Innisbrook , A Salamander Golf & Spa Resort
Palm Harbor, Florida
Yards: 7,340 per the scorecard
Par: 71 (36-35)
Greens: Bermudagass; 8,220 square feet on average
Rough: Bermudagrass and ryegrass at 2.5”
Course Architect: Larry Packard (1972)
Winner’s Share: $1,026,000
FexExCup Points: 500 to the winner
Dates: March 13-16
Format: Stroke play
Notes: As of Monday afternoon, 15 of the top 50 players in the OWGR rankings are entered this week.
Recent History Lessons
After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won the first 16 of 17 events of 2013-14. Harris English, Jimmy Walker (THREE), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed (TWO), Scott Stallings, Kevin Stadler, Bubba Watson, Russell Henley and Chesson Hadley have collected the hardware this year for the stars and stripes. Jason Day is representing the rest of the world as the Australian won the WGC-Match Play.
Young Guns versus Prime Time versus Old Guys
Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and was joined by Ryan Moore (30) in Malaysia and Zach Johnson (37) at Kapalua, Kevin Stadler (33) at WMPO and Bubba Watson, 35, joined them at Riviera. Walker has now added TWO more victories to the guys currently in their prime!
Scott Stallings (28), Patrick Reed TWICE (23), Chris Kirk (28), Webb Simpson (28), Dustin Johnson (29), Harris English (24), Jason Day (26), Russell Henley (24) and Chesson Hadley, 26, are the twenty-somethings on the board. With Reed and Hadley both winning this week, the Young Guns now have 10 wins to the Prime Timers seven.
The Old Guys are playing like old guys as they have zero wins this season.
Pay Attention: It’s FREE
Horse-for-course fans remember any data prior to 2007 is sketchy because the tournament was contended in September. In 2007, it moved to its current March date. March golf is different than September golf these days.
Past Champions in the Field:
2013 Kevin Streelman
2012 Luke Donald
2011 Gary Woodland
2010 Jim Furyk
2009 Retief Goosen
2008 Sean O'Hair
2007 Mark Calcavecchia
2006 K.J. Choi
2005 Carl Pettersson
2004 Vijay Singh
2003 Retief Goosen
2002 K.J. Choi
The 2001 tournament, scheduled to be held in September, was cancelled due to the events of 9/11.
There has never been a repeat champion.
After watching the rest of the world clean up at Innisbrook, the USA contingent has now won five of the last seven events since moving to March on the schedule.
Inside the Ropes
Here’s where the Valspar Championship has ranked, relative to par, since moving to March in 2007:
2013: +1.22; 7th hardest
2012: -.268; 30th hardest
2011: -.183; 27th hardest
2010: +.722; 13th hardest
2009: +1.157; 9th hardest
2008: +1.970; 8th hardest
2007: +1.005; 15th hardest
From windswept ocean-side courses flush with water hazards and bunkers to hills, trees and doglegs, the Copperhead Course will be very “un-Florida”-like in its position on the Florida Swing. Sure, it still has Bermudagrass greens the players have to navigate but the test of golf will come from working the tee ball in both directions and finding the putting stroke on these massive greens.
Over the years, the list of champions would suggest ball-strikers as the obvious choices but Luke Donald proved in 2012 that a great short game doesn’t hurt either. Jim Furyk, the winner in 2010, isn’t exactly long off the tee either but these two are the exceptions, not the rules.
The Copperhead Course calls its final three holes “The Snake Pit” and the players will have to find a way to survive the three toughest holes on the golf course. Missing the fairways or green during this 4-3-4 finish will result in difficult second shots and a chance to put it in reverse coming to the finish line. This won’t bother experienced pros who have played The Bear Trap and the Blue Monster the last two weeks but it could affect a youngster looking for win No. 1. Bogeys will be made. Patience will be needed. Big numbers will need to be avoided.
The pros always rate this course very highly because it takes golf shots to win this tournament rather than abusing it with sheer power. Working the golf ball off the tee in both directions is rewarded as is hitting fairways and getting up and down. Guys who spray it off the tee this week and aren’t used to racking up GIR will have to bring their escape acts just to keep up. Believe it or not, the course record is 61, set by Padraig Harrington in the first round in 2012. He didn’t have another round below par that year as he finished T20. Boo Weekley snuck into second last year with his final round 63. Great shots find great rewards!
