unusually, the Copperhead course features five par threes, but the regular quota of four par fives means it plays as a par 71. It measures 7,340 yards from the tips while it also has its own finish named after an animal. So, following the Bear Trap at the Honda Classic two weeks ago, this week we have the Snake Pit (holes 16, 17 and 18). Play this trio under par and you'll be picking up over a shot on the field. With its tree-lined fairways and undulating terrain, it's something of a contrast to the usual flat courses on the Florida Swing.
When played in the autumn (2003-2006) all four winners were from overseas - South African Retief Goosen, Fiji's Vijay Singh, Swede Carl Pettersson and South Korean KJ Choi. Since the tournament switched to its current March slot, it's witnessed five home American winners out of seven. The champions and winning scores read: 2007 Mark Calcavecchia (-10), 2008 Sean O'Hair (-4), 2009 Retief Goosen (-8), 2010 Jim Furyk (-13), 2011 Gary Woodland (-15), 2012 Luke Donald (-13), 2013 Kevin Streelman (2010). Two of the last three - Woodland and Streelman - were winning for the first time on Tour when they triumphed here.
The leading contenders - and Sky Bet odds
Harris English (16/1): The 24-year-old American continues to operate at a high level week in, week out and ranked third in greens in regulation when 16th at the Cadillac Championship. Before that he'd finished in the top 10 in three of his previous four strokeplay events. English, who captured his first PGA Tour win back in November, also has some good course form having finished seventh here last year.
Jordan Spieth (16/1): Unusually for Spieth he'll be turning up at a course he knows this week. Twelve months ago when still under the radar to most viewers he finished seventh in this event and he hasn't looked back since. Now Spieth sits 13th in the world with major winners such as Graeme McDowell, Charl Schwartzel and Jason Dufner all beneath him. The 20-year-old from Texas was 34th at Doral last week.
Luke Donald (20/1): The Englishman had a horror 82 in Friday's brutal conditions at Doral last week although he recovered on the weekend to shoot 72-69 and finished tied 25th. Prior to that he'd finished eighth in the Honda Classic so his general form is decent. The most compelling pointer to his chances this week is course form as in his last three visits he's finished sixth in 2010, won the event in 2012 and recorded a fourth when defending in 2013.
Luke Donald: Won here in 2012
Matt Kuchar (20/1): On paper, three closing 74s at Doral doesn't look great, but Kuchar was right in the mix for much of the last week's Cadillac Championship before the bogeys caught up with him. He's been remarkably consistent in this event with five finishes between 9th and 20th in his six appearances so it's hard to imagine that he won't be fairly prominent on the leaderboard again.
Justin Rose (22/1): Injury means Rose is severely under-golfed in 2014 but there were some decent signs in his 34th at last week's Cadillac Championship. In his only other two starts this year he made the second round of the Accenture Match Play and was 45th at Riviera. Rose has never finished outside the top 30 in seven appearances in this event - his best a fifth place in 2011.
Jason Dufner (25/1): The USPGA champion went out in the final group on Sunday last week but an eventual finish of tied ninth following a closing 76 was disappointing. Like several of the market leaders here he's got impressively consistent form in this event with his last five starts producing finishes of 21st, 10th 28th, 28th and 17th. One other stat worth noting, though, is that he's never posted a top five in Florida in the last five years.
Paul Casey is showing some very encouraging signs of a big return to form and is well worth a bet at 60/1.
Casey has the lure of a Ryder Cup at Gleneagles (a venue where he's won twice) pulling him along and in his last two starts he's finished ninth in the Dubai Desert Classic and 12th in the Honda Classic where he closed 68-69-67.
Paul Casey: Looks a good get
As for this week's track, it's one he likes.
On his last but one start here in 2011, Casey shot a seven-under 64 to take the first round lead.
He said back then: "It's nice to be back here at a golf course that I really like. A bit of a ball-striker's golf course, so I thought it would suit my game."
Overall, in three starts at this venue, he's been in the top five at the halfway mark twice so if he can keep it going (the weekend forecast points to easier conditions) this could be a big week for the Englishman.
Next, it's hard to ignore the claims of joint favourite Harris English.
Referring back to Casey's ball-striking quote, English is ranked third in that category on the 2014 stats and when you add in his current form and course form he becomes an enticing prospect.
With the likes of Jimmy Walker and Patrick Reed racking up multiple wins in recent months, English will feel he can do the same and add to this recent trend.
Go win only at 16s.
Down at 40/1, it could be worth giving Brandt Snedeker a chance.
He was the hottest player on the planet in the early part of 2013 so it's worth remembering he's capable of some great highs despite a sticky start to the current campaign.
There were some decent signs before he faded to 46th at Doral last week and he believes his game is close.
On this track he was fourth in 2011 and eighth in 2008 so if he can heat that putter up (it's normally one of his big strengths) he could get right in the mix.
Finally, in its short life as a PGA Tour event (it debuted in 2000), this tournament has already produced two repeat winners (KJ Choi in 2002 and 2006 and Retief Goosen in 2003 and 2009).
It suggests there are certain horses for this course and Luke Donald is a very obvious one.
The Ryder Cup star has course form of 4-1-6 and looks to be coming to the boil nicely in recent weeks.
Donald has been making swing changes but said after a closing 69 at Doral: "I'm hitting a lot of shots that I'm really excited about. The last two weeks, my short game has been great, too and making some putts and getting up‑and‑down, that's obviously good for scoring as well. It's nice to have all parts come together."
In his last 12 starts in Florida, Luke has picked up two wins and six other top 10s so his record in the Sunshine State really is outstanding.
1pt e.w. Paul Casey at 60/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
1pt e.w. Brandt Snedeker at 40/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
3pts win Harris English at 16/1
2pts e.w. Luke Donald at 20/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)