By: Noah Thomas
With the 2016 Valspar Championship only two days away, 2015 winner Jordan Spieth looks to continue his dominance as the PGA’s most prolific figure. Spieth, coming off a career season, has evolved into an entirely new golfer since this moment a year ago.
The world’s No. 1 golfer, less than two years removed from his days at the University of Texas, accomplished more in one year than most accomplish in an entire career. Ranked 10th entering last year’s Valspar Championship, Spieth parlayed a playoff win in Palm Harbor into an absolute decimation of the rest of the Masters field. The 21-year-old tied Tiger Woods’s Masters record with an -18 score, winning the tournament by four strokes.
He’d score his second straight major championship in June, conquering the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay with a -5 score. Spieth would not win another major in 2015, but would finish T4 (-14) at the Open Championship and 2nd (-17) at the PGA Championship, three strokes behind winner Jason Day, who set a tournament record at -20.
Competing against Spieth at Copperhead Course this year, most notably, is Henrik Stenson and Patrick Reed—the only top-10 players outside of Spieth competing in this year’s tournament. World No. 6 Adam Scott, already with two tournament wins to his credit in 2016 (Honda Classic, WGC-Cadillac Championship), will not be playing this weekend.
Reed was one of three golfers in the 2015 Valspar’s three-hole playoff. Shooting -10 for the weekend and being in position to take home the trophy, Reed conceded victory after Spieth let loose a fury of birdies to come back and tie Reed and Sean O’Hair on the 18th hole.
Look for Reed to compete once again this weekend. His lack of birdies on the final 29 holes a year ago were what kept him from solidifying a win, but it was excellent putting that kept him in the lead for most of last year. Doing more of the same will help his efforts this time around.
Copperhead Course, one of the tougher par-71 courses on the PGA schedule, poses a challenge for golfers who aren’t competent with long drives on wide-open fairways. The 7,200-plus yard course throws many hazards at players in the form of trees, ponds, and even wildlife with most of the natural landscape surrounding it left untouched by the course’s designers.
John Daly, a fixture in PGA golf for decades, often highlighted by colorful pants, attempted to qualify for this weekend’s tournament in a one-day qualifier yesterday afternoon. Things did not seem to be going well for Daly, however. The 49-year old, two-time major champion withdrew from the event without playing a hole.