The Valspar Championship was introduced onto the PGA Tour as an alternative event, always played at the same time as a more prestigious tournament. It was quickly promoted as not only a fully-fledged PGA Tour event but the final tournament before the season-ending Tour Championship. However, the tournament continued to have problems finding a sponsor and place of its own on the schedule before it was moved to March and Valspar stepped in to sign a multiyear deal as the title sponsor.
The Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club is the long term host of the Valspar Championship. It’s a welcome stop off for players who struggle to keep up with the biggest hitters on the PGA Tour. Driving accuracy and approach play are particularly important indicators of success which helps the Copperhead Course stand out. The other thing to note about the Valspar Championship is the regularity with which the tournament is settled by very fine margins.
2023: Taylor Moore
Innisbrook Resort in Florida played host to a frenetic finish to the 2023 edition of the Valspar Open, with four men in contention for the title deep into the final round. Adam Schenk had set the pace for much of the event but was soon joined at the head of the leaderboard by Englishman Tommy Fleetwood, and crowd favourite Jordan Spieth. The 2015 Valspar champ Spieth looked favourite to seal the deal, but in the end, second-year tour pro, Taylor Moore came through the field to overhaul them all.
Starting the day two shots off the lead, Moore, burst into life with three birdies between 12 and 16, to take a score of -10 into the clubhouse. An outright win still looked unlikely at that stage, with Moore heading to the practice course ahead of a possible playoff. In the end, additional holes weren’t required, as one by one his main challengers fluffed their lines.
Spieth’s chance slipped by via a combination of hitting his tee shot into the water at 16 and missing short puts at the final two holes. Fleetwood found trouble when bogeying the par 5 14th and was unable to recover. Long-time leader Schenk then came unstuck on the 18th – managing to fire his tee shot directly behind a tree, and just failing to save par.
When all was said and done, Moore had clung on for a one-shot win from Schenk who finished on his own in second, with Spieth and Fleetwood a shot further back in a tie for third. This represented a breakthrough moment for Moore in being not only his debut PGA Tour victory, but also his first top-ten finish. Bagging $1,458,000 for his week's work, this success also moved the big-hitting Oklahoma native up to 49th in the Official World Golf Rankings and booked his ticket for The Masters.
2022: Sam Burns
Sam Burns didn’t burst onto the PGA Tour in the same eye catching fashion as some other young golfers. He took to life at the top level well enough though, holding onto his tour card after earning it for the 2018-19 season but never really looking like a potential future world number one or player who could regularly challenge for majors. That’s exactly the billing he has been given after earning his third PGA Tour win (and second of the season) at the Valspar Championship. That has seen him move up to a career-high of 10 in the world rankings and at the age of 25 he is definitely one to watch.
Burns’ blooming into a world class golfer is nothing short of incredible. His performances paint a picture of a man who found something in his game around the middle of 2020, from where he has never looked back. Strong off the tee, excellent with his irons and reliable on and around the greens, Burns is the complete player but he had to combine his technical brilliance with huge mental resilience to make it past Davis Riley in a playoff at Innisbrook.
The Copperhead Course belatedly showed its teeth during the final round and although Davis did very well to cling on for most of the way round, a triple bogey on a par five cost the rookie his first PGA Tour title. Burns was always the favourite in the playoff and made his class and experience tell, finishing the job on the second extra hole.
2021: Sam Burns
The 2021 Valspar Championship came down to a battle between two players at very different stages of their careers. For Sam Burns, the prize on offer was a first PGA Tour title. For Keegan Bradley, who won the PGA Championship in 2011, the prize was a return to the winner’s circle having won just once since 2012. In the end youth won out over experience as 24-year-old Burns completed a win which he described as, “a dream come true.”
