After last week’s crown jewel of the PGA Tour schedule, the Players Championship, the Florida swing goes out with a bit of a whimper at the Valspar Championship.
Only nine of the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking will be present and just one from the top 10.
It’s hard to blame the big names for eschewing this event. It’s not so much to do with the tournament itself, but its unenviable slot on the schedule.
There were two consecutive events prior at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Players. Next week, there’s the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, and in three weeks is the Masters.
Guys need to rest.
While this event lacks star power, it will look to follow in the footsteps of the Honda Classic, for example. It still had a few notable names and provided good storylines with a 34-year-old like Eric Cole battling a veteran like Chris Kirk who was looking for his first win in several years.
The Valspar Championship began in 2000 as the Tampa Bay Classic.
The PGA Tour has had a history in the Tampa area since the ’70s.
It has remained at the Copperhead course at Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club in Palm Harbor, Florida, near Tampa.
The Copperhead course is a tough, but fair test of golf that draws praise in player surveys as one of their favorites on the schedule. The Larry Packard design opened in 1970.
Packard is not among the likes of MacKenzie, Ross, etc., but he has a gem with the Copperhead course. Packard designed the three other courses on property, as well as over 350 over 50 years. Most were in the Chicago area and midwest.
Copperhead has noticeable elevation changes, particularly for a Florida course. There are doglegs all over the place, as well as plenty of bunkers, water, and other hazards to make driving accuracy a premium and driving distance a risky endeavor at times.
The weather forecast projects for mostly dry, warm conditions with a chance for thunderstorms around Saturday. It looks like it’ll be breezy with double-digit mile-per-hour winds throughout much of the tournament.
Let’s get down to determining who will be the last stroke play champion on the PGA Tour in March.
If you plan to put any of your hard-earned cash on Brian Harman, maybe wait to see if he makes the cut first.
When Harman plays the weekend at the Valspar Championship, he tends to finish highly. In three made cuts in eight starts, he’s taken T-14th in 2013 (67-70-72-71), T-25th in 2014 (71-70-73-71), and T-5th (67-67-68-68) in 2022.
Harman was in contention from Thursday through Sunday last year and finished just three shots out of a playoff.
As a shorter hitter nearing his 40s at age 36, you know Harman is hungry to get back into the winner’s circle while he still can. He hasn’t won since his second career PGA Tour title at the 2017 Wells Fargo Championship.
Harman’s come close in recent years and has played well to be a steady top 50 player in the world.
He’s already got a couple runner-up finishes in the 2022-23 season, coming in back-to-back starts at the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba and on home turf at the RSM Classic.
The former Georgia Bulldog shook off a couple of missed cuts in recent weeks by taking T-44th last week at the Players Championship.
Harman ranks 20th on the PGA Tour in strokes gained off-the-tee per round (.488), which is a testament to his laser-like accuracy considering he’s 138th in driving distance (293.1).
He’s sixth in fairway percentage (68.18%).
Bombing it at Innisbrook is not a prerequisite, which is why I like Harman to record his second straight top 10 at this event.