Valspar Championship 2022 Overview
This tournament is held at the Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, Florida, on the difficult Copperhead course.
The course, a 7,340-yard Par 71, is tight off the tee, but unlike other typical Florida courses, the Larry Packard design features tree-lined fairways, elevation changes, and dog-leg holes. Copperhead achieves this somewhat unusual layout by including four par-5s and five par-3s, which is unusual for a Par 71 course. The course also includes ‘The Snake Pit,’ which consists of holes 16 to 18, and adds a real bite to the final stretch, especially on Sunday. The player who steps up over the weekends play on 16 through 18 will have a decent chance of being victorious come Sunday night.
The course near Tampa underwent a renovation in 2015, which included regressing the entire course with Bermudagrass, reshaping all bunkers, and rebuilding the greens. The winning scores since tell the tale of difficulty, with Copperhead averaging 0.981 strokes over par in the last event in 2019 – ranking as the third toughest golf course on the PGA TOUR that year. In 2018, Copperhead was ranked as the sixth-most difficult course on the PGA TOUR. There looks to be little rest bite for the players after last week’s treacherous Players Championship.
Historically, the Copperhead course has been a test of iron play. Players who can shape the ball in both directions with Ball Striking precision and approach play have the best chance of success. Golfers are forced to play on very narrow fairways lined with pine trees. So Accuracy from the tee is required to compete at Copperhead, and Fairways Gained is a stat to add to your search but not a must have. People will bang the drum this week regarding accuracy, however, 4 of the last 5 winner have ranked outside the top 50 for driving accuracy over the course of the week. Distance from the tee is not required, but patience and precision are. Look no further than Jim Furyk, a short-hitting, determined veteran who isn’t in the field this year but ranked third in Strokes Gained: Approach, Around the Green, Ball Striking, and Tee-to-Green over his last 24 rounds at Copperhead. Paul Casey, a two-time champion, is top five in approach over his last 16 rounds at Copperhead and top 20 in all other key strokes gained stats. The top performances are shown in the Key skill stats section below.
This is a course that will test patience and skill equally. If we’re to take the players quote over the past few years as a solid guide, then ball striking and iron play is the single most important factor. This is the ability to control both the ball trajectory and the shot shape. This is the must have skill set to contend this week at the Valspar.
5 Key Skills Set Required
- Good Drives Gained – It is no doubt advantageous to be playing from the short stuff on the difficult driving track, here at the Valspar. Look for players who have shown a tendency to hit fairways regularly in recent times. However, don’t get too hung up on it if your player is a little wayward. 4 of the last 5 winners have ranked outside the TOP 50 for fairways found that given week. That’s why I want to look at good drives gained over just accuracy and encourage you to do the same. This is one of the most difficult driving venues the players encounter all year.
- SG Approach – This really is a ball strikers’ course and the ability to move the ball both ways with iron in hand will be hugely advantageous to players this week. Previous winners like Paul Casey Adam Hadwin and Charl Schwartzel or spring to mind as superb iron players but maybe not so much with the putter or the driver in hand, you can add Streelman and Speith to that list of top class iron players both have also won here in the past.
- SG Approach 175-200 – Over 20% of all shots will come from 175-200 yards this week, longer hitters such as DJ, Kokrak ect, you may want to look at 150-175 as their extra yards from the tee box may push them into that range from approach shots. This is a key distance this week. The doglegs on the course mean even the longest hitter on tour must play for position off the tee forcing them all into long iron approaches.
- GIR Gained – 4 of the last 6 winners have ranked in the TOP 10 for GIR on that given week. On this tough and technical track, the importance of hitting GIR is emphasized somewhat.
- Par 3 Scoring – A par 71 layout with, yes, 5 par three holes. Given the fact, players will play 20 holes this week on par 3’s it makes sense to consider those that excel in this area.
- Par 5 Scoring – The Par 5’s are usually very easy on the PGA TOUR for the elite players. Not so much this week. The set of four are some of the hardest on tour with the 600 yard 5th hole playing to PAR. We often see the par 5 average ½ a stroke under par that’s not the case for any of the quartet this week. The player who lifts the trophy Sunday will have to dominate these Par 5’s.
- SG Around the Green – Looking at the more recent results at the Valspar it’s apparent that gaining strokes around the green is advantageous on these tough and technical tracks players will inevitably miss the greens and rely on their short games to compete.