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10 golfers to know ahead of the Valspar Championship

Will England’s Paul Casey win his third straight Valspar title? Who is making their Innisbrook debut?
Paul Casey tees off on the second hole during the final round of the Valspar Championship in 2019 in Palm Harbor.
Paul Casey tees off on the second hole during the final round of the Valspar Championship in 2019 in Palm Harbor. [ MIKE CARLSON | AP ]
Published Apr. 26
Updated Apr. 27

The Valspar Championship returns to Palm Harbor this week after missing last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

On Thursday, 156 players are scheduled to tee off on Innisbrook’s Copperhead Course, with limited spectators on hand for the PGA Tour event.

Related: Five things to know about the Valspar Championship

Here are 10 players to watch going into the tournament, the final Florida stop on tour this season:

Dustin Johnson

2020 Masters champion Dustin Johnson shows off his green jacket after his victory in November in Augusta, Ga.
2020 Masters champion Dustin Johnson shows off his green jacket after his victory in November in Augusta, Ga. [ MATT SLOCUM | AP ]

World ranking: No. 1

Best finish on tour in 2020-21: Johnson won the 2020 Masters Tournament, which was moved to the 2021 PGA Tour schedule because of the pandemic.

Previous Valspar outcomes: In 2019, Johnson tied for sixth at 5-under 279. He also played in the 2008 PODS Championship and 2010 Transitions Championship at Innisbrook but did not make the 36-hole cut.

On par: Johnson most recently tied for 13th at the RBC Heritage on April 18 with a score of 10-under 274.

Justin Thomas

Justin Thomas holds the trophy after winning The Players Championship in March in Ponte Vedra Beach.
Justin Thomas holds the trophy after winning The Players Championship in March in Ponte Vedra Beach. [ JOHN RAOUX ]

World ranking: No. 2

Best finish on tour in 2020-21: Thomas won The Players Championship on March 14 with a score of 14-under 274.

Previous Valspar outcomes: Thomas has played at Innisbrook three times: 2015, 2016 and 2017. His best finish was in 2015, when he finished 4-under 280 for 10th place. In his most recent showing, he was cut after two rounds.

On par: Thomas has won one tour event per season since 2016.

Patrick Reed

Patrick Reed celebrates his one-stroke victory, his third on the PGA Tour in less than a year, at the Cadillac Championship.
Patrick Reed celebrates his one-stroke victory, his third on the PGA Tour in less than a year, at the Cadillac Championship.

World ranking: No. 7

Best finish on tour in 2020-21: Won the Farmers Insurance Open on Jan. 31 with a score of 14-under 274.

Previous Valspar outcomes: Reed has competed in the Valspar Championship every year since 2015 and also in 2013, when it was known as the Tampa Bay Championship. His best finishes were in 2015 (second place with a score of 10-under 274) and 2018 (second, 9-under 275).

On par: Through 11 events this season, Reed has finished in the top 10 four times and been cut only twice.

Viktor Hovland

Viktor Hovland, of Norway, watches a shot during the final round of the Masters in April in Augusta, Ga.
Viktor Hovland, of Norway, watches a shot during the final round of the Masters in April in Augusta, Ga. [ DAVID J. PHILLIP | Associated Press ]

World ranking: No. 15

Best finish on tour in 2020-21: Hovland won the Mayakoba Golf Classic on Dec. 6, finishing 20-under 264.

Previous Valspar outcomes: Hovland will make his Valspar Championship debut at Innisbrook next weekend.

On par: Through 14 events this season, Hovland has finished in the top 10 four times and has only been cut after two rounds once (The Players Championship on March 14).

Paul Casey

Paul Casey celebrates after the final putt on the 18th hole to win the 2019 Valspar Championship.
Paul Casey celebrates after the final putt on the 18th hole to win the 2019 Valspar Championship. [ MIKE CARLSON | Associated Press ]

World ranking: No. 20

Best finish on tour in 2020-21: Casey has tied for fifth twice this season. He finished 14-under 274 at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February and 11-under 277 at The Players Championship last month.

