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Draws and Fades: Look for Justin Thomas to make move with stormy forecast at Innisbrook

4 Min Read

Draws and Fades


    Written by Matt DelVecchio @DelGolfBets

    PALM HARBOR, Fla. – The first day at the Valspar Championship afforded some low scoring on the usually difficult Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort. Kevin Streelman, the leader when play was suspended due of darkness, was 7-under on a course where the winning score has averaged 12.4-under over the last five years.

    However, these scores may not hold up for long with up to 20 mph gusts of wind and over 50% chance of rain coming in the next two days. The weather expected over the next two days may cause Innisbrook to start showing its normal degree of difficulty.

    Streelman stole the show this afternoon, coming out and shooting a 64 to take a one-shot lead over Kevin Roy. His approach game was out of this world, leading the field. Streelman also only had 16 putts through 14 holes and gained 2.74 strokes in the round on the field (sixth overall). He also scored on the par 5s, with birdies on each of the four.

    There were some solid rounds from a few of the pre-tournament favorites, including Jordan Spieth (T27, -2), Xander Schauffele (T12, -3) and Justin Thomas (T12, -3). Surprises included Sam Burns, a two-time champion here who struggled shooting even-par 71, and Min Woo Lee who shot a 3-over 74.

    Updated odds to win Valspar Championship (via BetMGM Sportsbook)

    • +500: Xander Schauffele
    • +1000: Justin Thomas
    • +1600: Jordan Spieth
    • +1800: Nick Taylor
    • +2000: Keith Mitchell, Kevin Streelman
    • +2200: Adam Hadwin
    • +2800: Adam Svensson, Brendon Todd, Brian Harman, Cameron Young
    • +3300: Sam Burns

    Here’s a look at the players I have my eye on from an in-play perspective heading into what could be a stormy second round outside Tampa:


    Justin Thomas (+1000)

    Justin Thomas' near ace leads to tap-in birdie at Valspar

    It wasn’t a pretty round to watch, but looking back on Thomas’ opening effort, he had only one bogey and finished 3-under on the day with back-to-back birdies coming into the house. He spoke extensively in his post-round presser about the importance of driving it well here to be able to score. That is exactly what he did not do today, ranking 54th in Total Driving. The fact that he was still able to shoot the round he did, while driving as bad as he did, shows me if he tweaks a couple things overnight or tomorrow before his afternoon tee time, we could see him climb up and attack this leaderboard.

    Keith Mitchell (+2000)

    Early in the day he was in sole possession of the lead, shooting a 5-under 30 on his opening nine. What I liked most about Mitchell’s game today was his approach game where he ranked second in the field. The worrying part was his par-5 scoring going a total of 1-under on the four holes. However, I am confident he’ll be able to spin that part of his game around as he ranks 14th on TOUR this season in Par-5 Performance. Even though the weather is going to pick up, I trust Mitchell will get back to business on those must-score holes.


    Xander Schauffele (+500)

    Xander Schauffele’s Round 1 highlights from Valspar

    For starters, this is an insanely low number for someone four shots off the lead in an event with a solid field. There’s been discussion among the Golfbet team about fatigue in guys who are coming off late dramatic finishes, and I think that is true for Schauffele based on what I saw out of him today. He was 115th in SG: Off-the-Tee today, losing -0.79 strokes. Last week at THE PLAYERS Championship he was 18th on the week. That kind of drop-off signals fatigue to me. What I saw today was a more tired and slower swing after the clinical driving performance he put on at TPC Sawgrass. Innisbrook will not allow Schauffele to maneuver around without hitting a good tee ball, at least not enough to win.

    Kevin Streelman (+2000)

    It may sound harsh, but this was an extremely lucky round out of Streelman. He putted amazingly for the first three quarters of his round. He got numerous lucky bail-outs on poor shots (a drive on No. 7 into the trees that kicked out, and a fortunate bounce on No. 8 that was inches away from thick rough, only a foot or two away from a fairway bunker). I’m very vocal about my theory of fading random unreal putting performances. That is what we saw today from Streelman, who ranks 176th on the year in SG: Putting. It will not last. To add on top of that, he drove the ball extremely poorly today (151st in Total Driving) which is not a recipe for long-term success at Innisbrook.

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    Matt DelVecchio is on staff at the PGA TOUR. Follow Matt DelVecchio on Twitter.

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