The players who should be atop the leaderboard come Sunday sunset; Yahoo! group in ( )
Harris English (C): 2011 Southern Am champ on this track; T7 last year; he has one finish outside of the top 16 in eight starts in 2014. Second in the all-around ranking; sits 11th in total driving and third in ball-striking.
Luke Donald (A): After a quiet start he’s hit form in March with T8 at Honda, a course he loves and three very solid rounds at Doral. Yes, his “other” round was 82, I get it. He loves the layout at Innisbrook even though he’s not one of the better drivers of the golf ball. He opened his account with T6 in 2010, backed that up with a W in 2012 and was T4 last year.
Matt Kuchar (A): In his last eight rounds at Innisbrook, he’s found the 60s six times so it’s no wonder why Kuchar is on this list again this week. If he’s in the tournament, he’s on the Chalk sheet. It’s quite simple. He makes the cut every week, for the most part and all of his finishes are T13 or better.
Webb Simpson (B): After MC in 2009, Simpson has rattled off finishes of T13, second, T10 and T17. He played two different tournaments last week as he opened 78-80 at Doral but then put the pieces back together on a tough weekend to post 70-70. He’s sixth in the all-around category and that’s highlighted by being No. 19 in scrambling and No. 6 in total putting. Oh, and he’s played 19 weekends in a row.
Justin Rose (B): After skipping Honda to give his shoulder more rest, the Englishman joined the fray last week at Doral to try and take a bite out of the new Blue Monster. He played the weekend one-under to create some mo’ heading into this week and as one of the best ball-strikers in the world, he should be on your short-list just about every week. He’s posted 12 of 16 rounds in his last four events here at par or better. First start here since 2012.
Jason Dufner (B): The man with his own column last week, Dufner had a very quiet start to 2014 but he’s started to heat up with a T9 at Match Play and T9 last week at Doral. He had two great rounds on a very difficult course and, sadly for those who played him, two very shaky rounds, including 76 on Sunday. I’m usually the optimist so I see “it” getting better. I’m down with Dufner, especially in Tampa where he has only three rounds over par in his last five starts at Innisbrook. #dipintoDufner
Bill Haas (B): Imagine if he would have hit any greens or fairways last week as the usually dynamic ball-striker was near the top in strokes gained-putting. His T6 last week is his best finish since Phoenix but he’s seen the weekend in 11 events on the bounce. His history around here is spotty but I like the momentum on how he finished last week at Doral (69-71).
Jordan Spieth (B): His T34 at Doral was his worst finish on TOUR, when he’s made the cut, since The Open last year (T44). That spans 14 events. #SpeithBoner. This was the site last season where his T7 made him eligible for a Special Temporary Membership. The rest, as they say, is history. He’ll turn 21 in July.
Jim Furyk (B): Here’s THE horse-for-course this week as he backed his 2010 win with T13, T2 and T7 the last three seasons. In those four tournaments, one round of 16 is over par. Furyk would have been higher up the list but his lovely trend came to a screeching halt last week with rounds of 78-77-75-76 to post 18-over at Doral. Form is temporary; class is permanent. Remember, he was fifth in fairways and T15 in GIR. He was second-last in putting and only made four birdies. No way that happens again this week. He’s too good.
K.J. Choi (C): His best two finishes this year were T2 at Torrey Pines and T12 his last time out at Riviera. Oh, and he’s won twice here. There are not many weeks where crusty veterans outrank young guns but Choi has played in all 12 events on this track and has four top 10s in his career.
Gary Woodland (A): The 2011 champ should be full of confidence as he returns to the scene of his maiden victory on TOUR. In 10 rounds around Innisbrook, he only has posted over par once. His 71-71 last week at Doral saw him claim a share of 16th so that’s moving in the right direction.
Horses for Courses:
Kevin Streelman (B): Win and T10 in his first two starts in Tampa but he hasn’t finished better than T25 in his last four starts. I like that he was just one of four players NOT to make a double last week at Doral as well.
Jonathan Byrd (C): He has four top 12s in his last seven tries. He was T12 last week in Puerto Rico after a brutal start to his season. Shhhhhhhhhhh.
