Free golf betting tips for the Valspar Championship from Ben Coley

Last Updated March 07 2018, 17:11Golf
Bryson DeChambeau poses with the John Deere Classic trophy
Bryson DeChambeau poses with the John Deere Classic trophy

Jordan Spieth, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy headline the field for the Valspar Championship, but Ben Coley is spying each-way opportunities at much bigger prices.

Valspar Championship recommended bets

1pt e.w. Charles Howell at 80/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

1pt e.w. Bryson DeChambeau at 100/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

1pt e.w. Matt Kuchar at 60/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)

1pt e.w. Adam Scott at 40/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

1pt e.w. Ben Martin at 150/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

1pt e.w. Nick Watney at 150/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6)

For details of advised bookmakers and each-way terms, visit our transparent tipping record


If you've just about caught your breath following that sensational conclusion to the WGC-Mexico, make the most of it and be prepared to go again on Thursday as Tiger Woods makes his debut in the Valspar Championship.

Woods has made hay in Florida over the years (ICYMI) but is yet to tee it up at Copperhead, long-time host of an event which previously didn't sit well on his schedule. Now that the 14-time major champion can't get a game in World Golf Championships, he's here before bidding for a remarkable ninth Bay Hill title next week and is up towards the top of the betting at 33/1.

There were certainly huge positives at the Honda Classic last time, where Woods finished 12th. Only one player ahead of him hit more greens and nobody in the field hit it closer. In fact, Woods was solid in just about all areas, bar some typical waywardness off the tee, and it's reasonable to expect improvement throughout the bag as he continues to reacquaint himself with golf on the PGA Tour.

It all bodes well for Bay Hill and - whisper it - Augusta, but Woods' wild drives are too big a concern to think that he'll take to Innisbrook's Copperhead Course on his first competitive visit and most will be keeping an eye on him here with a view to considering him strongly next week. Here's hoping we see some more steps in the right direction.

Copperhead is an old-school par 71 unalike from Bay Hill or PGA National, which are flat and exposed. In fact it's almost entirely the opposite: trees frame just about every tee shot and there are undulations all the way, with water far less obvious a hazard. Perhaps that's why leaderboards tie in with venues further afield, rather than close by, with courses like Colonial, Southwind, Harbour Town and Deere Run some of the more reliable form guides.

Jordan Spieth has won at two of those as well as here and deserves respect, as ever, at 9/1. He'll absolutely feel like he's been left out of the party a little this year but doesn't look far from his best, and while all roads lead to Augusta, he'll want to win beforehand. Victory in this event three years ago preceded that first Masters title, which in turn preceded a first US Open, and his first Open Championship came after he'd won the Travelers.

Switching back to bermuda greens is a positive for the world number four and it was the quality of his long game which powered his victory here, so I wouldn't want to put anyone off at 9/1. These are the events he tends to win outside of majors and there's only one other member of the world's top 10 in opposition, so the stage does appear set for the addition of another fascinating layer to the Masters build-up.

That said, three poor putting rounds in four in Mexico confirm that he's still not quite found the answer on the greens and that's a fairly big concern to take on board at single-figure prices, so I'll expand the search to each-way selections beginning with Charles Howell III.

Known as one of the PGA Tour's underachievers, Howell remains stuck on two wins but went close last year, narrowly missing a putt for the Quicken Loans National as he lost a play-off to Kyle Stanley.

He did very little wrong under the gun that day and has since held his form really nicely, climbing up the world rankings and to the brink of a Masters spot - a huge incentive to anyone, but even more so to a man born in Augusta, Georgia, whose love for the place pours out of every interview.

Howell's bid to seal a last-minute place in the season's first major has been the theme of many a spring and he's come up short every year since 2012, but at 64th in the world he's got an excellent chance if he can produce something special over the next fortnight.

Copperhead gives him an ideal platform to get things started. He's made 11 cuts from 14 here, including four top-10 finishes, and even last year's disappointing share of 49th saw him make a bright start with a round of 67.

