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2024 PGA Tour Preview: Valspar Championship

The Valspar Championship is this week's stop for the PGA Tour, and the players will face one of the tougher tests they will face all season. Last year, Taylor Moore won his first career tournament after coming back from being three strokes behind early in the back nine and overtaking 54-hole leader Adam Schenk in the process. Moore's winning score of 10-under is fairly standard at the Valspar, as the winning total usually settles somewhere between seven-under and 13-under, but if the conditions are nasty, there could be a repeat of 2008, when Sean O'Hair won at 4-under.

Chris Gallagher and Everett Davidson contributed to this article.

The Course

Innisbrook's Copperhead Course plays host this week, and it has traditionally been one of the most challenging courses that the PGA Tour visits. Last season, it was rated as the seventh-toughest course on the PGA Tour schedule, and it was third out of the non-major venues (only Torrey Pines and Muirfield Village ranked tougher out of non-major venues). Hole 16 ranked as the ninth-toughest hole on the entire schedule last year, and it played .373 strokes over par; Hole 13 also ranked in the 50 toughest holes on the PGA Tour. Copperhead is a course that will force the players to take pars when they are given and try not to compound mistakes. On some holes, especially 16, bogey is a solid score, and the players will need to wrap their heads around that fact in order to be competitive.

The Field

Following his historic defense at the Players Championship on Sunday, Scottie Scheffler will not play in the Valspar this week. Despite this, headlined by world number five Xander Schaueffele, ten other players inside the top 30 of the Official World Golf Rankings are set to tee it up. This includes Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tony Finau, Brian Harman, Sam Burns, and Keegan Bradley. Both Patrick Cantlay and Cameron Young are also set to make their debuts at the championship. Meanwhile, Moore is looking to defend his crown. The 29-year-old carded a final round 67 a year ago to edge out Spieth, Schenk, and a leaderboard littered with star players for his first PGA Tour victory.

Chris' Valspar Picks

Favorite: Sam Burns

Burns is in solid form to begin the 2024 season, with four top-ten finishes in seven starts, including a T6 at The American Express and a T3 WM Phoenix Open. In the hunt heading into the weekend at THE PLAYERS Championship, the 27-year-old carded a disappointing final round 76. With a strong track record at the Valspar throughout his young career, the Louisianna native won back-to-back crowns at the event in 2021 and 2022. Furthermore, he also finished T6 a year ago. The leader in the field in Strokes Gained: Total per round at Copperhead, Burns has also excelled on the Bermudagrass greens. He has gained 1.68 shots per round. Currently listed at 12/1 odds, expect the 27-year-old to return to the winner's circle this week.

Favorite: Justin Thomas

Thomas has been searching for his win since the 2022 PGA Tour Championship. The Louisville, Kentucky native jumped out to a hot start to begin his 2024 season. He finished T3 at The American Express, T6 at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and T12 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. However, the two-time major champion has struggled lately, leading to a missed cut at THE PLAYERS Championship a week ago. Remaining one of the best iron players on the planet, he ranks sixth on Tour in Stroked Gained: Approach the Green (0.769). Nonetheless, his flat stick has continued to let him down, leading the 30-year-old to rank 149th in the world in Strokes Gained: Putting. With three top tens and two top 20 finishes to his name at the Valspar throughout his career, Thomas offers excellent value at 14/1 odds.

Sleeper: Nick Taylor

Beginning to soar up the Official World Golf Rankings list, Taylor is up to 24th in the world after starting the season as the 54th-ranked player. A winner at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, he edged out Charlie Hoffman on the second playoff hole to capture the victory for his first Tour win since the Canadian Open last June. Furthermore, the Winnipeg native also grabbed a T7 at the Sony Open in Hawaii and a T12 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. A strong ball striker, the 35-year-old is 18th on Tour in Stroked Gained: Total and 50th in scoring average (70.934). Moreover, he is also an excellent putter, allowing him to navigate the tricky Bermudagrass greens. Coming off a T10 finish at this event in 2023, Taylor is a proven winner who has shown he can perform on the big stage throughout his entire career.

Everett's Valspar Picks

Favorite: Jordan Spieth

Spieth is a former winner at Innisbrook, but he doesn't come in on the greatest form. Since a T6 finish at TPC Scottsdale in early February, Spieth has recorded a DQ, a T30 finish, and a missed cut. However, Spieth has traditionally played well at Innisbrook, as his five finishes outside of his win have been a T3, T7, T18, T20, and a missed cut, which came in 2018 during the midst of his downturn in form. Spieth hasn't won since the 2022 RBC Heritage, but he likes playing at Innisbrook, and the course fits his style of play, specifically his prowess on the greens and with his irons. Given Spieth's track record at the Valspar Championship, he will likely make the cut, and if he does, don't be surprised if he is in contention on Sunday for the second year in a row.

Favorite: Cameron Young

I'm taking Cameron Young to win his first PGA Tour event for the third straight week. His first win has to be coming at some point, so why not at Innisbrook? Young is coming off two mediocre performances at Bay Hill and TPC Sawgrass, where he made both cuts but finished outside the top-30 both times, but three weeks ago, he finished T4 at the Cognizant Classic as part of a run where he had three-straight top-16 finishes. Young has never played in the Valspar Championship before, but he played well on his first trip to other tournaments. Experience hasn't traditionally seemed to matter at Innisbrook as much as it seems to for other tournaments, either, as last year's winner, Taylor Moore, was making his second start in the tournament, and his only other start was a missed cut in 2022 if Young can make the weekend (which he should be able to, as he hasn't missed a cut this year), don't be surprised to see him in contention on Sunday.

Sleeper: Keegan Bradley

Bradley has enjoyed a bit of a career resurgence in the past few years, and it was partially kick-started by a second-place finish at this event in 2021 when he finished three strokes behind winner Sam Burns after beginning Sunday tied with Burns for the lead. Since then, Bradley has won twice, and he nearly won a third time earlier this year at the Sony Open in January, but he ended up falling to Grayson Murray in a playoff. Bradley hasn't been playing the greatest recently, and he is coming off a missed cut at the Players, but if his form over the last few years is anything to go by, he could easily come out of his slump this week and find himself in contention again.

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