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Make Your Case: Sizing up the Valspar leaders

5 Min Read

Draws And Fades

    Written by Will Gray @GolfBet

    The betting markets have spent the entire week waiting on Jordan Spieth.

    One of the most popular plays before the start of the Valspar Championship, Spieth has been the betting favorite after each of the first three rounds. What he hasn’t led (yet) is the actual leaderboard.

    Sure, Spieth was the man in front for much of the day Saturday at Innisbrook Resort, turning a two-shot deficit into a two-shot advantage after just five holes. But his third round on the Copperhead Course was tumultuous – even by Spieth standards – and at the end of the day he slipped one shot behind Adam Schenk.

    Having flirted with even-money pricing as he made the turn, Spieth is still favored to win this event for the second time. But it’s much closer than it seemed like it might be, with the top six players separated by just two shots and Schenk now in the pole position as he looks to turn a slim lead into a watershed win.

    Updated odds to win Valspar Championship (via BetMGM Sportsbook)

    +275: Jordan Spieth

    +350: Tommy Fleetwood

    +450: Adam Schenk

    +1000: Taylor Moore

    +1200: Webb Simpson

    +1600: Wyndham Clark

    +2500: Cody Gribble

    +3000: Patton Kizzire, Matt Wallace

    +4000: Davis Riley

    So let’s take a look at the cases for (and against) some of the leaders in Tampa, heading into what’s expected to be an eventful final round:

    Adam Schenk (-8, solo leader, +450)

    For: Schenk made it through a wobbly third round with his lead still intact. He’s not the biggest name on the board, but he put forth a pair of timely birdies across the Snake Pit to close out his day and head into the final round ahead. He’ll need that sort of mettle on display to bring home a maiden trophy. But the stats reflect a well-rounded effort: fourth in SG: Off the Tee, sixth in SG: Putting and seventh in SG: Tee to Green. He’s been in the mix enough before that it’s not unreasonable to think he could hold on this time.

    Against: It’s hard to close out a lead, especially when the field has been chasing you for three straight days. Schenk also led at the halfway point and he’ll have fan favorite Spieth alongside him in the final pairing. His first birdie Saturday didn’t come until the 11th hole – a similar drought in the final round could leave him in the dust.

    Jordan Spieth (-7, T-2, +250)

    For: The markets have had him circled all week. Spieth knows what it takes to win this event, having done so in a playoff in 2015, and he continues to be among the ball-striking leaders this week. Innisbrook emphasizes Spieth’s tee-to-green creativity, and he’ll have the crowds behind him in a big way Sunday as he looks to close out his first win in nearly a year.

    Against: He may spend the night recovering from motion sickness. Spieth was all over the place Saturday, pouring in birdies and constantly giving back those gains in short order. It added up to a 2-under 69 but included five bogeys. Four of those came on the back nine, as he went from leading by two to trailing by a shot. It’s a concerning trend for someone with such a short price.

    Tommy Fleetwood (-7, T-2, +350)

    For: It’s still wild to think that Fleetwood has yet to win on the PGA TOUR, but his price inside of Schenk and just behind Spieth is a testament to his ability. Innisbrook often identifies the best ball-strikers and the Englishman certainly fits that bill, sitting third in SG: Tee-to-Green through 54 holes. He made it around without a bogey Saturday, one of only two such rounds on the day. A repeat performance should end with his hands around the trophy.

    Against: It’s tough to point to much outside of his States-side drought, and Fleetwood is probably my top pick for an in-play option. But if there’s a question mark, it might be the putter: he picked up more than a shot on the field on the greens Saturday, but most of that work was done saving par as opposed to converting birdie chances.

    Taylor Moore (-6, T-4, +1000)

    For: Moore’s price is reflecting the name-brand discount that may be applying to the likes of Spieth and Fleetwood. He may not have the recognition of the duo at 7 under but his play has been on their level this week, as he’s capitalizing on his length (fourth in Driving Distance) while keeping the ball in play off the tee. He also had three straight top-15 finishes on the West Coast Swing, so he’s not totally unfamiliar with this environment.

    Against: It may depend on if the putter can stay hot. Moore picked up 2.369 strokes on the greens Saturday, second-best among the field, but he actually lost strokes with his approach play. That’s a worrisome combination as we look ahead to Sunday.

    Webb Simpson (-6, T-4, +1200)

    For: Simpson made the big move on Saturday, shortening from +6600 to +1200 thanks to a well-timed 68. The veteran knows what it takes to win on TOUR and is flashing some vintage form this week, ranking fourth in the field in SG: Approach and fifth in SG: Tee to Green.

    Against: Simpson has quietly been in the midst of a serious slide over the last several months, entering this week ranked 164th in the world. To find his most recent top-10 finish, you have to go all the way back to the 2021 RSM Classic. I’m hard-pressed to believe he’ll be able to convert his return to contention into his first win in nearly three years, especially given the talent above him on the board.

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