Compare that to his record at PGA National, where he's managed just one top 10 and hasn't managed a top-40 finish in any of his last five attempts, and it's easy to forgive a missed cut last time out where his short game went missing but the long game remained exceptionally strong.

Howell's putter has been an issue all season, but this is a real test of ball-striking and with his iron play appearing as good as ever, he's expected to comfortably make the weekend and, with that, seal a spot in the WGC-Match Play in two weeks.

Taking the next step up and hitting the frame is far less certain, but prices around 80/1 allow us the opportunity to speculate. This course is made for Howell and having hit the frame twice in 10 starts this season, plus twice last, he's worth having on-side.

Second on my list is Bryson DeChambeau, who has come a long way since finishing 27th in this event last year when sent off 300/1.

I put up the former world amateur number one that week and he was bang in the mix heading into the weekend, only for a lack of confidence - particularly on the greens - to prove costly. DeChambeau had only just abandoned his side-saddle approach to putting and arrived on a string of missed cuts as he searched for form.

A year on, he's now a PGA Tour winner having taken the John Deere Classic in impressively tenacious fashion yet I'm still far from convinced the layers are paying him the attention his results merit. Cut away the Golfing Scientist stuff, get over the salt baths and single-length shafts, and you have one of the USA's most promising young players and one who knows full well how to win.

Given that he's been playing well for some time, including when fifth just three starts ago and doing enough right in the Honda to keep things ticking over, I'm surprised that three-figure prices are on offer and he looks terrific value.

Part of the case last year was that DeChambeau had experience of Copperhead from his amateur days, leading SMU to a high-profile win here as recently as 2014 when the only player in a strong field to break 70 in two of the three rounds, ultimately landing individual honours with something to spare.

It's undoubtedly a course which plays to the strength of a noted ball-striker who finished fourth in the RBC Heritage soon after that stunning effort at the Masters and he alluded to how well it suits him last year, when eighth at the halfway stage.

DeChambeau has won twice, lost a play-off and bagged another couple of top-10 finishes in around 50 events as a professional and while this is a strong field, there's no reason he can't get competitive.

Patrick Rodgers is similarly interesting as the man who lost out to DeChambeau at the John Deere. He's played really nicely of late since recovering from illness and remains an enormous talent, but his approach play combined with four poor rounds here outweigh an eye-catching performance in an amateur event almost a decade ago.

Byeong Hun An's sole European Tour win came on a tree-lined, undulating course and he's found his game again, storming through the field in the Honda last time, while Keegan Bradley and Lucas Glover are major winners capable of grinding out a score on a seriously challenging layout and are respected.

However, I prefer the claims of Matt Kuchar at 50/1 and bigger.

Although he's won seven PGA Tour titles, concerns do remain around Kuchar when under the gun but I am one of those who takes a generally favourable view. After all, he won the PLAYERS Championship by a couple and is also a World Golf Championship winner, while it's hard to crab his performance at Royal Birkdale last year when beaten simply by an otherworldly talent.

Still, it's approaching four years since his latest PGA Tour success and that does have to be a concern of sorts, but as he approaches his 40th birthday this summer there will be plenty of opportunities for one of the circuit's most consistent performers to end the drought.

Copperhead provides one, as he has form at all the right correlating venues and is advantaged by his ability to cut out the mistakes here.

Matt Kuchar 10/1 to bounce back
Matt Kuchar should go well at one of his favourite stops

"I think Innisbrook is one of my favorite courses we play throughout the year," he said 12 months ago. "It requires kind of all facets of the game to be working.

"It's such a unique course for Florida. They have got some great undulations and some nice elevation changes.

"I played nine holes yesterday and was really, really excited and pleased with the condition of the course and just getting back to a course that I enjoy so much, it's fun to being back."

Florida-born Kuchar has made nine cuts in 10 visits here, so often on the fringes of contention, and I find it fairly easy to forgive him a substandard performance on a funny little golf course at altitude in Mexico last week.

