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The First Look: Valspar Championship

6 Min Read

The First Look

The First Look: Valspar Championship


    The PGA TOUR’s Florida Swing wraps up at the Valspar Championship, where Sam Burns looks for his third win in a row at Innisbrook.

    FIELD NOTES: Sam Burns is looking to become the first player to win the same event in three consecutive years since Steve Stricker at the John Deere Classic from 2009-11. The Valspar was one of three titles for Burns last season, along with the Sanderson Farms Championship and Charles Schwab Challenge. The 26-year-old has four PGA TOUR wins, with half coming at Innisbrook’s Copperhead Course.

    Reigning major champions Justin Thomas (PGA Championship) and Matt Fitzpatrick (U.S. Open) also headline the field. Thomas finished third at last year’s Valspar, while Fitzpatrick was fifth… Former FedExCup champions Jordan Spieth and Justin Rose are set to go at Innisbrook. Rose won earlier this season at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, his first win worldwide since 2019. Spieth’s win at the 2015 Valspar kickstarted his FedExCup-winning campaign that included triumphs in the U.S. Open and Masters… Greg Koch, a PGA of America professional who made the cut at the recent Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard, is back in action on TOUR. Koch was the 2022 North Florida PGA Player of the Year… Nearly all the Korn Ferry Tour graduates from last season are in action at the Valspar as they look to nab some valuable FedExCup points.

    STORYLINES:

    Sam Burns is looking to win for the third-straight year at the Valspar Championship, having won by three in 2021 and winning in a playoff over Davis Riley last year. Burns is the first of five golfers trying to three-peat this season. K.H. Lee (AT&T Byron Nelson), Rory McIlroy (RBC Canadian Open and THE CJ CUP), Patrick Cantlay (BMW Championship) and Max Homa (Fortinet Championship) are the others, with Scottie Scheffler having a chance at next year’s WM Phoenix Open. Burns had a similar stat line in his two Valspar wins. He was third in Strokes Gained: Putting in 2021 and eighth in the same stat last year. He was fourth in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green in 2022 and fifth the year prior.

    A top-10 finish on TOUR earns players a spot in the next open event. Four players who finished in the top 10 at the Puerto Rico Open two weeks ago will look to continue their good play and make the most of another opportunity. Cody Gribble, John VanDerLaan, Wesley Bryan and Akshay Bhatia are the guys who locked in their spots after last week. Bhatia, who finished runner-up in Puerto Rico to earn Special Temporary Membership, made his TOUR debut at the Valspar Championship in 2019. He missed the cut. All are PGA TOUR members except VanDerLaan, a Florida Southern alum who Monday qualified into the Puerto Rico Open.

    Ludvig Aberg and Pierceson Coody are amongst the sponsor exemptions this week at the Valspar. Aberg is atop this year’s PGA TOUR University presented by Velocity Global standings and in line for the TOUR card that will be awarded to the PGA TOUR U No. 1 after the NCAA Championship. He finished T24 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard after also making the cut at the DP World Tour’s Dubai Desert Classic. Coody, who topped the PGA TOUR U rankings in 2022 and has won twice on the Korn Ferry Tour already, bested Aberg by two shots and finished T14.

    SPONSOR EXEMPTIONS: A quick look at some of the players who received sponsor exemptions into the field and will be looking to capitalize on the opportunity:

    Former Valspar Championship winner and European Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald will be teeing it up. Donald won the Valspar in 2012 to return to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking… Pierceson Coody, who has won on the Korn Ferry Tour already this year, along with his University of Texas teammate Cole Hammer are in the field. Hammer has made four cuts on TOUR so far this season including two weeks ago at Bay Hill. He also was T5 at this season’s RSM Classic… Ludvig Aberg, who is atop the PGA TOUR University presented by Velocity Global standings, made the cut at Bay Hill in his first TOUR start this season… Victor Perez is making his season debut on TOUR. He won the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on the DP World Tour earlier this year in dramatic fashion.

    Ryan Gerard also received a sponsor exemption, giving him another opportunity to attain Special Temporary Membership. Gerard finished fourth in The Honda Classic after Monday qualifying, then narrowly missed earning STM with a T11 finish at the Puerto Rico Open. University of North Florida junior Nick Gabrelcik will make his PGA TOUR debut after being given in invitation. Gabrelick, who hails from nearby Trinity, Florida, was the 2021 NCAA freshman of the year and semifinalist in the 2021 U.S. Amateur.

    HIGHEST-RATED PLAYERS IN THE FIELD

    World RankingFedExCup
    10. Justin Thomas14. Justin Rose
    13. Matt Fitzpatrick18. Brian Harman
    14. Jordan Spieth 24. Nick Taylor
    15. Sam Burns33. Ben Taylor
    27. Tommy Fleetwood35. Ben Griffin
    28. Brian Harman37. Eric Cole
    32. Justin Rose39. Brandon Wu
    43. K.H. Lee42. Denny McCarthy
    46. Kevin Kisner43. Joel Dahmen

    FEDEXCUP: Winner receives 500 FedExCup points.

    COURSE: : Innisbrook Resort (Copperhead), par 71, 7,340 yards. Located just north of Tampa, the tree-lined, Larry Packard design puts a premium on positioning off the tee. The course, opened in the early 1970s, features a tough closing trio called the ‘Snake Pit’ – two tough par-4s sandwiched between a bruising 200-yard par 3. The Copperhead Course was the second course built at Innisbrook and has long been considered a favorite by many on TOUR.

    72-HOLE RECORD: 266, Vijay Singh (2004)

    18-HOLE RECORD: 61, Padraig Harrington (1st round, 2012).

    LAST TIME: Sam Burns defeated Davis Riley on the second playoff hole last season to win the Valspar Championship in back-to-back years. Burns closed with a 2-under 69. Riley shot a 1-over 72 but recovered nicely from a triple bogey on the par-5 fifth to finish at 17 under alongside Burns. The duo both made pars on the first playoff hole, No. 18, before Burns rolled in a 32-foot birdie try on the second playoff hole, No.16. Riley missed the green with his approach and couldn’t chip in for a matching birdie. Burns became the second straight back-to-back winner at Innisbrook after Paul Casey won the event in both 2018 and 2019. Justin Thomas and Matthew NeSmith finished tied for third, just one shot back of joining the playoff. That pair both had a share of the lead at some point during the final round. Matt Fitzpatrick and Brian Harman both finished at 14 under and were tied for fifth. It was Burns’ third TOUR title in his last 22 starts.

    HOW TO FOLLOW:

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