I'm taking credit for another victory last week at the inaugural World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship. My singular value pick was Gary Woodland because he can hit it a mile and that tournament in Mexico City was played at the highest altitude ever for a PGA Tour event. Woodland was +3300 but finished T38. I also mentioned that I liked the prop of Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth at +300 vs. the field (-450).
Johnson was your winner, shooting a final-round 68 to finish at 14-under 270 in his first tournament as the world's No. 1 player. Johnson started the day one shot back, but when overnight leader Justin Thomas started to fade Johnson quickly took over the top spot. He led by four at one point. Jon Rahm briefly got even with Johnson, but DJ had a birdie on No. 15 and three closing pars were good enough to for Johnson to win his second consecutive start.
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DJ was fourth in the field in driving distance and first in proximity to the hole. When this guy can control his irons like that, he's just about unbeatable with his length off the tee. He became only the fifth player to win his first PGA Tour event after becoming world No. 1. The others are Ian Woosnam, David Duval, Vijay Singh and Adam Scott. It was DJ's 14 th career Tour win and fourth WGC title, which is the second-most of anyone not named Tiger Woods.
Frankly, the tournament would have been a rout had Johnson not missed 16 putts from inside 10 feet. Only one PGA Tour winner in the last decade, Sean O'Hair at the 2009 Wells Fargo Championship, missed as many. I hit on Johnson at -160 for a Top 10 as well as head-to-head at -125 over Jordan Spieth, who was T12. Missed on Woodland and Henrik Stenson (W/D in first round) for Top 10s. Also got Scott at -200 as top Aussie even though he didn't play particularly well. I wasn't high on Rory McIlroy for the tournament, but he finished T7 in his first start since suffering a rib injury in mid-January. McIlroy could have moved to second in the world rankings with a top-three finish; he was a 36-hole leader.
With the very popular Arnold Palmer Invitational next week in Orlando, most big names are skipping this week's Valspar Championship in the Tampa Bay area even though Innisbrook Resort's Copperhead Course is a favorite among players. I've played it a handful of times - very nice. It's very non-Florida in that there's plenty of hills and trees. Feels like a Midwest course. The closing three holes are referred to as the "Snake Pit" for their difficulty. Copperhead, a par 71 at 7,340 yards, places a premium on position off the tee.
Eight of the world's Top 30 are set to play but no Johnson, Spieth, McIlroy or Phil Mickelson to name four. The defending champion is Charl Schwartzel. He made up three shots over six holes on Sunday last year to force a playoff with Bill Haas. The South African won on the first extra hole with a par. It was Schwartzel's first win since the 2011 Masters. They remain his only two PGA Tour wins, although he tends to win one of the European Tour's South African stops fairly regularly. Schwartzel has not played well in four PGA Tour events this year. No player has repeated here. Only Retief Goosen and K.J. Choi have won the Valspar twice. Schwartzel is +3300 this week.
Golf Odds: Valspar Championship Favorites
At Bovada , Thomas is +1000. He did take over the FedEx Cup points lead last week with his fifth-place finish. He has three wins on the year. Thomas had a Top 10 here in 2015 and was 18th a year ago.
Stenson is also +1000. He had to pull out because of a stomach bug last week - don't drink the water in Mexico dude! Apparently he's fine now. Stenson had been playing fabulous overseas. He was fourth here in 2015 and 11th in '16.
Matt Kuchar, Patrick Reed and Ryan Moore (all +2500) round out the favorites. Kuchar has three Top-15 finishes and no missed cuts in his last five starts here. He was T20 last week. Reed was a runner-up here in 2015 and seventh last year but isn't playing well of late. Moore has been in the Top 5 the past two years at Copperhead.
Golf Odds: Valspar Championship Picks
For a Top 10, I like Stenson (-125), Woodland (+190) and Moore (+200). I'm going to hedge a bet and take Woodland at +1600 as top American. Take a shot on Luke Donald, a major Horse for the Course with four Top 6s including a win this decade, at +700 as top European.
Head-to-head, go with Graham DeLaet (-125) over Bubba Watson (-105), Charles Howell III (-125) over Schwartzel (-105), Woodland (-115) over Daniel Berger (-115), Moore (-130) over Haas (even), Stenson (-115) over Thomas (-115), and Donald (-115) over Billy Horschel.
Bovada is again offering a few groups against the field, and I like Thomas, Stenson and Moore at +300 (field is -450). I think Moore wins but Thomas or Stenson doing so wouldn't be any surprise. I took the Woodland hedge on top American because he has a win and Top 10 here since 2011.
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