Tournament: Valspar Championship
Course: Innisbrook Resort (Copperhead), 7,340 yards, par 71
Defending Champion: Charl Schwartzel. The South African stormed back on the final 6 holes to force a playoff with Bill Haas, eventually prevailing.
Fun Fact: Getting in on the branding thing, this course named the final 3 holes “The Snake Pit”. Two long par 4s with a long par 3 in between. I thought we were fine with just “Amen Corner”. Doral named it’s entire course “The Blue Monster.” Then “The Bear Trap” came into existence at PGA National. Don’t, please don’t.
Television: Thursday-Friday, 3-6 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday-Sunday, 1-3 p.m. (GC), 3-6 p.m. (NBC). NBC will have the golf coverage while CBS pays billions to cover college basketball, before returning to golf with The Masters.
Former 'Dawgs in the Field (Eight): Bubba Watson, Lee McCoy, Harris English, Brian Harman, Russell Henley, Chris Kirk, Hudson Swafford, Brendon Todd
Man, I really whiffed by ommitting the Immigrant Song as fodder for last week’s DoT article (short version: the PGA Tour left Trump’s course and instead played in Mexico). No matter your political affiliations, it was just too ironic, don’t you think?
On to the current week, where the Tour hops across the Gulf of Mexico for a 2nd time, nestling in the Tampa area and the Valspar Championship. There are a few key nuggets surrounding this week (especially since you’re a Georgia fan), but it might be easier to differentiate this week against last week.
This week, only 4 of the top 15 in the world rankings are playing (Bubba being one of them); last week, the entire top 50 competed against each other. This week the field is 144 players strong with the total purse (paid out to half the field who make the cut) at just over $6M; last week was only 75 players yet the purse was over $9M paid out to everybody. So you can see that this tournament is fighting an uphill battle for prestige. However it has become a pretty good regular stop on the Tour with a difficult course, good perks for the players, and some competitive finishes.
If you noticed above, we have 8, count ‘em 8, former Bulldogs scheduled to compete. Only Kevin Kisner (top 15 last week) is missing from our stable of ‘Dawgs. Scan below as I give you a very brief rundown on where they are in the world and FedEx Cup rankings:
Brendon Todd (662, N/A). The former Tour winner has lost his Tour privileges this season, and is playing this week through an exemption. He’s only played in 2 events this year, and missed the cut in both. I believe he missed the cut in 24 of 25 tries last year. Good luck Brendon, I hope you find your game.
Lee McCoy (N/A, N/A). Last year’s SEC Individual Champion, SEC Player of the Year, and captain of the SEC Champion Georgia Bulldogs is playing through a sponsors exemption, same as last year. As it happens, he took advantage of that exemption last time, placing 4th and beating the world #1 on Sunday. He should be playing the Web.com Tour, but injured himself and will try again this summer.
Harris English (86,80). He’s had an inconsistent season so far, missing the cut in 4 of 9 events. He does have a top 10, and another top 15, and over $400k in his pocket.
Brian Harman (102,28). Probably playing the 2nd best golf of any of our alums this season (behind the Kiz), he’s made 8 of 11 cuts, 5 of those being in the top 25. That is the way to move up the rankings, though he was about this spot 2 years ago. Another lefty, and plenty of game when he rolls the rock.
Russell Henley (136,64). My personal favorite, he won his very first PGA start and has had a good career in now his 5th year on Tour. 6 of 8 cuts made, and 5 top 25s. If he plays like this through the summer, he will make the playoffs with ease.
Chris Kirk (80,31). The lower world ranking reflects that he was hurt much of 2015-16, but he is an accomplished Tour player. He is rounding back into form, with 3 top 10s before Thanksgiving in this wrap-around season, and has cashed in his last 3 events.
Hudson Swafford (92, 12) After mucking about in the 200s in world rankings, his first professional victory in January launched him up the ladder. At the time, he was the active leader in consecutive cuts on Tour, but has missed his last 3 since he found the winner’s circle. Get it together, Vazquez.
Bubba Watson (16,149) What can you say about Bubba? Everything. He is not boring. He owns an ice cream shop and a minor league baseball team. He was formerly #2 in the world, and has 2 green jackets in his closet (or in his hovercraft, which he also owns). His game isn’t quite as sharp at the moment, but he has all the talent in the world. His 3 made cuts were all in tourneys without a cut line.
If the Hoop Hounds are still hooping it up over the weekend, you and me both will be watching. But if not, this is a good alternative. Leave any questions in the comments below.
And as always….