Along with the sense of elation that winning brought Burns there was also a huge amount of relief. Twice already this season he has gone into the final round of a PGA Tour event with a lead and twice he has blown that chance. It was a little different this time around as it was Bradley who set the early pace with an excellent round of 64 on Thursday followed by a 66 on Friday. The man who almost defended his PGA Championship almost a decade ago (finishing third in 2012) was unable to maintain that pace and was joined by Burns at the head of affairs after Saturday’s round and then couldn’t find his best stuff in the heat of battle on Sunday, shooting 71 to Burns’ 68.
Although the leaderboard paints a picture of a comfortable win, Burns did not always look comfortable with his game on Sunday. He was pushed hard by Bradley in the early stages of the round and made some mistakes. However, it was an errant tee shot from the former major champion which found the water on 11 which handed the momentum and a two stroke lead to Burns. He never looked back from there and we expect there will be more wins to come from the now world number 44.
The 2020 tournament was cancelled.
2019: Paul Casey
Fittingly for an Englishman, Paul Casey’s PGA Tour wins came about like the proverbial London busses: nothing for ages and then two show up at once. Casey broke a six-year wait for a professional win at the 2018 Valspar Championship and then won the same tournament one year later. In doing so, Casey became the first Valspar champion to successfully defend his title but it was a very different experience for him on the final day.
Whereas one year earlier Casey turned in a blistering display of golf to make a run through the field, this time around it was all about hanging on. He headed into Sunday’s round with a one-stroke lead over Dustin Johnson but the expected shootout for the title did not materialise as both men struggled. Johnson blew his chances of winning with a final round of 74 while Casey’s one-over round of 72 was just about good enough to see off Jason Kokrak, Louis Oosthuizen, Sungjae Im and Bubba Watson, none of whom found scoring easy on the Copperhead Course.
2018: Paul Casey
Paul Casey has never been shy about blowing his own trumpet. And why would he? The charismatic Englishman has forged a hugely successful career as a professional golfer all around the world and has a lot to be proud of. That pride was as clear as when he lifted the Valspar Championship trophy high over his head following his win at the Copperhead Course in 2018.
As any professional golfer will tell you, consistency over a long period is a pipe dream. Every player has ups and downs but Casey required every ounce of his self-belief to make it through a slump which saw him drop outside of the top 100 of the official golf world rankings. He hung tough and kept on working with the rewards coming in the shape of his second win on the PGA Tour and his first anywhere since the 2013 Irish Open.
A quick look at the leaderboard makes Casey’s win look all the more impressive as he held off Tiger Woods and Patrick Reed by a single stroke. That only tells part of the story though. He was actually nine groups ahead of those two who were the final pairing and set the clubhouse lead of -10 a full 80 minutes before Woods and Reed finished their round. As delighted as he was with his score, Casey described his wait as: “Awful. Horrible. Can’t stand it.” It was only when Woods missed a putt to force a playoff and keep his own shot at redemption going that Casey was able to celebrate.
2017: Adam Hadwin
The Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club has a knack for producing close finishes and so it was in 2017 when Adam Hadwin secured the first PGA Tour title of his career. The then 29 year old had previously been battling away to maintain his playing privileges on the PGA Tour but he showed signs that his form was coming to the boil just a couple of months before winning the Valspar Championship when he shot an incredible round of 59 in the CareerBuilder Challenge. Breaking that famed 60 mark gave Hadwin a huge boost of confidence and he went seriously low again at Innisbrook with rounds of 68, 64 and 67 giving him a four-stroke lead ahead of the final round.
Part of the reason that the Copperhead Course provides such thrilling finishes is that players can get on a birdie run to really make things interesting. Patrick Cantlay did exactly that on Sunday to make things very uncomfortable for Hadwin. In the end, Cantlay could only muster a final round of 68 when a repeat of the pair of 66s he shot on the Friday and Saturday would have seen him win the tournament by a stroke.
Tony Finau was another to show that low scores are out there at Innisbrook. He lit the early TV coverage up with a round of 64 to haul himself into fifth place but the 2017 Valspar Championship was very much Hadwin’s to lose and he made sure that he saw the job out without issue, going round in level par.