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PGA Tour best bets: Valspar Championship

March 15, 2022 09:01 PM
USATSI_17891434

After two days of nasty weather that led to 17 hours of rain delays, The Players Championship finally concluded late Monday afternoon with Cameron Smith becoming the third two-time winner on the PGA Tour in 2022 (Hideki Matsuyama, Scottie Scheffler). Smith, at a price of 30-1, won by one stroke over 500-1 long shot Anirban Lahiri, who came into the week ranked No. 322 in the OWGR. Smith, who took home the largest payout in golf history at $3.6 million, led the field for Strokes Gained: Putting ( 11.5 strokes) and had 42 one-putts. The Australian's 4.14 strokes gained on the greens in the final round were the most by any PGA Tour winner in more than two years. He had 10 birdies in Monday’s final round and only four pars, the fewest number of pars in the final round by any PGA Tour winner in the last 40 years. Smith was also terrific with his irons, ranking fifth in the field in Strokes Gained: Approach and first in Average Approach Proximity from 50 to 125 yards. That made up for ranking 68th out of 70 for Strokes Gained: Off The Tee, the worst ranking by a PGA Tour winner in the last 15 years. 

Smith will not be a part of this week's field at the Valspar Championship near Tampa, but he looks to be a big-time contender for the Masters next month with three top-10 finishes in his last four appearances at Augusta. 

Justin Thomas (9-1), the tournament favorite at the Valspar, has played here four times with just one top 10 (2015) and settled for a 33rd-place finish last week despite having his best round in the worst of the weather conditions. Viktor Hovland (11-1) looked like he was going to be the first to post a number Monday before settling for a ninth-place finish after a runner-up at Bay Hill. Hovland finished third here last year, shooting the low round on Sunday with a 65. Dustin Johnson (14-1) has gone more than a year without a win anywhere on the planet but shot the low round at The Players with a 63 on Monday to finish ninth.

Louis Oosthuizen (20-1) was three strokes back entering the final round Monday but a 76 dropped him to 42nd. Oosthuizen, still seeking his first professional win on American soil, was the runner-up here in 2019 to Paul Casey (22-1). Casey, a back-to-back winner at the Valspar (2018, 2019), comes in off a third-place finish last week but must be wondering what might have been after a beautiful drive on the par-5 16th ended up wedged down in a ball mark. Xander Schauffele (22-1), making his first appearance at the Valspar, comes in off a missed cut largely due to being on the bad end of the weather draw.

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