Justin Leonard (C): In his last 16 rounds at Innsibrook, 14 of them have been par or lower. All four finishes are T29 or better including T4 last year.
Ernie Els (B): He fired four rounds under par in 2012 to finish T5 in his only start in the last five years.
Brandt Snedeker (A): In six trips he’s pegged T8 and solo fourth but his recent form keeps him off the Chalk.
Stewart Cink (B): In four trips during March, Cink has found T2 in 2008 and T11 in 2012.
Retief Goosen (C): He’s won twice but his back injuries give me pause. Before MC last year, he rattled off WIN, solo fifth, T28 and T20 in 2012. If you play a deep game, he could be a flier late.
Bo Van Pelt (B): In three trips over the last five years he’s posted T8 in 2009 and solo ninth in 2012. It might take a course like this to get BVP back on track. #bringbackBVP
John Senden (C): A pair of back-to-back T2s in ’07-’08, plus a T15 in 2011 show that he likes it around here. This will be trip No. 11 to Innisbrook.
Russell Knox (C): In his last five events he’s pulled T13, T10 and P2 last time out at Honda. He’s 15th in the all-around ranking and is going to hit most fairways and greens. #hotScot
Matt Every (B): He’s played eight weekends in his first nine starts and has already picked up three top 10s and five top 25s. His last two events have seen him finish T6 at Riviera and T24 at Honda, not two of the easiest tracks around. Buyer beware that he’s 0-fer in three tries in Tampa.
David Lingmerth (B): Follow along: T78, T47, T42, T29 and T8 last time out. #trend
Cameron Tringale (C): He’s played the weekend in six in a row and three of the last four have been T13 or better. It would have been four in a row but his 75 on Sunday at the Honda knocked him to T41. He was solo third last year and has a round of 66 in his last two times at Innisbrook.
Chesson Hadley (C): In his three of his last four starts he’s finished T10 at Pebble, MC at Riviera, T24 at Honda and won last week. #form
Stuart Appleby (C): Hasn’t missed in 2014 and has T9 at Humana and T8 last time out at Honda.
William McGirt (B): He keeps knocking. At some point, the door is going to open. He was the 54-hole leader at Riviera. He was in the fight until a 78 on Saturday at Honda led to MDF. His T29 last week at Puerto Rico hasn’t scared me off, yet. Yet.
Will MacKenzie (C): I faded WillMacca at Riviera because he had been producing on courses where he had previous successes and that course was not one of them. He proved that theory again last time out at Honda where he was T6. I’m going to ignore his average form here and ride the form in general.
George McNeill (C): His last three events have seen him cash T6, T12 and T19 last week. I’ll remind gamers that his best finish since his T2 in five events is T30. Form again trumps course form for me.
Peter Uihlein/Brooks Koepka (both C): The Euro bros. have found their sea legs here in the States and have played the last two weeks. Koepka has poached T33 at Honda and T19 last week at the PRO. Uihlein MC at Honda but tamed the new Blue Monster for a T25 finish even though he was LAST in fairways. #theygotgame
Jason Kokrak: I was surprised to learn that he’s missed all three weekends in three career visits to Palm Harbor.
Ryo Ishikawa: He’s missed the last four cuts here and his only finish is 71st.
Sean O’Hair: Sure he’s a former champ but his T69 finish last year was his first weekend in five after his 2008 victory.
The Man with His Own Section
Graham DeLaet: After flying out of the gate in 2014 with T2s in back-to-back weeks in San Diego and Phoenix, the Canadian has quieted down in his last three events. He was T70 at Riviera, one-and-done at Match Play and finished T34 (of 68) last week at Doral. I feel with a less-than-stellar field this week, GDL should be right back in business. But, it’s easy to see why his recent results have fallen slightly off as his stretch of play from late October through Phoenix had nothing worse than T8. It’s hard to keep that up year-round. This is a week for ball-strikers and that’s where he makes his money. I’m taking a long look this week.
Jordan Spieth of the Week Last Week
The column was taken over and thrashed by the kid from Texas last year. Out of respect, I’m not changing the title of it for 2013-14. It will remind me just how good Spieth was in the last three months of the season. This year, we’ll still identify an up-and-coming player and/or rookie that fantasy players should have on their radar.