On the form he showed when fifth in Phoenix and even 26th at Riviera two starts ago, Kuchar's game is in the shape required to play his way into things at a venue where similar players have so often thrived.

Sticking with the theme of formerly outstanding, arguably past it players, Adam Scott is worth chancing at 40/1.

It's not so very long ago that the Australian would've been vying for a place behind Spieth at the top of the market for an event such as this one, but he now finds himself alongside Ryan Moore and shorter than defending champion Adam Hadwin.

That's a reflection of a very poor 12 months or so, but Scott really caught the eye over the final 36 holes of the Honda Classic last time and I'm hopeful that it signals a contending performance here.

"I saw some really great signs in the strike and I played great over the last two rounds, which is very pleasing on a brutal course," Scott told golfaustralia.com.

"Hopefully, that's sharpened me up for the next few weeks and I can continue to build towards Augusta."

Looking through the numbers, Scott's long game was right back where we'd expect it to be and it's no surprise that this upturn coincided with a return to Florida, where he's played so much of his best golf.

Two years ago, he won the Honda before adding the WGC-Cadillac Championship and while there's been a downturn since, his results in Florida since the start of 2017 now read 14-6-13 and offer encouragement that he can do something similar here.

Granted, Scott's record at Copperhead is less impressive but he's been a sporadic visitor and the course does suit his game. This is a positional layout where those who can work their ball either way at will - like his compatriot John Senden - have thrived and while 28th is his best finish, it could pay to remember that Scott was second at halfway on his penultimate visit five years ago.

Now ranked 58th in the world, there's big incentive for this former world number one and I've a suspicion he'll continue to move in the right direction as we approach the Masters. He certainly sounded determined at the start of the year, explaining that 2017 had involved some illness, a lot of travelling and adjusting to the arrival of a second child, and pointing out that 2015 was a similar year and followed by two wins early in 2016.

A few weeks ago, I'd have been sceptical, but there have been enough signs both on and off the course that Scott's assertion that "this year is going to be great" may yet prove to be correct.

The presence of Spieth means Henrik Stenson is dangled at a very fair 20/1 and the same price about Justin Rose is similarly tempting, but I'm afraid it's another six-pronged attack on this one for me with two outsiders completing the staking plan.

First, Ben Martin is playing really nicely and could outrun odds of 150/1.

While his victory came over in Las Vegas at the Shriners, Martin's best form in general has come on shorter, tree-lined courses such as Harbour Town (third), Colonial (T10), Sedgefield (T10), Southwind (T13) and Sawgrass (T4).

Two starts here don't quite match those figures but I'm drawn to his effort last year when, arriving completely out of sorts, he responded to an opening 75 with rounds of 67 and 68 to climb from 120th to 18th before those exertions caught up with him on Sunday.

Friday's round was the sixth-best of the day and Saturday's the fifth, so for half of the tournament he was right up there among the best in the field and that supports the idea that Copperhead does play to the strengths of Martin, whose game is not dissimilar to Hadwin's.

Last time out he made a few too many mistakes at the Honda, a less suitable event, but prior to it he'd led the field in greens hit at Pebble Beach while his best performance of 2018 came when seventh at Waialae, the short, tree-lined host of the Sony Open.

Martin has looked like he's rediscovering his best form for a little while and this appears a nice opportunity having gone so well in Florida before.

Finally, Nick Watney has shown enough signs to suggest that he could force his way into contention.

This former WGC winner who led the 2010 PGA Championship through three rounds has fallen off the face of the earth, a combination of off-course issues and fitness problems enough to stop him in his tracks.

Whether he works his way back remains to be seen, but I've been encouraged by some steady progress so far in 2018 with five cuts made in five and it could be that a return to Copperhead helps him produce four solid rounds in succession.

Watney has made the cut in all 10 starts and was 14th a year ago at a course he says he loves, and if you go back through the form book he's led at halfway in 2009, finished fourth a year later and started the 2011 renewal in blistering fashion.

Of course, all of this is old news but there have been enough signs lately that the spark is still there.

Posted at 1430 GMT on 06/03/18.

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