After a week at high altitude in Mexico City, the PGA Tour comes back to sea level to resume the Florida Swing at the Valspar Championship.
This event, which moved to its current spring spot in 2007, is played at Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead Course in Palm Harbor, Fla. This course, which underwent a major overhaul of greens and fairways prior to last year’s edition, is tree-lined with several doglegs and elevation changes. The Copperhead places a premium on position off the tee and players will need to have their long irons dialed in, as well.
This course is one of the tougher ones on Tour and the “Snake Pit,” aka hole Nos. 16-18, is a big reason for that.
Here are Golfweek writer Brentley Romine’s top 25 players for this week’s tournament:
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1. Henrik Stenson: T-11 and fourth the last two years at Innisbrook. He did WD from Mexico after 11 holes, but that was because of a stomach virus. He should be good to go this week.
2. Justin Thomas: T-18 and T-10 in two starts here and played well in Mexico (T-5).
3. Matt Kuchar: Three top-15 finishes and no MCs in last five starts at Valspar. T-20 in Mexico.
4. Gary Woodland: Past champion (2011) and playing some good golf. Aside from MC in Phoenix, Woodland’s T-38 in Mexico was his worst finish on Tour since last fall’s WGC-HSBC Champions. Woodland has four top-6 finishes, including two seconds, during that stretch.
5. Jason Dufner: T-28 or better in last eight starts here, and has also hit the top 25 in each of his last three Tour starts. Good one-and-done option this week.
6. Bill Haas: Last year’s Valspar runner-up was T-14 in 2014. His T-32 finish in Mexico snapped a streak of six straight top 20s to begin this season on Tour.
7. Daniel Berger: T-11 last year at Innisbrook and coming off T-16 showing in Mexico.
8. Charles Howell III: Seven of eight weekends here with four top 10s during that span, including T-5 last year. Had finished in the top 15 for seven straight Tour starts before T-52 at Riviera.
9. Patrick Reed: Runner-up to Jordan Spieth at the 2015 Valspar and followed that up with a T-7 showing last year. Hasn’t been in top form as of late but still hasn’t missed a cut since last year’s U.S. Open. T-61 in Mexico.
10. Ryan Moore: Third and fifth the last two years at Innisbrook, and looked better in Mexico (T-28) after MC at Riviera.
11. Kevin Na: Seven straight made cuts at Valspar, including T-22, T-10 and second the last three years. T-52 in Mexico was disappointing but before that Na had gone T-4 and T-16, at Riviera and TPC Scottsdale, respectively. Another good one-and-done option this week.
12. Luke Donald: Knows this course as evidenced by four top-6 finishes, including a win (2012), since 2010. T-22 last year at Valspar, and T-27 or better in last three Tour events. Possible one-and-done pick this week.
13. Charl Schwartzel: His first Valspar start since MC in 2012 resulted in victory last year. Still, the defending champ has missed the cut in his last two full-field Tour starts and was T-38 in Mexico.
14. Jim Furyk: Hasn’t finished better than T-39 in three starts so far in 2017, but he knows this course. In his last seven starts at the Valspar, Furyk has no MCs, three top 10s and a victory.
15. Graham DeLaet: His last three Valspar starts? T-5, T-8 and T-17 The Canadian has also been T-17 or better in his last three starts on Tour, including top 10s at Honda and Phoenix.
16. Wes Bryan: Two straight T-4 finishes on Tour and building momentum.
17. Sean O’Hair: T-2 at 2015 Valspar is by far his best finish here since he won it in 2008, but he has finished T-11 or better in four of his last eight Tour starts.
18. Byeong Hun An: Has made all three of his cuts this season on Tour, but was T-48 in Mexico.
19. Scott Brown: T-7 last year at Valspar and has made eight straight cuts on Tour.
20. Russell Knox: Two straight missed cuts before poor showing in Mexico (70th). Has made three straight cuts here at Innisbrook, but nothing better than T-25.
21. Ollie Schniederjans: Played this event in 2015 and missed the cut, but he enters this week having made seven straight cuts on Tour with three top 10s during that span.
22. Harris English: Top 10s in two of his last four trips here, though did MC last year. Hasn’t finished better than T-57, though, in last three Tour starts.
23. Scott Piercy: T-5 here back in 2012 but hasn’t played this event since MC in 2013. His current form is lacking as he’s failed to finish better than T-41 in his last five Tour starts.
24. Martin Laird: Three top 10s in last five Tour starts, which makes him intriguing despite average Valspar record.
25. Billy Horschel: Hasn’t played here since 2013 when he was T-56, but looked to have found something at Honda, where he was T-4.
OTHERS CONSIDERED (NEXT FIVE)
Tony Finau: Missed cut last year at Valspar and has missed the weekend in two of his last three Tour starts. However, he does have four top 25s, including two top 10s, in his last six starts.
Chris Kirk: Just two starts here and nothing better than T-42, but he has made three straight cuts on Tour. Not too far removed from recording three top 10s in the fall.
Adam Hadwin: Best finish in two Valspar starts is 71st, but there’s no doubt he’s a different player right now. Hasn’t missed a cut since Safeway and has finished in the top 40 seven times in his last eight starts, including a runner-up finish in Palm Springs.
Bubba Watson: Hasn’t played here since the 2011 Transitions Championship, when he finished T-28. Recent form has been a problem, too. Maybe it’s the pink golf ball?
Jason Kokrak: Missed the cut last year at Innisbrook, but was T-14 and T-7 in two starts there before that. Has notched two straight top 25s on Tour entering this week.