CIMB: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, 24, might have enough money after this week to earn Special Temporary Membership. Pay attention!
McGladrey: Scott Langley turned 24 last April and is in his second season on TOUR. He finished T22 last week and No. 124 last season. #slimpickinngsthisweek
OHL Mayakoba: Harris English turned 24 last July. He won.
HTOC: Er, Jordan Spieth, solo second.
Humana: Patrick Reed won. He’s 23. You need to pay attention.
FIO: Ryo Ishikawa, 22, bagged another top 10 finish. That’s his sixth in his last 10 events on TOUR or the Web.com Tour. He’s an alternate this week as of Monday afternoon.
WMPO: Hideki Matsuyama is 21. In 11 events the last two years, he’s hit the top 25 in NINE of them, including T4 last week. #ALLRIGHTYTHEN
Riviera: Harris English won’t be 25 until July. He was T10; Spieth was T12.
WGC-CC: Patrick Reed is 23. He’s now won three times in eight months on TOUR.
Puerto Rico Open: Rookie Chesson Hadley, 26, took home his first title on the big boy circuit.
SEASON TOTAL: $2,701,946 in 17 events
Wins: One, Jimmy Walker (AT&T Pebble)
Seconds: One, Dustin Johnson (NTO)
Top 10s: Five
Thermometer: One bad, one good last week.
Frys.com: Gary Woodland, MC. Well, at least I don’t have to worry about when I’m using GARY WOODLAND again!
CIMB Classic: Let’s try this again: Hideki Matsuyama. There’s no cut. This pleases me. His T25 after 74 on Sunday does not please me. Oh well. Here’s $53,433 into the piggy bank.
WGC-HSBC: Martin Kaymer. There’s no other place I would consider using him and he’s the defending champ on this track. #hangsonfordearlife. Kaymer’s third round 62 dared me to dream but his T8 and $161,667 is a nice deposit.
The McGladrey Classic: David Toms. He’s finished T3 in 2010 and second last year. His recent form suggests he’s playing well and I don’t see another chance to burn him down the road. It was him or CH III. Well, BOTH of my selections finished T27. I should have listened to O…T27 was good for $39,050.
OHL Mayakoba: Brian Gay. When form meets course history… Well, that was a nice theory but it resulted in T45 and $18,060. I’m glad 2013 is now over.
HTOC: Martin Laird. Since I’m off to a woeful start I see no reason to burn a premium player. Chris Kirk was my second choice but nobody wins in back-to-back starts plus he’s just had another child. Laird is the horse-for-course. The Scot finished T20 in a 30-man field for $87,000.
Sony: Charles Howell III. He plays great in the early part of the season and his record at Waialae has everything BUT a win. If you notice, I saved most of my heavy hitters for the latter part of 2013 last year and that strategy worked out. Hey, a top 10 and $119,000! Feels like a winner!
Humana: Webb Simpson has been on fire to get 2013-14 started and going low has never been a problem. It’s time to start firing at ‘em. Sigh. Another week brings another disappointing selection as I add a whopping $57,000 to my morbid total.
FIO: Same as last year, Rickie Fowler. He’s working with Butch Harmon to get to the next level and he’s played SoCal courses plenty in his young life. He finished up last week at Humana 67-66 and he’s finished T5, T20, T13 and T6 last year in four career starts. I’ll save Woods and Mickelson for down the road for bigger winner’s checks. Snedeker and Walker were also considered and are solid options for this week. Fowler was just as bad as the other four I had listed, save for Woods’ MDF cash. Tough week in OAD for most I’m guessing. MC $0.
WMPO: Ryan Palmer. He’s on fire, can really putt and was fifth here last year. His excellent 64 saw him make the cut but his 70-72 weekend resulted in T48 at $15,772. I finished strong last year because I had a stable full of studs from The Open Championship through the FedExCup Playoffs. I’m not panicking. Yet.
AT&T PEBBLE: Jimmy Walker is the pick this week. He’s a beast on the West Coast and he’s had time to recover from his illness after MC at Torrey Pines. BANG TRISCUITS. Winner, winner, chicken dinner and $1,188,000.
