This week on the PGA Tour: the Valspar Championship.
- Where: Par-71, 7,340-yard Cooperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort, Palm Harbor, Fla.
- When: Thursday-Sunday
- Who: 156 players, cut after 36 holes to top 70 and ties
- Why: $6.3 million purse; $1.134 million and 500 FedEx Cup points to winner
On the tee: This week’s top 5 storylines
STENSON OVER SICKNESS? Henrik Stenson got through just 11 holes of the WGC-Mexico Championship before withdrawing because of a stomach virus. He wasn’t along last week, either, as Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson’s caddie, Jim “Bones” Mackay, also battled illness. But Stenson should be ready to go and at No. 6 in the world, he is the top-ranked player in the field this week. This will be Stenson’s third start at Innisbrook. He was T-11 last year after finishing fourth in his debut, in 2015.
BIG ABSENCE: Jordan Spieth, the 2015 champion of the Valspar Championship, opted to skip this year’s tournament. Spieth will also take off the following week, during the Arnold Palmer Invitational, before playing the WGC-Dell Match Play and Shell Houston Open leading into the Masters. While Spieth will not be in Palm Harbor, the likes of Justin Thomas, Gary Woodland, Matt Kuchar and Bubba Watson will join Stenson in the field.
DEFENDING CHAMP: Charl Schwartzel is back to defend his Valspar title from a year ago. The world’s 28th-ranked player beat Bill Haas in a playoff last year in just his second career start at Innisbrook. Schwartzel enters this year’s edition in a bit of a slump – his T-38 in Mexico followed two straight missed cuts. No player has gone back-to-back at this event.
MCCOY’S RETURN: Remember Lee McCoy, who finished solo fourth at last year’s Valspar as an amateur? Well, the former Georgia Bulldog is back again this year. It will be his first start since last fall’s Shriners Open after McCoy broke his right wrist in a November car accident. Prior to his T-41 in Las Vegas, McCoy had missed his first eight cuts as a pro. Maybe a return to his hometown event (McCoy grew up near Innisbrook and used to ride his bike to the tournament) will kickstart McCoy’s pro career?
THE ‘SNAKE PIT’: Also known as hole Nos. 16-18 at Innisbrook’s Copperhead Course, the “Snake Pit” is one of the toughest finishing stretches on Tour. The par-4 16th played as the second toughest at last year’s Valspar Championship while the par-4 18th was the sixth toughest. The par-3 17th was 12th most difficult.