One of the best weeks in some time at THE PLAYERS Championship would have been an excellent way to end this year’s Florida swing, but this week’s Valspar Championship, which takes place at the Copperhead Course at Tampa’s Innisbrook Resort has been tasked with difficult job of following up those exhilarating four days at TPC Sawgrass.
The field at Innisbrook is not as strong as what we saw last week either, but it still rates as more than respectable, and is hosting seven players who rank in the world’s top 20, including No. 1 Dustin Johnson.
We obviously love DJ this week, but we like the chances of a lot of other players as well:
The Valspar Championship Power Rankings is presented by Caddies Golf Wipes.
15. Brian Harman
Harman had been in the midst of a devastating slump, but we finally saw the re-emergence of his tremendous early 2018 self in a T8 effort at last week’s THE PLAYERS Championship.
Outside of a T14 in 2013, Harman’s history at Innisbrook has hardly been anything resembling impressive, but he tends to be very streaky, so do not be surprised if he finds his name on the first page of the leaderboard again this week.
World Rank: 74th
Field Rank: 25th
Last Six: 8, MC, MC, 51, 39, MC
14. Kevin Kisner
Kisner has been stunningly consistent as of late: each of his five starts since the beginning of February have resulted in finishes between 22nd and 28th. He could have closed better at THE PLAYERS last week, but his 68-68 start leads us to believe he is close to figuring it out.
We also like that he has made 13 of his last 14 cuts, dating back to last season. Kisner was T5 in birdies at TPC Sawgrass while leading the field in driving accuracy.
World Rank: 50th
Field Rank: 17th
Last Six: 22, 23, 27, 28, 26, 57
13. Sung-jae Im
The 20-year-old rookie has been very hit or miss in his rookie season, but he has clearly shown that he belongs and no field is going to intimidate him.
Im ranks in the top 40 on Tour in every strokes gained category except for putting, and even that has not been atrocious, just inconsistent. His strengths seem to match up well on this course, so do not be surprised if he looks a lot like he did two weeks ago when he posted a T3 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
World Rank: 72nd
Field Rank: 24th
Last Six: MC, 3, 51, MC, MC, 7
12. Keegan Bradley
All his rounds lately have been either great or terrible. His putting has been bad, even for him, but he has been very dialed-in tee to green, and does rank 6th on Tour in strokes gained: approach-the-green.
Even with the uneven rounds, he has a T10 and a T16 in two of his last three outings, both against elite fields. If he can avoid that one big number this week, it would be very easy seeing him top-10 this thing.
World Rank: 33rd
Field Rank: 12th
Last Six: 16, 46, 10, 51, 67, 35
11. Lucas Glover
Glover had been sizzling hot coming into last week’s THE PLAYERS Championship, but had his worst outing of the year, missing the cut after rounds of 76 and 72. Could that have been an anomaly? Maybe; it is hard to be too down on a guy who who is 7th on Tour in greens in regulation and 9th in scoring average, and even his putting has been on point.
His results in this event have been all over the board, but he has been a different player in 2019, so we lean strongly towards believing that this will be one of his better Innisbrook performances.
World Rank: 84th
Field Rank: 29th
Last Six: MC, 10, 4, 7, MC, 12
10. Henrik Stenson
2019 has been a miserable year so far for the 42-year-old Swede. In six events worldwide, he has missed the cut four times, including at last week’s THE PLAYERS Championship, along with a T54 and a T17.
As steady as Stenson seems, he has been surprisingly prone to these slumps, but if he is going to snap out of it soon, as he probably will, this could very well be the week.
He missed the cut at Innisbrook last year, but that looks anomalous when contrasted with the T7, T11, 4 he had in his previous three tries, respectively. He played VERY well around this time a year ago; maybe that gives him some good feelings coming into the week.
World Rank: 39th
Field Rank: 14th
Last Six: MC, 17, 54, MC, MC, MC
9. Paul Casey
This week, Casey will be teeing up as a defending champion on the PGA Tour since the 2010 Shell Houston Open. We are somewhat concerned that the extra attention will be a detriment to him, given how poorly he has handled pressure over the course of his career.
His current form is a complete mystery; he missed the cut by a mile at THE PLAYERS Championship last week, but prior to that, he had finished in the top 3 in two of his last three starts. His putting has been a disaster this season, but that can be pretty variable, and if he figures it out at least somewhat this week, he could very well contend. We would not bet on it, but if he does, he would be the first back-to-back winner in tournament history.
World Rank: 15th
Field Rank: 4th
Last Six: MC, 3, 25, 2, 2, MC
8. Brandt Snedeker
Sneds had been struggling badly for two months, but seemed to right the ship last week at TPC Sawgrass, vaulting into contention over the weekend on his way to a T5 finish.
Despite Innisbrook not typically being a scoring course, it is encouraging that Snedeker led THE PLAYERS field in birdies last week, and it is even more encouraging that he led the field in greens in regulation, which tends to be an indicator of success regardless of the venue. He kind of plays this event off and on, and does not have a tremendous history here, but he was in second place through 54-holes last year before completely unraveling on Sunday, showing he is at least capable of playing the course well.
World Rank: 46th
Field Rank: 16th
Last Six: 5, 50, MC, 55, 62, 16
7. Webb Simpson
Webb did not blow away the field at TPC Sawgrass like he did last year, but still had a respectable performance, following three rounds of 70 with a 68 to finish T16 for the week, which was his best performance in more than two months.
