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After a rather uneventful finish to the Players Championship that saw World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler cruise to a five-shot victory, the PGA Tour will head south for the 2023 Valspar Championship at the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club. Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth will headline a much weaker field than the one we saw at TPC Sawgrass.

Sam Burns, though, might be the man to beat. The 26-year-old returns to Innisbrook this year searching for his third straight victory at the Valspar. With a win, he would become the first three-peat winner on the PGA Tour since Steve Stricker won the John Deere Classic in 2009, 2010, and 2011.

But are either of our golf experts picking Burns to pull off a third straight victory at the Valspar Championship? Let’s find out.

2023 Valspar Championship predictions

Expert predictions for the Valspar Championship.
Sportscasting’s predictions for the Valspar Championship | Mike Calendrillo/Sportscasting

Here are a few predictions for the 2023 edition of The Valspar Championship from Sportscasting golf experts Jack Dougherty and Luke Norris.


Jack Dougherty: Keegan Bradley

Keegan Bradley has been a boom-or-bust performer at Innisbrook over the last few years. In his last three starts at the Valspar Championship, the 36-year-old has recorded two missed cuts and a runner-up finish. I think he can boom this year in what’s been a strong statistical start to his season.

Through 10 starts, Bradley ranks 41st or better on the PGA Tour in strokes gained off the tee, strokes gained approaching the green, and total strokes gained. Putting has always been Bradley’s biggest weakness, but he’s gained strokes putting in seven of his 10 starts this year.

The Zozo Championship winner can definitely pick up his second victory of the season this week.

Luke Norris: Justin Thomas

The easy call here would be to go with back-to-back champ Sam Burns, who came up just one short of the 72-hole record in each of his victories the last two years. But instead of going that route, I’ll go the other easy way and take the highest-ranked player in the Valspar Championship field, Justin Thomas.

But his world ranking isn’t the only reason I like him this week. In five appearances at this tournament, JT has only missed the weekend once. And even then, he shot 74-71. In his other four starts here, he hasn’t finished lower than 18th. And he’s twice been in the top 10, including a solo third just last year, a week in which he started with three consecutive rounds of 66. So Thomas knows how to go low at Copperhead.

Justin Thomas hits a tee shot during the Players Championship.
Justin Thomas hits a tee shot on the 8th hole during the second round of The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass | Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In fact, he’s been under par in seven of his last eight rounds here. With a disappointing finish at The Players, where he finished tied for 60th, the world’s 10th-ranked player will likely be a bit aggressive this week.

Biggest sleeper

Jack Dougherty: Ben Griffin

If you don’t know the name Ben Griffin by now, it’s about time you get to know it.

A rookie on the PGA Tour, Griffin has recorded six top-25 finishes and one top-10 in 14 starts this season. He’s only missed two cuts and ranks second on Tour in total birdies with 227. In his last three starts (on extremely difficult tracks, I might add), Griffin has finished T21, T14, and T35. He should be in for another strong week at Innisbrook.

Luke Norris: Aaron Rai

After a strong showing at TPC Sawgrass, where he was one of three players to ace the famed 17th, Aaron Rai seems primed for another good week at Copperhead. It was only two years ago that he was the 70th-ranked player in the world, and after dropping as far as No. 173, he’s jumped more than 50 spots over the last few months and is now back to No. 120. He’s made the weekend in five of his last six starts and is certainly coming in with some momentum. At 50-1, Rai may not be a good pick to win, but I definitely like him as a top-20 finisher here.

Most likely bust

Jack Dougherty: Sam Burns

Not only am I avoiding Burns as my pick to win the Valspar Championship. I’m also picking the back-to-back winner to be the biggest bust of the week.

Burns is the fourth option on the odds board this week, which makes sense when you consider his stellar history at Innisbrook, but his recent form has been anything but stellar. In his last three starts, Burns has missed the cut twice and finished T35 in the other. He’s 8 over par during that span with a scoring average of 72.75.

Burns isn’t hitting his irons well enough to contend this week, as he’s lost strokes on approach in three straight starts. I’m expecting another disappointing finish here.

Luke Norris: Matt Fitzpatrick

The second-highest-ranked player in the Valspar field is reigning U.S. Open champ Matt Fitzpatrick, who, like Justin Thomas, played well here a year ago and finished in solo fifth, shooting 67-68-67-68 to finish at 14 under. But let’s not pretend the world No. 13 is playing as well as he was last year, especially as it pertains to his iron play, which is critical at Copperhead. So the fact that Fitzpatrick currently ranks 168th on the PGA Tour in strokes gained approach and 177th in proximity to the hole doesn’t bode well for his chances this week.

Make-or-break hole

Jack Dougherty: No. 16

The par-4 16th hole is the toughest test these players will face to face on their way back to the clubhouse. Water guards the entire right side of this skinny fairway, and you can’t bail out to the left because of the trees. If you’re able to avoid the trouble off the tee, a lengthy approach shot into the 458-yard hole will be waiting. Two precise shots will be necessary to leave No. 16 with a par.

Luke Norris: No. 17

The middle hole of Copperhead’s famed Snake Pit, the par-3 17th, which can play as long as 206 yards, is deceptively tricky. Yes, it’s got a sizeable putting surface that’s pretty easy to hit. But a big green brings three-putts into play if you miss on the wrong side. And if you happen to miss the green altogether, you’re likely to find one of the four bunkers that surround it.

The 17th certainly played a factor here a year ago. While Sam Burns ultimately won the tournament, he bogeyed the hole. But eventual runner-up Davis Riley made birdie, which helped him get into a playoff. So the 17th truly can be a make-or-break hole come Sunday afternoon.


How Much Does It Cost to Play the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook?