Wednesday, March 8, 2017

What To Look For: Valspar Championship

This week the Tour heads to Tampa for the Valspar Championship at the Innisbrook Resort. The event is growing in popularity because in general the players like the course and many have played it in junior and college golf. The issue is that it struggles to draw the stars now with the WGC event in Mexico the week before.

Innisbrook holds special for me as a few years ago when I did my first interview with Matt Adams on his Fairway of Life radio show, I predicted that Kevin Streelman would win the event. That may not seem like much, but at that time Streelman had never won a pro tournament of any kind and was a 200/1 long shot (meaning if you put $10 on him to win, you would get $2,000 for winning).

The pros like the course because it’s fair, it doesn’t overly favor bombers nor does it favor short, but very accurate hitters of the ball. It also features four par-5’s which is a little refreshing givne that they only play two par-5’s at PGA National, 3 at Riviera and then you get the unusual schedules of Pebble Beach. Innisbrook is in Palm Harbor which is actually northwest of Tampa, so the traffic is a little more relaxed to the player’s liking.

Tampa remains one of my favorite cities in the country with plenty of beaches and people with a very laid back view on life in the St. Pete, Clearwater and Rocky Point sections of town. There’s plenty of good food, old fashioned southern, Cuban tradition combined with post-modern city life to experience. Some of my favorite places to eat are Kojak’s House of Ribs in South Tampa, Bella’s Italian CafĂ© in Hyde Park and the Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City (pronounced eee-bore). There’s also Whiskey Joe’s in Rocky Point as a good hangout place right off the beach.

The Par-5’s end up being the big part of the story here. In fact, the last Critical Hole on the course is the par-5 14th hole. The course hasn’t recorded a lot of low scores recently often due to the wind picking up in The FLA this time of year and we can still have some very damp and cool mornings. The wind has been blowing quite hard in Florida recently and that has been causing a lot of brush fires, so I expect the scoring to stay high.

Projected Winning Score: -8


Justin Thomas +1,000
Gary Woodland +2,500
Patrick Reed +3,000
Graham DeLaet +4,000
Bubba Watson +4,000


Martin Laird +6,600
Russell Henley +6,600
Charley Hoffmann +8,000
Tony Finau +8,000
Harold Varner +20,000


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