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Valspar Championship: Expert Picks

Luke Donald has a long track record of success here.

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

What: Valspar Championship
When: March 9th -€” 12th
Where: Innisbrook Resort, Palm Harbor, FL
2016 Winner: Charl Schwartzel (-7) 
Purse: $6.3MM total (Winner -€” $1.1MM

Course: Innisbrook Resort: The Copperhead course, which was the second course at Innisbrook behind the Island Course, was built in 1974 and designed by Larry Packard. This 72 hole course is surrounded mostly by nature's best with few houses laid out throughout the course. The fairways, which are fairly open and surrounded by trees, will wind back and forth using multiple dog legs but aptly guiding the players through it with few tactfully placed traps and instead properly placed approach shots. The true test comes in the ‘Snake Pit' which make up the final 3 holes in the course. If players can navigate this at the close of their rounds, then they can succeed.

A.
Luke Donald. Bill Haas and Gary Woodland are enticing but I'm going with the player who has the longest history of success here. His 2017 season has been respectable with 3 top 25 finishes and a missed cut. It's a short course and he's ranked 24th in shots gained around the green and 12th in shots gained putting. His history here:
2016: 22nd
2015: 53rd
2014: 4th
2013: 4th
2012: 1st
2010: 6th

B:
Charles Howell III. He sailed through the Northern Trust and then faltered at Honda Classic. That's fine because he tends to rebound at the Valspar Championship. I feel like you can set an early season watch by his tendencies, when he's comfortable with a course he's consistent. His last three years at Innisbrook:
2016 -€” 5th
2015 -€” 10th
2014 -€” 14th

Justin Thomas. Last time I used him, he won (SBS Tournament of Champions) so I'm hoping for a repeat. He's hit a bit of a cold streak over the last 4  (Missed Cut, 39th, Missed Cut and 5th) but coming off that strong 5th place start at the World Gold Championship -€” Mexico, coupled with his strong performance here, I think he can be a top ten finish:
2016 -€” 18th
2015 -€” 10th

C.
Jason Dufner. There are some quality C-level guys this year so when I can, I will use them. You may have noticed a trend with my picks, they have a history of success here, same with Dufner:
2016 -€” 22nd
2015 -€” 24th
2014 -€” 14th
He's accurate off the tee (14th on the tour) and great on approach shots within 100 yards (top 25 from 50-125 yards).

Dark Horse:
Graham Delaet  - 5th in Bogey Avoidance,  3rd in par 5 scoring and 5th in proximity to the hole at Innisbrook he knows it well  (his last two times here yielded top ten finishes). Add in his 3 consecutive top 20 finishes and he's playing well right now.