As Scheffler rests, tour heads to Valspar, 'Snake Pit'

golf20 March 2024 23:56| © Reuters
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Scottie Scheffler © Getty Images

There are only so many opportunities for golfers to win on the PGA Tour, so this week's field will be glad not to see Scottie Scheffler's name on the leaderboard.

After Scheffler picked up back-to-back wins at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and The Players Championship, the PGA Tour concludes its Florida swing this week at the Valspar Championship, beginning Thursday in Palm Harbour, Fla.

Scheffler is off this week after tightening his grip on the mantle of best player in the world. But 10 of the top 30 in the Official World Golf Ranking will be on the property, including a few of the players who lost to Scheffler last week – Xander Schauffele and Brian Harman.

Schauffele held the 54-hole lead at The Players but watched Scheffler speed past him on Sunday. Scheffler fired an 8-under 64; Schauffele shot 70, finishing just one stroke back in a tie for second with Harman and Wyndham Clark.

"Overall, I was just there, again, in a good spot to win a golf tournament and didn't get it done," said Schauffele, who hasn't won since the summer of 2022. "So I've accepted that and I have a couple nights to sleep under my belt now and feeling better than I did a couple days ago. So just excited to try and win again."

When he last played the Valspar in 2022, Schauffele tied for 12th place at Innisbrook Resort's Copperhead Course, which is a par 71 that will play 7 340 yards this week.

Its hallmark is a difficult final three holes – the 200-yard par-3 17th plus two tough par-4s – dubbed the "Snake Pit."

In the final round last year, Taylor Moore birdied the 16th and saved par on the last two holes to beat out Adam Schenk, who closed with a bogey, and win his first PGA Tour event.

"It would be awesome" to repeat, Moore said. "I think, first time having to defend, too. Like, when I did win on the Canadian Tour, I didn't get an opportunity. When I won on Korn Ferry Tour my last year out there, I didn't get the opportunity to defend. So obviously having that opportunity is amazing and something that I'm going to embrace.

"Getting my first tour win here was awesome, and getting my second here would be even better."

Besides Schauffele and Harman, other recognizable names in the field include Jordan Spieth, Sam Burns, Keegan Bradley, Tony Finau and Justin Thomas. Spieth tied for third at the Valspar last year and won it in 2015, while Burns notched back-to-back titles in 2021 and 2022 before placing sixth in 2023.

Thomas missed the cut at The Players and dipped to No 28 in the world rankings. Like Schauffele, Thomas is searching for his first victory since mid-2022, when he captured the PGA Championship.

"I think this is a ball-striker's course," said Thomas, who has a T3 and two T10 finishes at the Valspar. "You have to be in good control of your golf ball. I feel like that's something that's helped me in the past, but it's just a strength of my game, so that's why I like it.

"In terms of the course, I don't remember seeing the rough this long in the past, maybe ever."