The PGA Tour returns to Florida this week for the Valspar Championship at the Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor. Charl Schwartzel of South Africa is the defending champion.
After last week’s thrilling WGC-Mexico Championship, a number of top players have made the journey to Florida for this event. Charl Schwartzel defends Valspar Championship honours, Henrik Stenson will be looking to bounce back from illness while Justin Thomas will be seeking a fourth victory of the 2016-17 PGA Tour wraparound season.
This tournament began life in 2000 as the Tampa Bay Classic. It’s also been known as the Chrysler Championship, the PODS Championship, the Transitions Championship and the Tampa Bay Championship. Three years ago, Valspar (a global provider of paints and industrial coatings) took over as title sponsor in a four-year agreement.
Over the seasons, the event has seen some notable champions: K.J. Choi, Retief Goosen, Mark Calcavecchia, Luke Donald and Jordan Spieth have all won here. Last year Charl Schwartzel won for the first time in the U.S. since his 2011 Masters victory. The South African caught Bill Haas on the back nine and then beat him on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff.
Luke Donald’s short game secrets:
Designed by Larry Packard and opened in 1974, the Copperhead course at Innisbrook has played host to a number of PGA Tour events through the years. In 1999 the layout was revamped to bring it in line with the modern game. The redesign was completed just in time for the 1999 JCPenney Classic, an event won by John Daly and Laura Davies.
Unusually for a West Coast Florida course, the track features some fairly significant changes in elevation – up to 80 feet. It has traditionally been one of the tougher courses visited by the PGA Tour.
The weather looks good until Sunday when rain could become a factor.
Venue: Copperhead Course, Innisbrook Resort, Palm Harbor, Florida
Date: Mar 9-12
Course stats: par 71, 7,340 yards
Purse: $6,300,000 Winner: $1,150,000
Defending Champion: Charl Schwartzel (-7)
Thursday 9– Sky Sports 4 from 7pm
Friday 10 – Sky Sports 4 from 7pm
Saturday 11 – Sky Sports 4 from 6pm
Sunday 12 – Sky Sports 4 from 6pm
Justin Thomas – He’s won three times this PGA Tour season and he played well last week in Mexico, finishing tied for fifth. He has two top-20 finishes on this course in the last two seasons.
Gary Woodland – A former winner of this event, back in 2011, Woodland was also tied for eighth at Copperhead in 2014. He was tied second in the Honda Classic two weeks ago.
Ryan Moore – He has finished in the top-5 in the last two Valspar Championships and his game is well suited to the tactical challenge presented by this courses. It’s a layout that requires the player to shape the ball.
Key hole: 16th. This 460-yard par-4 has ranked as the toughest hole on the course in each of the tournaments since 2010. Water is a factor all down the right hand side. The last three holes at Copperhead are known as “The Snake Pit.” Last year they averaged 0.6 shots over par.