Valspar Championship betting preview and tips from Ben Coley

Brandt Snedeker
Brandt Snedeker

Golf expert Ben Coley previews the Valspar Championship, where a couple of old-fashioned golfers can go well on an old-fashioned course.

Recommended bets

1pt e.w. Brandt Snedeker at 50/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

1pt e.w. Ryan Moore at 55/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

1pt e.w. JT Poston at 90/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

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

1pt e.w. Kyoung-Hoon Lee at 200/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

Despite a new slot in the calendar, the Valspar Championship has managed to attract an elite field at the very top end, with Dustin Johnson, Jason Day and Jon Rahm all chasing a form of redemption after The PLAYERS.

Rahm, of course, is the one who has to bounce back. Whether you consider it a case of poor decision-making, poor execution, or both, his second shot at the 11th looked to cost him a chance to win the tournament and the Spaniard will be desperate to make amends before Augusta.

Here at Innisbrook, a Florida course which looks like it's anywhere but Florida, he'll have to adapt and bounce back quickly and even for one so talented, so prolific, I wouldn't be surprised if the task is beyond him.

Johnson and Day have reasons to be a little more positive. The former put together his best ever PLAYERS finish while the latter recovered well from the injury which forced his withdrawal from the Arnold Palmer. Having enjoyed a front-row seat to Rory McIlroy's victory, he'll be all the more eager to win for the first time in almost a year.

This course, however, probably doesn't suit either particularly well. At times it is tight as it winds this way and that until eventually we reach the so-called Snake Pit, a closing stretch of holes as fearsome for elite golfers as its name is for ophidiophobes.

The last three champions - Charl Schwartzel, Adam Hadwin and Paul Casey - all struggled a little off the tee and that underlines the point. Johnson and Day both gain a huge advantage with driver in hand, something the Aussie in particular was able to do last week. I'm not sure either will be so well rewarded here.

Typically this has been a test of iron play, never more so than in 2017, when every single member of the top 10 ranked 18th or higher in strokes-gained approach. But more than that, it's a course which favours those who like to work the ball both ways; an old-fashioned test, where length isn't all that much of a factor.

In that spirit, Ryan Moore gets my vote.

This is a golfer for whom the phrase 'old-fashioned' is almost a requirement if you're going to back him. Moore has won five times at four different courses, and only TPC Summerlin would fail to fit the description - and that's where he spends much of the off-season practicing.

TPC Kuala Lumpur, TPC Deere Run and Sedgefield Country Club are tree-lined courses on which there are options off the tee and Moore is exactly the type of player who comes alive when he returns to a venue which brings out his best.

Here at Innisbrook, where he was eighth way back in 2007 and has been fifth and third subsequently, Moore has plenty in his favour and it's significant that his best form elsewhere has come at correlating courses.

That list can be extended to include TPC River Highlands, where his record is even better, and having played well three weeks in a row he looks primed to contend again here.

Last week, Moore made a hole-in-one in the first round and scored nicely at the weekend, telling reporters that he's "felt close lately", and it's very much worth taking the hint on a much more suitable layout.

Similar comments apply to Brandt Snedeker, who won at Sedgefield last year and has also been successful at East Lake and Harbour Town, the latter compared to Innisbrook by past Valspar champ Kevin Streelman.

Snedeker ranked ninth in approach play last week, surprising himself a little on a golf course elongated by rain, and fifth place represented immediate reward for the decision to reunite with former coach Todd Anderson.

It was Anderson who helped Snedeker win the FedEx Cup, become a Ryder Cup staple and major contender, and while five years under Butch Harmon did yield a number of success stories, it's fair to say he never quite found the improvement he was looking for back in 2014.

"[Anderson] knows me so well, kind of knows my swing, and knows me personally, kind of how I process information. We clicked right away," said Snedeker last Saturday.

"It's pretty easy to get back to where we felt like, OK, I can play golf from here and I know what a bad shot feels like and what a good shot feels like and so I can try to eliminate half the golf course, which is all I've been trying to do."

Last year, Snedeker played with Tiger Woods over the weekend here and rose to the challenge on Saturday, shooting 67 to sit one off the lead entering Sunday.

However, a final-round 78 undermined so much of the good work under testing conditions but on balance, being alongside Woods as he threatened to complete a fairytale (well...) comeback asked too much - especially with Snedeker needing to win to qualify for the Masters.

One year on, Masters return already secured, Snedeker looks in a far better place mentally and having made eight out of nine cuts here, finishing fourth in 2011, he looks to have a sound each-way chance at the price.

There are any number of appealing left-field candidates this week, including Canadian duo Nick Taylor and David Hearn - the latter having qualified late on Monday.

Hearn likes this course, Deere Run, Sedgefield and so on, and he's played quite nicely this year, twice qualifying on Monday and showing that he still has something more to give.

Taylor meanwhile is a former PGA Tour winner who kept his card with an excellent performance at Sedgefield last year, and the quality of his iron play at Sawgrass certainly caught the eye as he continues to finish on the fringes of the top 10.

However, there's more substance to the form of JT Poston and he's preferred.

This youngster really looks to be improving to a level where he can go and contend for events regularly, and when interviewed at the PLAYERS last week he told reporters his goal is loftier than that - he feels ready to win.

Poston has made every cut so far in 2019, his putting key to that but his iron play also a strength, and crucially returns to a course where he finished 14th on his sole visit two years ago - ranking 10th in strokes-gained approach.

The fact he's friends with Keith Mitchell and was greenside to cheer him to that unlikely Honda Classic win adds further belief that he can go and do something similar, and having been inside the top 10 after the first two rounds last week he can make the most of this drop in grade.

Russell Knox and Kevin Kisner both came under consideration having been part of my Sawgrass staking plan, with Kisner in particular building a seriously deep bank of solid form that he can put to use at some stage.

His record here is a little worrying but fundamentally the course looks a good fit, so watch for him going well along with Knox, who just needs to find some confidence on the greens in order to be a factor. Having won at TPC River Highlands, the course I consider to be a strong pointer, he was hardest to omit.

Next on the list is Joaquin Niemann, for reasons similar to those given a couple of weeks ago.

The young Chilean was the talk of the PGA Tour last year as he earned a full card soon after turning professional, thanks to four top-10 finishes on sponsor invitations.

A former world amateur number one, there's little doubt he has the game to win multiple titles at this level and it's only really the putter that's kept him from popping up on leaderboards of late.

There was a little improvement in that department last time, but it's his approach play - ranking 12-23-30 over his last three starts - which really catches the eye and suggests a breakthrough is imminent.

Niemann hasn't played in this tournament, but did win the 2017 TaylorMade-Adidas Golf Junior at Innisbrook in record-breaking fashion, and any extra edge he can take from that has to be an advantage.

Certainly, I don't see a great deal wrong in persevering with him at three-figure prices in an event where, outside the big three, there's not a great deal to fear.

Finally, while Jason Kokrak is of course on the radar along with big outsiders Max Homa and Scott Langley, it's Kyoung-hoon Lee who completes my staking plan.

The Korean has finished 25th, 35th and seventh on his last three starts, a sequence which began at Riviera, and the strength of his ball-striking has been particularly impressive.

Lee ranked fourth, 13th and first for greens hit across this stretch, first and ninth for strokes-gained approach in the two events where it was measured, and at a course where deadly iron play is key that brings him firmly onto the radar at 200/1.

LISTEN: The Not Another Golf Podcast
LISTEN: The Not Another Golf Podcast

Posted at 1205 GMT on 19/03/19

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