One week after we were all over the winning duo of Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, the PGA Tour heads to Palm Harbor, Fla., for the Valspar Championship.
The demanding Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club will punish wayward shots, making premium ball striking even more paramount than usual this week.
The closing stretch from 15-17 is known as the ‘snake pit,’ requiring precision and accuracy to close out a strong round. A massive birdie fest rarely happens at this track, with six of the last seven champions shooting no better than 10-under-par for the week.
Close battles are expected at this tournament, with 11 of the last 13 champions winning via a playoff or by just one stroke. The other two instances resulted in slim two-shot margins.
Justin Thomas heads the list of competitors, and he’s one of just four players in the top-10 of the world rankings competing.
Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed and Tyrrell Hatton are the other three competing.
There was no tournament last year because of COVID-19, meaning Paul Casey is the two-time defending champion.
There are a whopping seven Canadians teeing it up, with Corey Conners considered a strong +1800 contender to emerge victorious following a string of fantastic play.
Adam Hadwin, the 2017 Valspar Championship winner, has the next best chance of winning in the eyes of oddsmakers at +6600.
The remaining five Canadians are all considered long shots to lift the trophy come Sunday.
Mackenzie Hughes sports +15000 odds, with Nick Taylor and Roger Sloan both at +17500.
David Hearn (+40000) and Michael Gligic (+50000) are super long shots to record their first triumph on the PGA Tour.
Here's our first look at the field for the Valspar Championship.
Betting Odds To Win 2021 Valspar Championship – Top 15
Justin Thomas +1000
Dustin Johnson +1100
Corey Conners +1800
Patrick Reed +1800
Viktor Hovland +2000
Paul Casey +2200
Sungjae Im +2500
Abraham Ancer + 2800
Tyrrell Hatton +2800
Scottie Scheffler + 2800
Louis Oosthuizen +3000
Russell Henley +3000
Jason Kokrak +3300
Joaquin Niemann +3500
Justin Rose +4000
Conners poised for second PGA Tour victory
In his last five stroke play events, Corey Conners has done everything but win.
His tournament finishes during that time are as follows – third, seventh, T-14th, T-8th and a tie for fourth.
The 2019 Valero Texas Open champion is known as a ball striking savant, and he’s shown that this season as he’s sixth in greens in regulation and ninth in strokes gained tee-to-green.
In the previous couple of seasons he’s been let down by an extremely balky putter.
Though he’s still not upper echelon on the dance floor, he’s a respectable 68th in strokes gained putting after being 181st in each of the last two campaigns.
Over the course of the last 36 rounds this season, he’s first in total strokes gained, tee-to-green and ball striking.
His putting hasn’t let him down as much as it has in the past, as he ranks 32nd during that span.
In his only career appearance at the Valspar Championship, Conners held the 54-hole lead back in 2018, before a tough Sunday in his first real chance to win a PGA Tour event dropped him to a tie for 16th.
In a perfect world, his odds wouldn’t be as low as +1800, but you’re still getting more value than Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson on a golfer who’s red-hot.
Past Five Winners of the Valspar Championship
2019 Paul Casey -8 (1 shot win)
2018 Paul Casey -10 (1 shot win)
2017 Adam Hadwin -14 (1 shot win)
2016 Charl Schwartzel -7 (playoff)
2015 Jordan Spieth -10 (playoff)
FORE YOUR INFORMATION
Jason Kokrak +3300
Before his middling 49th-place showing at the Masters, Jason Kokrak had put together three excellent stroke play events.
He was T-8th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and had a pair of T-9’s at the Players Championship and the WGC-Workday Championship.
Kokrak very nearly walked away with the title the last time this tournament was contested in 2019, falling short by just a single stroke en route to a T-2 behind champion Paul Casey.
In 2015 and 2018, he’s had success at this difficult track, posting T-7 and T-8 showings.
In the last 24 rounds at this venue, Kokrak, who was born in North Bay, Ont., but competes as an American, is first in strokes gained tee-to-green.
After waiting for his breakthrough victory, he got it earlier this season at the CJ Cup at Shadow Creek.
Given his previous record around the Copperhead Course, Kokrak might walk away with his second title of the campaign.
Justin Rose +4000
Justin Rose has returned to form following injuries and an equipment change.
At the Masters, he blitzed the field in the first round, shooting a scintillating 7-under-65 to take an early four-stroke edge.
He ended up finishing seventh that week, and last time out was T-11th pairing with Henrik Stenson at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
In his career, the 2013 U.S. Open winner has racked up five top-15 finishes at the Valspar, including a T-5 in his most recent outing in 2018.
In the last 24 rounds at this championship, he’s first in total strokes gained and second in SG: tee-to-green.
Not only has he had two straight solid events, he also was tied for second at the European Tour’s Saudi International just five starts ago.
He might not get the accolades or command as much interest, but at +4000 odds Rose is a golfer that should be on your radar this week.
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