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2023 Valspar Championship Preview, Picks & Analysis

By: | Mon 13 Mar 2023

SAM BURNS will attempt to create a piece of history this week as he goes for a third successive title at the Valspar Championship.

Last year he beat his close friend Davis Riley in extra holes at TPC Copperhead. 

On the second hole of a playoff after the two players tied in regulation at 17-under 267, Burns holed a curling, 32-foot putt for birdie on the treacherous par-4 16th, his ball barely catching the left edge of the hole and tumbling in the back side. 

Riley’s last-ditch chip for birdie rolled past the hole, and Burns had successfully defended the Valspar Championship that he won on Innisbrook Resort's Copperhead Course in May 2021.

Burns shot two-under 69 on the Sunday, his eighth consecutive round in the 60s on the daunting Copperhead. Riley recovered from an early triple bogey and shot 72; Matthew NeSmith, who watched a big-swinging 35-foot birdie putt to join the playoff graze across the top of the hole at 18, closed with 71. NeSmith, who didn’t glance at a leaderboard all day and set a lone goal of simply enjoying his 18-hole Sunday walk, tied for third with Justin Thomas at 16 under.

It all unfolded at Copperhead’s fearsome Snake Pit, a closing three-hole stretch that begins at the dogleg-right 16th and, year over year, doesn’t run short on drama. That hole pretty much kept Burns from securing his PGA Tour card in 2018, when he was 21, as he made triple bogey in the final round and slid from T3 to T12, missing out on Special Temporary Membership. He went back to the Korn Ferry Tour.

In 2021, Burns made a clutch birdie at 16 set up by a laser-like 7-iron, giving himself a four-shot cushion for the home stretch. 

This was different. Burns said of the Snake Pit: “It comes down to some dramatic finishes and crazy things happen on that stretch. So to be on the good side of that last couple years is definitely something that I don't want to take for granted.”

Jordan Spieth

(Image Credit: Kevin Diss Photography)

Jordan Spieth, a former winner here, will be hoping to stop Burns - and will feel that he is due a victory. Spieth would be the first to admit that he is not the most naturally gifted player out there but there is no gutsier golfer and his powers of recovery are in a different class. And that’s without taking into account his magical powers on the greens. When he his eye in there is simply no better putter anywhere, on any tour.

If you watched Full Swing, the Netflix fly-on-the-wall documentary series following a year in the life of the PGA Tour, you cannot fail to have been charmed by Joel Dahmen. Everybody around him is convinced that Dahmen has everything required to be one of the best golfers in the world. The problem is that he doesn’t believe it. However, he has recently become a father and admits that his focus has changed and that he is now starting to put in the hard yards. 

Tournament Winners

It was won in 2015 by Jordan Spieth, in 2016 by Charl Schwartzel, in 2017 by Adam Hadwin, in 2018 and 2019 by Paul Casey, and in 2021 and 2022 by Sam Burns. There was no tournament in 2020 - it was cancelled because of the global pandemic.

The Course

The Copperhead Course at TPC Innisbrook is a par 71 measuring 7,340 yards. Famous for the fearsome Snake Pit, the course features tree-lined fairways, rolling terrain and a great deal of water.

Form Guide

Don’t be too concerned about Sam Burns' recent results. He has shown some good form without setting the world alight, finishing in a tie for 11th at the American Express and tied sixth at the Phoenix Open. He is ready for another big week and absolutely adores this venue. Jordan Spieth has had a fairly quiet start to the 2023. Like Burns, he also missed the cut at the Genesis and, like Burns, he tied for sixth in Phoenix. He is ready for another win.

To Win:

Jordan Spieth. Hugely entertaining

Each Way:

Sam Burns. World-class. Period

Each Way:

Tommy Fleetwood. Desperate for a win in America

Five to Follow:

Jordan Spieth. If his putter is hot, watch out

Sam Burns.Can he make it three in a row?

Tommy Fleetwood. Still searching for that elusive PGA Tour win

JT Poston. Has few weaknesses

Davis Riley. Looking to go one better than 2022

Outsiders to Watch:

Luke Donald. A former winner

Harry Higgs. One of golf’s real characters

Kevin Streelman. Can make lots of birdies

Stewart Cink. Still performing at the highest level

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Tags: PGA Tour FedEx Cup

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