Valspar Championship betting preview: Back Sungjae in the Sunshine State
The PGA TOUR returns to the Sunshine State for the final time this season for the Valspar Championship at Palm Harbor, Florida.
Innisbrook Resort's Copperhead Course, located 25 miles west of Tampa, will host the 156-man field. World No. 1 Dustin Johnson and No. 2 Justin Thomas headline the group competing at the venue that Larry Packard designed, which is one of the toughest tests pros face on the PGA TOUR's schedule.
- Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort, Palm Harbor, Fla.
- 7,340 yards, par 71
- Bermuda-grass greens
- Finishing three holes known as "The Snake Pit"
- Third-toughest course on the PGA TOUR during the 2019-20 season
- Four of the five par 3s are over 200 yards
- Small greens place emphasis on short game
2019: Paul Casey (-8) over Jason Kokrak, Louis Oosthuizen
2018: Paul Casey (-10) over Patrick Reed, Tiger Woods
2017: Adam Hadwin (-14) over Patrick Cantlay
2016: Charl Schwartzel (-7) in a playoff over Bill Haas
2015: Jordan Spieth (-10) in a playoff over Patrick Reed, Sean O'Hair
2014: John Senden (-7) over Kevin Na
2013: Kevin Streelman (-10) over Boo Weekley
Understandably, Johnson and Thomas enter the week as co-favorites at +1100. Either of the two best players in the world can go out and lap this field. Thomas is playing better than Johnson right now, and he would be the preferred selection of the two. However, there are better value options further down the board.
Corey Conners is getting a lot of love from oddsmakers at +1700. The Canadian is in fine form, and he fits the mold of a potential winner at Copperhead. But this is way too steep of a price to pay compared to players at double Conners' odds.
The next tier
The value starts to become apparent in this range, starting with Sungjae Im at +2500.
The South Korean turned a corner with his iron play at the RBC Heritage, gaining 3.5 strokes through approach shots and another 2.5 off the tee. Most of his career-best results have come in Florida, including a tied-for-fourth finish during his debut at the Valspar Championship in 2019.
Scheffler keeps lingering near the top of leaderboards and will get his first win soon. He tends to play difficult courses well, and his underrated short game should shine at Copperhead.
Kokrak was a runner-up in 2019 and has been playing very well over the past few months. He's recorded three top-10 finishes during his last four starts, and Kokrak is showing the same consistency the veteran displayed prior to his victory at the CJ Cup in October.
Niemann hasn't notched a high finish in a while, but he's been riding his ball-striking skills to 15 straight cuts made. His talents fit the course well, but Niemann will need to tidy up his short game to give himself a legit shot at winning.
Here are a few long shots worth considering:
- Chris Kirk (+5500): He's recorded back-to-back top-10 finishes thanks to some incredible ball-striking. Kirk gained 7.5 strokes tee to green at Harbour Town during his last start, and he's shown the ability to repeat those performances so far in 2021.
- Keegan Bradley (+7700): He's been on fire this season with his ball-striking, but Bradley has yet to break through with a top-tier finish. The 34-year-old has posted low scores at Copperhead in his career, and he could easily string four low rounds together this week.
- Gary Woodland (+7700): He's a former winner at Copperhead with a juicy price this week. Woodland gained 9.5 strokes tee to green two starts ago at the Texas Open - a great sign he's regaining some of his major championship-winning form.
Picks to win
Sungjae Im (+2500)
There's a ton to like about Im this week, with all signs pointing toward a victory for the 23-year-old.
Three of his best eight results on the PGA TOUR have come in Florida on Bermuda grass. He won the Honda Classic at a difficult PGA National, and Im finished tied for fourth during his Valspar debut in 2019. Im also recorded two top-three finishes at Bay Hill, another venue where scoring conditions can get really tough.
He hasn't finished inside the top 10 in a while, but Im is consistently gaining strokes off the tee (doing so in seven straight recorded events), and he logged 3.5 strokes gained: approach in his most recent start. He's also in the middle of his best career putting stretch.
Jason Kokrak (+3300)
Kokrak rattled off three straight top-10 results in Florida before a mediocre showing at the Masters. During his run in the Sunshine State, the 35-year-old averaged nearly seven strokes tee to green, and he gained strokes putting in two of three events.
He won early in the season over a stout field during the CJ Cup, and if Kokrak finds himself in contention in Tampa, he shouldn't struggled with the pressure of closing for a second time over his last 13 starts.
Kevin Na (+5500)
Kevin Na has tallied four wins since the start of 2018, and the betting market doesn't give him nearly enough love. There are a select few courses on the PGA Tour where Na can contend, and that list includes Copperhead.
The 37-year-old was a runner-up in Tampa in 2014, and he's posted two other top-10 finishes at Copperhead during his career. He's accurate off the tee, and his short game is one of the best on TOUR, keeping him alive when scoring is difficult.
He'll be a contender come Sunday if Na can get his irons to heat up for four rounds.