With The PLAYERS Championship done and dusted, the PGA Tour now begins its ramp-up towards The Masters, which begins on April 6 at Augusta National.
But there are three tournaments to go before we head down Magnolia Lane, including this week’s Valspar Championship at Copperhead Course in Palm Harbor, Fla.
It is the last event in the Tour’s annual Florida Swing.
The Players Championship always features one of the deepest fields of the year and the Arnold Palmer Invitational usually attracts plenty of stars, so the entry list for the Valspar always seems a bit lacking because of its place on the calendar.
That said, we do have a few of the biggest names in the game making the trip to the Gulf Coast.
And the best news for handicappers is that neither Scottie Scheffler nor Jon Rahm are in town.
Scheffler and Rahm have combined for five wins in 2023 already.
With the top two players in the world sitting out, oddsmakers have installed Justin Thomas as the +1000 favorite with Jordan Spieth behind him at +1200.
Matthew Fitzpatrick and two-time defending champ Sam Burns are the only other golfers under +2000.
With only a few of the elite players making the trip to Copperhead, the door should be open for a long shot to contend at the Valspar and that’s where I’m focusing this week:
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Akshay Bhatia (+10000, BetMGM)
It looks like Bhatia is going to be a popular long shot this week and for good reason.
The 21-year-old has an extremely high ceiling and looks like he could be on the cusp of a breakthrough.
After turning pro at this event at the age of 19, Bhatia has now earned temporary status on the PGA Tour thanks to his second-place finish at the Puerto Rico Open last month.
That’s a huge weight of the shoulders of a young player with high expectations.
Bhatia has played a handful of Korn Ferry Tour events this year and the results have been what you’d expect from a young golfer trying to work his way to the big leagues.
Bhatia has two top-10 finishes and a couple of missed cuts, though he did make the weekend at the Honda Classic a couple weeks back.
David Lingmerth (+12500, BetMGM)
It looks like Lingmerth is enjoying a bit of a resurgence on the PGA Tour.
His last win on the main stage came back in 2015 at the Memorial, but the 35-year-old Swede is in strong form to start 2023.
Lingmerth, who re-earned his PGA Tour card with a strong season on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2022, has four top-10 finishes in his last 10 starts including two of his last three outings.
Lingmerth is coming off a T6 showing at The PLAYERS, which suggests his game will play on this difficult Florida golf course.
Ben Taylor (+15000, BetMGM)
Another youngster, Taylor is off and running in 2023 with a pair of top-5 finishes in seven starts.
His latest impressive showing came at the Honda Classic where he finished T5 on another difficult track.
Backing Taylor at this number may be a stretch in deeper fields, but this event should be wide open and he’s proven already that he has contender upside in this set-up.
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