Charl Schwartzel defends Valspar Championship

Henrik Stenson, Justin Thomas and Bubba Watson are on the start sheet

Charl Schwartzel defends Valspar Championship
Charl Schwartzel defends Valspar Championship
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The PGA Tour returns to Florida this week for the Valspar Championship at the Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor. Charl Schwartzel of South Africa is the defending champion.

After last week’s thrilling WGC-Mexico Championship, a number of top players have made the journey to Florida for this event. Charl Schwartzel defends Valspar Championship honours, Henrik Stenson will be looking to bounce back from illness while Justin Thomas will be seeking a fourth victory of the 2016-17 PGA Tour wraparound season.

This tournament began life in 2000 as the Tampa Bay Classic. It’s also been known as the Chrysler Championship, the PODS Championship, the Transitions Championship and the Tampa Bay Championship. Three years ago, Valspar (a global provider of paints and industrial coatings) took over as title sponsor in a four-year agreement.

Over the seasons, the event has seen some notable champions: K.J. Choi, Retief Goosen, Mark Calcavecchia, Luke Donald and Jordan Spieth have all won here. Last year Charl Schwartzel won for the first time in the U.S. since his 2011 Masters victory. The South African caught Bill Haas on the back nine and then beat him on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff.

Luke Donald's short game secrets:

Designed by Larry Packard and opened in 1974, the Copperhead course at Innisbrook has played host to a number of PGA Tour events through the years. In 1999 the layout was revamped to bring it in line with the modern game. The redesign was completed just in time for the 1999 JCPenney Classic, an event won by John Daly and Laura Davies.

Unusually for a West Coast Florida course, the track features some fairly significant changes in elevation – up to 80 feet. It has traditionally been one of the tougher courses visited by the PGA Tour.

The weather looks good until Sunday when rain could become a factor.

Venue: Copperhead Course, Innisbrook Resort, Palm Harbor, Florida Date: Mar 9-12 Course stats: par 71, 7,340 yards Purse: $6,300,000 Winner: $1,150,000 Defending Champion: Charl Schwartzel (-7)

TV Coverage: Thursday 9– Sky Sports 4 from 7pm Friday 10 – Sky Sports 4 from 7pm Saturday 11 – Sky Sports 4 from 6pm Sunday 12 – Sky Sports 4 from 6pm

Player watch: Justin Thomas – He’s won three times this PGA Tour season and he played well last week in Mexico, finishing tied for fifth. He has two top-20 finishes on this course in the last two seasons.

Gary Woodland – A former winner of this event, back in 2011, Woodland was also tied for eighth at Copperhead in 2014. He was tied second in the Honda Classic two weeks ago.

Ryan Moore – He has finished in the top-5 in the last two Valspar Championships and his game is well suited to the tactical challenge presented by this courses. It’s a layout that requires the player to shape the ball.

Key hole: 16th. This 460-yard par-4 has ranked as the toughest hole on the course in each of the tournaments since 2010. Water is a factor all down the right hand side. The last three holes at Copperhead are known as “The Snake Pit.” Last year they averaged 0.6 shots over par.

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly. 

Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?