Sobel’s Valspar Championship Preview: Looking for Clues to the Upcoming Masters
John David Mercer, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Jim Furyk
- Dustin Johnson (+550) is a the favorite to win the 2019 Valspar Championship at the Copperhead Course in Florida.
- After Johnson, Jon Rahm (+1000), Jason Day (+1000), Sergio Garcia (+1600) and Webb Simpson (+1800) are the only golfers with odds under 20-1.
- Jason Sobel analyzes the field and gives his preview for the tournament.
PALM HARBOR, Fla. — Of the 28 players in this week’s Valspar Championship field who are already qualified for the upcoming Masters Tournament, none will admit they’re looking ahead. Not a single one will publicly tell us that he’s looking straight past this week’s festivities in Tampa, not to mention the WGC-Dell Match Play and Valero Texas Open, and starting to focus on the year’s first major already.
That’s our job.
We can be excused for spending the next three weeks crossing out days on our calendar like a kid biding time until summer vacation.
With his Players Championship victory on Sunday, Rory McIlroy established himself as the favorite for this year’s Masters, with about two dozen other elite players all charging toward the first major firing on at least some of the proverbial cylinders, if not all of ‘em.
I’m not sure this week’s Valspar can match the intensity and entertainment of last year, when Paul Casey came from behind to win for the first time in a zillion years, by a stroke over Tiger Woods and Patrick Reed – one of whom asserted himself that week as an elite player once again, while the other was on the verge of a Masters title run.
Hopefully, we’ll receive some more Masters clues this week from those 28 players who absolutely, positively aren’t looking ahead even a little bit.
Because, of course, we’ll be doing that for them.
Let’s get to the picks for this week, which include a handful of guys fresh off strong finishes at The Players last week.
Dustin Johnson (+550)
Why DJ? Why here, where he owns no discernible record? Because he’s made a habit over the years of showing up at an event he doesn’t usually play, getting overlooked as one of the tourney favorites, then blitzing the field and making it look easy.
Johnson’s two prior starts here came in 2008 and ’10, and he missed the cut each time. That could be enough to keep him off some radars, but we shouldn’t overlook the fave this week, although as I often warn: You’d better really like a guy to take him at +550.
Jon Rahm (+1100)
Yeah, yeah, another big name. I could see Rahm either going into robo-golf mode and winning by a half-dozen shots or just going through the motions before a few big weeks.
At this price, you’d better be sure you like the former, not the latter, but only one result outside the top-12 over the past four months should bode well for those chances.