Donald, Rose among the favourites

Features

While most of the big names are choosing to sit this week out, Englishmen Justin Rose and Luke Donald are in the field for the Valspar Championship.

The British duo will battle it out with the likes of Harris English, Jordan Spieth, Matt Kuchar and Jason Dufner for the right to lift the trophy at the famed Copperhead golf course at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, Florida.

The tournament itself may be subject to several name changes (before becoming the Valspar this year, it was known as the Tampa Bay Championship in 2013 and the Transitions Championship for the preceding four years), but one thing that has stayed constant is the Innisbrook venue.

Copperhead, one of four courses at the Florida resort, is a 7,340-yards, par 71 layout marked by tree-lined fairways and rolling terrain.

Aside from two double dogleg par-5s, players can also look forward to the “Snake Pit”, a three-hole stretching covering Nos 16. 17 and 18 that features a par-4 of 475 yards – the toughest hole on the course – followed by a 215-yard par-3 and another bruising 445-yard finishing par-4.

Many a player has fallen into the “Snake Pit” – ranked sixth among last year’s toughest closing three-hole stretches – and kissed their chances of winning goodbye.

Harris English, another one of a large group of emerging young Americans making their presence felt, is being backed as a 18/1 favourite this week.

It’s the 24-year-old’s consistency that has the bookies believing he may be ready to follow up his maiden Tour victory in November of last year with another win. Before a 16th at the Cadillac Championship, English finished in the top 10 in three of his previous four strokeplay events.

Jordan Spieth is being backed at similar odds. The 2013 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year used this event last year to springboard his career, finishing an impressive seventh, and has been one of the most consistent performers ever since.

Following these two young guns is the experienced trio of Donald (20/1), Kuchar (20/1) and Rose (22/1).

A top 10 at the Honda and a tied-25th last week at Doral means Donald has shown some decent form, while Kuchar is mostly being backed for his impressive consistency at Innisbrook over the years, which includes five top 20s in six appearances.

Rose, meanwhile, has been dealing with injury and hasn’t yet had a chance to string all that many good results together. The worst seems to be behind him, however, and this could be the week he rediscovers the kind of major-winning form he enjoyed last year.

Finally, at 25/1, Jason Dufner might be one to back. A closing 76 at Doral on Sunday put pay to his chances, but he certainly did well to play his way into the final group over the three days prior. He certainly knows how to win on the PGA Tour, as he’s shown many times over.

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