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4 Players to Watch at The Valspar Championship

By: | Tue 15 Mar 2022 | Comments

The PGA Tour will be making their way to Tampa Florida for the next event, the Valspar Championship

Last year, Sam Burns recorded his maiden tour title at the Copperhead Course before doubling his tally at this season’s Sanderson Farms Championship. 

With the likes of Max Homa, Viktor Hovland, Louis Oosthuizen, Justin Thomas and Scottie Scheffler featuring at the previous edition, the strength of field should result in fascinating viewing. 

Considering how close the Valspar Championship is to the Masters, victory in Tampa can be the perfect confidence boost and preparation for the annual trip to Augusta. 

We have identified four players who you should keep an eye on over the week, especially with the first major championship of the year within touching distance. 

Valspar Championship

Sam Burns

Sam Burns heads back to the Valspar hoping to defend his title, which would be his third within the space of a year. He travels to Augusta National as a rookie and we cannot wait to see how he fares to not only the course and conditions, but the pressure that the tournament intensely produces.

Burns has managed to grind out four top 10 finishes this season - which also includes a win. His strongest attribute this season would be finding greens, where he’s ranked 9th on tour for Greens in Regulation, with a percentage of 72.96%. Driving comfortably over 300 yards is another strength (310.5 yards, 21st) and he’s 11th for birdie average (4.73) and 34th for scoring average (70.346). We’re actually quite surprised by that final stat, as we thought he may have been closer to breaking 70, but it’s still impressive, nonetheless.

Ryan Brehm

In the sport of golf, winning isn’t everything. Prize money for high finishes, FedEx Cup and Official World Golf Rankings points ensure you qualify for the biggest events - and all of this can be done without winning a competition. For Ryan Brehm however, last week was the unique position of winner takes all. With one final Minor Medical Extension remaining, he chose to utilise it at the alternative Puerto Rico Open. It was wise for a plethora of reasons: a weaker field means reduced competition and the biggest one, he won the event. On the cusp of losing his livelihood, he’s now locked into the PGA Tour until the conclusion of the 2024 season. 

When Brehm won in Puerto Rico, he was ranked 773rd in the world and became the lowest-ranked player to win on the PGA Tour since Jim Herman in 2019. Everything that needed to fall in place happened so pleasantly for Brehm, who earned himself an invite to this year’s Players Championship, although he did miss the cut. The Puerto Rico Open was the first event of his season, which was swiftly followed by The Players before he makes his third successive start at the Valspar. As you can see, Brehm had to carefully consider where to use his final medical exemption and that wise decision has enabled him to continue the quest for greatness - how many other sports can produce stories like that?

Collin Morikawa

Collin Morikawa may have already compiled two major championships, but when you have the skillset of this generational talent, the quest for further glory never lets up. He missed the cut at The Players Championship but, to his defence, he was part of the afternoon-morning group that had to deal with the worst of the weather. For that fact, he was severely unfortunate, but we also can’t deny that he looked a completely different player during his first round. He was missing fairways and greens, and he even topped a 3-wood on one of the par 5s. We never thought we would see Morikawa top a 3-wood and it would appear that even the brightest spark in the world isn’t immune to the sport’s versatile behaviour. 

Surprisingly, Morikawa is without a win this season, although a T2nd and runner-up finish demonstrates just how close he has come. The latter came at the Genesis Invitational whilst he finished solo second to Rory McIlroy at the CJ Cup. What’s remarkable about Morikawa is how he easily adapts to the changes he makes. Last season, he was averaging approximately 290 yards off the tee but his accuracy was sublime. This year, he’s at 304.5 yards (56th) and although he’s gained a significant amount of distance, he remains just as accurate (68.30%, 12th). He’s second for Greens in Regulation (76.04%), first for eagles per hole (48) and first for scoring average (69.181). Even when he’s not winning, he’s still dominating the statistics and it’s been said before - and probably will be 100 more times - but Morikawa is surely the closest prospect that could get anywhere near the level of performance since Tiger Woods. 

Alex Fitzpatrick

It won’t be long before we see Alex Fitzpatrick tee it up alongside his brother Matthew on a regular basis. The Wake Forest golfer has earned himself an invite to the Valspar Championship through victory at a college event. He qualified for last year’s edition too, so it will be interesting to see how he performs on a course that he has previous knowledge of. Fitzpatrick is ranked 6th in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, which should say everything you need to know about the future of the talented young man. He has featured in a Walker Cup, and he is currently ranked 5th in the PGA Tour University Ranking. Whilst he will remain at college for the time being, get used to the Fitzpatrick brothers playing side-by-side in the future - we may even get a final pairing on the Sunday of a major championship between the two brothers!

With the Masters a mere three weeks away, victory at the Valspar could be the confidence needed heading to Augusta. 

Will we see a routine winner in the final instalment of the Florida swing?

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Tags: PGA Tour FedEx Cup daily picks


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