Starts: 16th March 2023
Course: Innisbrook Resort (Copperhead)
Par: 71 (36-35)
Length: 7,340 yards
2022 Champion: Sam Burns
Designer: Larry Packard
Used Since: 2000
Fairways: Narrow, Tree Lined
Greens: TifEagle Bermuda with Poa overseed (12 stimp)
Water Hazards: On 9 holes
Par 5's: 1st, 5th, 11th and 14th
Premium on: Strong approach play
This event was not played in 2020 due to the pandemic.
This year the event returns to a March slot in the calendar (was played in late April 2021).
Copperhead is traditionally one one of the harder courses on tour.
Thursday: Sunny with wind 8-12mph.
Friday: Mostly sunny with wind 16-20mph.
Saturday: Mostly sunny with wind 14-18mph.
Sunday: Chance of thunderstorms. Wind 12-14mph.
Sam Burns won with a total of -17 in both 2022 and 2021. In the 10 years prior, winning scores have ranged from -7 to -15 depending on the conditions.
Sam Burns defended last year whilst he had two solid finishes (30th and 12th) here prior to winning in 2021. Paul Casey defended his title in 2019 but he arrived in 2018 with a best finish of 37th in four starts. 2017 winner Hadwin and 2016 winner Schwartzel only had one start here prior to winning and both had missed the cut. Preferred but not essential.
Sam Burns was in steady form last year with two top 30's but had missed the cut in three of his last four starts prior to winning in 2021. Casey arrived on the back of a missed cut in 2019 but was in good form before that. In 2018, he had three top 15's in his previous four starts. The previous five winners have had a 12th place finish or better in their last three starts, so we want to see some sign of form.
The world ranking of the past seven champions has been 17-91-15-17-99-32-10. Winners are generally inside the top 100 and we're looking for quality players to prevail.
Non-Americans have a great record in recent years. Jordan Spieth and Sam Burns are the only American winners since 2013. Winners have been from England, Canada, Australia and South Africa.
The 3M Open is worth considering as a correlating course. Past Valspar champions with Top 12 finishes at 3M include Hadwin (twice), Schwartzel (twice), Burns and Woodland. Louis Oosthuizen has a runner up finish in both events. Cam Tringale has a 3rd in both.
We have six years of Strokes Gained data to assess.
SG: Off The Tee
The last Six winners have ranked 52-16-6-50-47-52. Surprisingly not a key stat for a narrow, long course.
The last Six winners have ranked 16-19-11-17-37-30. In general, you don't need to be a bomber but you do need to be above average.
The last Six winners have ranked 41-33-9-68-27-65. Accuracy off the tee isn't essential either.
The last Six winners have ranked 3-14-7-7-2-3. Approach play is key.
SG: Around The Green
The last Six winners have ranked 13-23-9-3-25-23. A tough test means a solid short game will be necessary here.
The last Six winners have ranked 8-3-43-15-4-12. Not essential to putt the lights out but as always, its helps.
Holes16-18 are known as 'The Snake Pit' where pars are a great score. 16 is a 475 yard par 4 and one of the toughest on tour. 17 is a tough par 3 and 18 is an uphill par 4.
The par 5's (1st, 5th, 11th and 14th) are the easiest and must be taken advantage of.
See above on 'Tough Holes'.
Fast or Slow Start
Before last year, since 2011, the winner had been at least 3 shots behind after round one with none in the top 5. However, Sam Burns was joint leader after round one last year and Davis Riley who finished 2nd was one off the lead.
After round two, five of the last six winners have been 2nd or better. There have been two big Sunday comebacks in the last five years - Casey came from 5 behind in 2018 and Schwartzel came from 5 back in 2016. In general, comebacks are possible here.