With The Players Championship behind us and most of the sport’s big names taking a break until the PGA Tour’s next “designated” event in late March, the next two weeks belong largely to the game’s rank-and-file players for you to wager on at golf betting sites. That means lots of guys trying to score a victory that would get them into the Masters, beginning this week in a Valspar Championship that represents the end of the game’s Florida swing.
Sam Burns is the two-time defending champion of a tournament that’s had just two different winners since 2018. Paul Casey went back-to-back at the Valspar before Burns, with a year off due to COVID-19 in between. Casey may be gone to LIV Golf, but Burns is back at Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead Course, where’s he’s a +1600 (16/1) wager with most betting sites to become the first player to win the same event in three straight years since Steve Stricker won the John Deere Classic from 2009 through 2011.
Only one player in the top 10 in the world rankings is competing this week north of Tampa, Fla.: No. 10 Justin Thomas, the +1100 (11/1) favorite to win. He’s joined by world No. 13 Matt Fitzpatrick and No. 14 Jordan Spieth, who hold +1200 (12/1) and +1800 (18/1) odds of winning, respectively, with most US betting apps. Pebble Beach winner Justin Rose is +2500 (25/1) to win, knotted on the odds board with Keegan Bradley and Tommy Fleetwood. Those headliners have all been less than consistent this season, potentially opening the door for a surprise to breakthrough.
Built in 1971 by architect Larry Packard and host of the Valspar since the tournament’s founding in 2000, the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook plays for the pros as a 7,340-yard, par-71 layout. Unlike a lot of flat, featureless courses in the Sunshine State crammed in by houses (looking at you, Bay Hill), Copperhead incorporates the region’s rolling natural terrain and features fairways lined largely by pine trees. It’s long, and it demands precision off the tee; and its elevation changes and sloping greens can test even the best players.
The layout’s signature hole is the double-dogleg par-5 14th, which due to the routing, will take most players three shots to reach the green. Copperhead’s hardest hole is the 475-yard par-4 16th, which features water down almost the entire right side of the fairway. The final three holes are known as the “Snake Pit”—you’re even greeted by a giant bronze statue of a coiled snake—which combines the difficult 16th known as “Moccasin,” a 215-yard par-3 called “Rattler,” and a bunker-laden finisher named “Copperhead.”
No wonder, then, that Copperhead is typically regarded as one of the tougher layouts on tour. And yet pros tend to really like it, because it offers such a break from the flat and overdeveloped courses they see elsewhere in Florida. If you can find the middle of the fairway and then hold the green with a 4-iron, then this is the place for you.
2022: Sam Burns
2021: Sam Burns
2019: Paul Casey
2018: Paul Casey
2017: Adam Hadwin
2016: Charl Schwartzel
2015: Jordan Spieth
2014: John Senden
2013: Kevin Streelman
2012: Luke Donald
Not surprisingly, two-time defending champion Burns owns the best average finish in the Valspar (11th) among players with more than one career start. But the American is entering on the heels of a rough stretch that saw him miss the cut at the Genesis Invitational and Arnold Palmer, and then finish T35 at the Players. He’s shot in the 60s just once in his last three starts—though he was excellent in the two weeks that preceded this rough stretch, going T11 at the AMEX and T6 at Phoenix. His price with golf betting apps to finish in the top five looks appealing.
Odds favorite with most USA sports betting sites, Thomas has finished T3 and T13 at Copperhead the past two seasons, and an uncharacteristic T60 at the Players snapped a run of five straight finishes in the top 25. Spieth hasn’t played in this event since 2018, and hasn’t made the cut at Innisbrook since 2016, though he’s been very competitive in three of his last four starts, capped by a T6 at Phoenix. The real head-scratcher is Rose, who’s twice finished top five at the Valspar. He won Pebble and placed T6 at TPC Sawgrass last week, with a pair of missed cuts in between.
Fitzpatrick placed T5 last year in his second career Valspar start, while Fleetwood placed T16 in his tournament debut. Davis Riley, a +3500 (35/1) bet with betting apps who was last year’s runner-up, placed T8 two weeks ago at the Arnold Palmer—a rare bright spot in a stretch that’s seen him miss cuts in four of six starts. Denny McCarthy, a +3000 (30/1) bet to win, has been T4, T14 and T13 in his last three starts where he’s made the cut. And +9000 (90/1) wager Matthew Nesmith has the second-best career average finish in the event behind Burns, with a T3 and T21 the past two years.
Jordan Spieth to Win, +1200 (12/1)
After correctly picking tournament winners in two of the past three events—Chris Kirk at the Honda Classic and Scottie Scheffler at The Players—we’re going with Spieth, who’s played very well in three of his last four tournaments and feels close to winning for the first time since Hilton Head 11 months ago. He needs a solid final round, which was his undoing at Phoenix, Bay Hill and Sawgrass. While it’s been a long time since Spieth’s lone Valspar victory in 2015, his four top 20s in five career starts there are proof that his Copperhead course knowledge has staying power.
Sam Burns Top 5, +400 (4/1)
Copperhead may have been designed 40 years ago, but it remains tailor-made for young big hitters like Burns. He’s shot eight straight rounds in the 60s there, and Innisbrook’s long, familiar fairways clearly cater to his game. Burns hasn’t quite developed into the Next Big Thing that many golf analysts envisioned, but in a top-heavy field featuring lots of recent Korn Ferry Tour graduates, there’s no shame in backing a proven entity who was playing very well as recently as early February.
Adam Hadwin Top 10, +280 (14/5)
A T7 last season continued a strong run in the Valspar for Hadwin, who won the tournament in 2017 and tied for 12th in 2018. The Canadian was solid last week with a T13 The Players Championship, opened with back-to-back 66s to finish T10 in Phoenix and carded a 64 on his way to a T18 at the AMEX. Other than a missed cut at the Genesis, Hadwin has been under-the-radar good all season, and he now arrives at one of his best events.
Thursday and Friday, Golf Channel from 14:00-18:00 ET; Saturday and Sunday, Golf Channel from 13:00-15:00 and NBC from 15:00-18:00 ET.
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