NTO: Dustin Johnson goes to bat this week for Team Glass. His form is excellent and the fact that he’s banged top 10s in half of his trips here doesn’t hurt either. Tacos for everyone! Johnson’s solo second adds $723,600 to the bank! #heatwave
WGC-Match Play: Ian Poulter will be my hedge this week. His recent starts hardly inspire but there’s no doubting his inner fortitude in Match Play. He is the 2010 champ and was fourth last year. I don’t see myself using him anywhere else this season. Hunter Mahan would be choice No. 2 but I don’t like his draw with the sizzling Zach Johnson. Don’t forget Mahan played in the last group in the U.S. Open and The Open in 2013. Ah, Poults…$48,000.
Honda Classic: Graeme McDowell is the choice this week. There has been no rust after his time off this winter and I’m encouraged after his result at Pebble and WGC-Match Play. I’m using Mickelson at Pinehurst so this is an easy play. He was three-under heading into the weekend. He was even when the weekend was over. Add $15,600 to the bank. That couldn’t cover Bolton’s Lear jet for the weekend…
WGC-CC: With a massive prize pool, I have no problem pulling the trigger on, as for reasons mentioned above, on an ultra-premium player. GO MCILROY GO! After making a birdie on No. 1 on Sunday, He was just four back. That was his last birdie of the day. Sigh. $76,000.
Valspar: It was down to Furyk or Donald, but Donald had only ONE bad round last week! Go Luke Go!
GolfChannel.com Fantasy Golf
Glass ($5,643,154; Rank: 8,840)
Group 1: Luke Donald
Group 2: Harris English
Group 3: Russell Knox
Group 4: Stuart Appleby
Rob Bolton ($5,947,214; Rank: 7,097)
Group 1: Webb Simpson
Group 2: Harris English
Group 3: Will MacKenzie
Group 4: Jonathan Byrd
Ryan O’ Sullivan ($6,128,894; Rank: 6,081)
Group 1: Matt Kuchar
Group 2: Harris English
Group 3: Ben Martin
Group 4: George McNeill
Ned Brown ($9,828,439; Rank: 28th)
Group 1: Jordan Spieth
Group 2: Harris English
Group 3: Bryce Molder
Group 4: George McNeill
Ned said, “…
Ned Brown is a long-time contributor for Rotoworld Golf. He’s had documented success in Yahoo!’s game for years. Even if you’re confident in your selections for that game, give his insight a read.
Luke Donald-- He played well in the off-season events and he successfully defended his Phoenix Open title. He has had a slow start to 2014, but he looked good in his T8 at the Honda Classic and his T25 at Doral wasn't that bad after a second round of 82 dropped him way off the pace. His recent record at the Valspar is excellent with a T6 in '10, a championship in "12 and a T4 last year.
Matt Kuchar-- He has been one of the most consistent golfers in the world with top 10s in seven of his last nine worldwide events. Kuchar has played well recently at the Copperhead Course, with a T10 in '12 and a T14 last year.
Jason Dufner-- He went into a mini-slump after his T5 at the TOC, but recently he has been finding his form again with a T9 at the WGC-Accenture Match Play and a T9 at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. He has made his last five cuts at the Valspar, with his best finish being a T10 in '12.
Jordan Spieth-- The young guns on the TOUR are doing quite well this season. Spieth is the youngest and has already racked up three top five results in seven starts this season. He had a bit of a rough time last week at Doral, but I figure he will rebound on a course that he tied for seventh place last year.
Kevin Streelman -- A surprise T3 at the TOC, however since then he has four lackluster results. His form was almost the same in his last two visits to the Valspar and he came away with a T10 in '12 and a championship last year. A true horse-for-course.
Jim Furyk--It's tempting to go with Graeme DeLaet, but I'm going to opt for a older vet in Jim Furyk. I thought Furyk played very well at the WGC-Accenture Match Play and his recent record at the Valspar is solid, with a championship in '10, a T2 in '12 and a T7 last year.
Harris English-- His hot play from the fall has continue into the new year with Top 10s in four of his last six TOUR events. He played well in last year's Valspar with a T7 result.
Pat Perez-- He got off to a hot start this season with four top 11s in six starts. Perez has taken some time off since the NTO and he returns to a course that he tied for seventh place at last year.
And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat Wednesday at NOON p.m. ET. We will be breaking down the field at the Valspar Championship and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter.