If players showing up at the Innisbrook Resort for The Valspar Championship that tees of on Thursday morning are looking for some relief from the brutality they found at PGA National, and the Doral Blue Monster, they need to think again. The Copperhead Course in Palm Harbor, Florida near Tampa was rated as the most difficult par 71 layout on the PGA Tour in 2013 that wasn’t a major championship venue. It played a whopping 1.222 strokes over par, and with five par fives, leads the PGA in driving distance. The large greens that run from 11 to 12 on the Stimpmeter can provide some excitement after players get on the putting surface.
After browsing around the internet, and taking a look at some of the power rankings from the experts, I was surprised that 2013 Tampa Bay Champion, Kevin Streelman was not getting much love. Streelman won his first, and only PGA Tour event last year by firing a bogey-free 65-67 in the final two rounds, to beat Boo Weekly by two shots on Sunday afternoon.
Luke Donald, Matt Kuchar and Harris English seem to be drawing the most attention this seek with Jason Dufner, and Webb Simpson getting a few votes. Most Fantasy picks continue to avoid, 2013 US Open Champ, Justin Rose because of his lingering shoulder problems.
Justin has made all seven cuts in his appearances at Copperhead with one top ten finish, and four top 25’s. That’s not a history of success at this event, but maybe this is the week that 33 year-old Englishman shows up healthy, and ready to get in the game. I would keep an eye on him.
I personally like Matt Kuchar to pick up his first 2014 win this week. The Kuch has finished outside the top 15 just once since October. He’s also been inside the top 15 in each of his last three starts in Tampa, a stretch that includes a T-10 finish in 2012 after a Sunday 65. Five of Kuchar’s last eight rounds on the Copperhead Course have been 69 or lower.
Jordan Spieth is getting a lot of attention this week as well. The 2013 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year started his acquisition of a Tour card last year at Copperhead when a T 7 finish got him some sponsor exemptions which carried him into his home state of Texas. A final round 69 at Doral on Sunday could well power this youngster to a much-needed 2014 win.
My dark-horse pick this week is Louis Oosthuizen. I was surprised that I couldn’t find the 31 year-old South African on any of the power ranking charts. Oosthuizen suffered through some physical issues for the past year, but appears to have his game back on-track.
He didn’t fare well at Doral, but really, no one did. He finished T 40 at 7 over par. He did make it to the quarter-finals at The Accenture Match Play Championships last month, and picked up a win at The Volvo Championships in South Africa last month on The Sunshine Tour.
Louis Oosthuizen is currently ranked 34th in the Official World Golf Rankings, and is ranked 5th in The Race To Dubai.
Source: PGATour.com and The Golf Channel
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