Power Rankings: Valspar Championship
March 09, 2015
By Rob Bolton , PGATOUR.COM
- March 09, 2015
- Jordan Spieth has two starts -- and two top-20 finishes -- at the difficult Copperhead Course. (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
When any touring professional is arguably best known as a world-class ball-striker, it usually means he's a below-average putter. After all, retaining proficiency across the board is a little like keeping water out of a boat with a hole in it.
The defending champion of the Valspar Championship, John Senden, used to be the poster boy for this phenomenon. That changed in 2013-14 when he recorded 15 positive measurements in stroke gained: putting in 23 starts that were lasered. When the season concluded, he ranked 13th in the stat. He finished T32 in ball-striking.
The suddenly elevated skill set helped propel him to victory on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort & Golf Club in Palm Harbor, Florida. Senden placed T50 in fairways hit but T3 in greens in regulation and 16th in strokes gained: putting (0.974). He also landed third in average distance of putts made, which is really saying something given the challenge of the par 36-35=71 designed by Larry Packard.
All of the ranges inside 25 feet ranked inside the seven hardest in terms of conversion percentage last year. Copperhead yielded the fifth-lowest average distance of putts (just over 68 feet).
As a result, scoring isn't easy. The field average of +1.433 strokes to par is the second-highest since the tournament shifted to a March date to coincide with the FedExCup era in 2007. The 7,340-yard track ranked second only to Pinehurst No. 2 (U.S. Open) in par breakers.
Senden's 7-under 277 ranks second-highest in tournament history to Sean O'Hair in 2008 (4-under 280). The Aussie finished the week tied for third in both par-3 and par-5 scoring, critical since Copperhead boasts five par 3s and the full slate of four par 5s.
Gusty winds helped inflate scoring in the first and final rounds last year. It could kick up again on Friday this week, so it may behoove the field of 144 to get off to a good start. Gradually decreasing high temperatures will bottom out in the upper 70s by Sunday. A threat of rain exists throughout.