This used to be a great event for Webb, but he struggled badly for a number of years before getting back on track with a T8 last year. He is scoring well this year, despite so-so results, so we think there is a good chance he finishes highly this week.
At the very least, he is about a lock to make the cut, as he simply does not miss cuts anymore.
World Rank: 20th
Field Rank: 7th
Last Six: 16, 36, 39, 20, 8, 3
6. Patrick Reed
Three rounds of 69 had Reed on the periphery of contention at THE PLAYERS last week, but he was downright abysmal on Sunday, hacking his way to a 6-over 78 that dropped him into a share of 47th.
Reed is not having a particularly strong season, having not posted a top-10 since October (and even in that event, he closed with a 77), but if he is going to put four rounds together, Innisbrook could be the place; he has excelled here, finishing runner-up both a year ago and in 2015, in addition to a T7 in 2016.
Nobody on Tour is getting worse over the course of an average round than Reed, who is 5th on Tour in first round average, but 197th in the fourth round. That kind of discrepancy is unlikely to last long, and he should be motivated to get his game in check as he approaches his championship defense at The Masters.
World Rank: 16th
Field Rank: 5th
Last Six: 47, 50, 14, 22, 56, 13
5. Jim Furyk
Look who is suddenly the most rejuvenated man on Tour! Just when it looked like the 48-year-old Furyk was officially washed-up, and just coasting in the big league until he acquires Champions Tour eligibility in fewer than two years, the last two weeks happened: a T9 at the Honda Classic followed by an extremely impressive solo runner-up finish at THE PLAYERS, where he finished at 14-under-par.
Furyk is not hitting the ball far (at all), but suddenly, he has the 3rd best scoring average on Tour, is killing it tee-to-green, and he has made significantly more money in 7 events this season ($1.9 million) than he did in 33 starts over the previous two years combined ($1.1 million).
Maybe he is just extremely motivated to not let his disaster as Ryder Cup captain be the last memory people have of his time on Tour, but he looks really really good lately. On top of his hot recent form, he has great history at Innisbrook, winning the 2010 title and taking runner-up honors in 2012. Even last year, he managed a 7th place finish.
World Rank: 57th
Field Rank: 19th
Last Six: 2, 9, 37, 14, MC, 6
4. Jon Rahm
Rahm is coming off a Sunday to forget at THE PLAYERS Championship, holding the 54-hole lead before a 4-over 76 in the final round knocked him out of the top 10 entirely.
Still, it is hard to imagine that the 24-year-old will not learn from his experience in elite contention, and it is hard to deny his recent form (six top 12 finishes in his last seven starts), and even harder to deny his talent.
This will be Rahm’s Innisbrook debut, but like with all his other course debuts over the past two seasons, that probably matters very little.
World Rank: 10th
Field Rank: 2nd
Last Six: 12, 45, 9, 10, 5, 6
3. Sergio Garcia
Sergio had an impressive history in this event, but surprisingly left it off his schedule from 2014-17. However, he made a return to Innisbrook last year, and continued where he left off, using a 69-65 weekend to finish in solo-fourth. He comes to the Tampa area this year off a T22 performance at THE PLAYERS, which, given that he is something of a horse for the course there, probably classifies as “good, but not great”, although it could be argued that he was better than that in three of four rounds.
Prior to TPC Sawgrass, he had finished in the top 10 of consecutive events, and he is having a statistically impressive season, leading the Tour in scoring average and strokes gained: approach-the-green. It appears the Sergio who was a mess for most of 2018 is gone and forgotten.
World Rank: 26th
Field Rank: 9th
Last Six: 22, 9, 6, 37, DQ, 3
2. Jason Day
There was tremendous concern about Day’s health when he withdrew from the Arnold Palmer Invitational with back pain, but the questions were emphatically answered with a T8 at last week’s THE PLAYERS Championship, where he reached 12-under through three rounds and made the penultimate pairing on Sunday. His round-4 performance while paired with champion Rory McIlroy was underwhelming (even-par 72), but there were no indications that his Sunday performance had anything to do with his health.
Regardless, he feels healthy enough to tee it up this week at Innisbrook, for an event he has not had on his schedule since finishing T20 in 2012. With three consecutive finishes inside the top 8, and finishes of 13th or better in all six of his 2019 starts, there is little reason to believe he will not be in contention this week.
World Rank: 12th
Field Rank: 3rd
Last Six: 8, 4, 5, 13, 16, 11
1. Dustin Johnson
The world No. 1 finally put aside talk that his game does not translate to TPC Sawgrass, finishing T5 at last week’s THE PLAYERS Championship, where he was the only man in the field to shoot four rounds in the 60s.
Over the past two months, DJ has four top 10s in five starts worldwide, including two victories. He has basically no history at this event, but it is really, really hard to see Copperhead being what trips him up.
Expect Johnson to pad his small lead over Justin Rose atop the OWGR a good amount this week.
World Rank: 1st
Field Rank: 1st
Last Six: 5, 1, 9, 45, 1, 16
Next Five: Adam Hadwin, Louis Oosthuizen, Joel Dahmen, Ollie Schniederjans, Rafa Cabrera Bello