Previous Valspar outcomes: Casey is one of the players most familiar with the Innisbrook course, having played the course six times. He won the tournament in back-to-back years in 2018 and 2019. Before that, he failed to make the cut twice (2014 and 2012 Transitions Championship) and finished 37th in 2011 (Transitions) and 42nd in 2008 (PODS Championship).

On par: Casey is the only golfer in the tournament’s history to win it in back-to-back seasons. The next closest was Vijay Singh, who finished as the runnerup in 2003 before winning the tournament in 2004.

Jason Kokrak

Jason Kokrak reacts after missing a birdie putt on the 17th hole during the final round of the 2019 Valspar Championship in Palm Harbor.
Jason Kokrak reacts after missing a birdie putt on the 17th hole during the final round of the 2019 Valspar Championship in Palm Harbor. [ MIKE CARLSON | AP ]

World ranking: No. 35

Best finish on tour in 2020-21: Finished first at the CJ Cup at Shadow Creek, the first PGA Tour win of his nine-year career.

Previous Valspar outcomes: In 2019, Kokrak finished tied for second with a score of 7-under 277. He’s played the Innisbrook course nine times and has logged three top-10 finishes at the tournament.

On par: In March, Kokrak said he might “strong-arm” Casey, the only person who has won the tournament in back-to-back years, on the range for first place.

Corey Conners

Corey Conners hits from the ninth tee during the first round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March in Orlando.
Corey Conners hits from the ninth tee during the first round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March in Orlando. [ JOHN RAOUX | Associated Press ]

World ranking: No. 38

Best finish on tour in 2020-21: Conners finished third at the Arnold Palmer Invitational on March 7 with a score of 8-under 280.

Previous Valspar outcomes: Conners finished tied for 16th in 2018 with a score of 3-under 281.

On par: Conners has seven top-10 finishes through 18 events this season, which is the second-most on the tour behind Jon Rahm (8), who is not scheduled to compete in the Valspar tournament.

Justin Rose

Justin Rose plays a shot during the second round of the Masters earlier this month at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia.
Justin Rose plays a shot during the second round of the Masters earlier this month at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia. [ JARED C. TILTON | Getty Images North America ]

World ranking: 39

Best finish on tour in 2020-21: Rose finished seventh at the Masters with a score of 5-under 283.

Previous Valspar outcomes: Rose previously competed at Innisbrook’s Valspar Championship in 2014, 2015 and 2018 finishing fifth with a score of 7-under 277 most recently. He’s played on the course for 10 events dating back to 2004. 

On par: In nine events this season, Rose has made the cut seven times and placed in the top 25 four times.

Bubba Watson

Bubba Watson finished fourth in the Zozo Championship in October with a score of 19-under 276.
Bubba Watson finished fourth in the Zozo Championship in October with a score of 19-under 276.

World ranking: No. 58

Best finish on tour in 2020-21: Watson finished fourth in the Zozo Championship in October with a score of 19-under 276.

Previous Valspar outcomes: Watson has competed on the Innisbrook course eight times throughout his career, including the 2017 and 2019 Valspar Championships. He was cut after two rounds in 2017 but finished tied for fourth in 2019 with a score of 6-under 278.

On par: The two-time Masters Champion has missed the cut three times in 13 events this season.

Phil Mickelson

Phil Mickelson watches his tee shot on the seventh hole during the first round of the PGA Championship in August at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco.
Phil Mickelson watches his tee shot on the seventh hole during the first round of the PGA Championship in August at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco. [ JEFF CHIU | AP ]

World ranking: 113

Best finish on tour in 2020-21: Mickelson tied for 21st place at the Masters Tournament earlier this month, shooting par 288.

Previous Valspar outcomes: Mickelson played in the Chrysler Championship at Innisbrook in 2003 and 2004. He was cut after two rounds both times. Even though his pro events in Palm Harbor haven’t gone so well, Mickelson won an NCAA individual championship on the course in 1990.

On par: The 50-year-old has 44 career PGA Tour victories but hasn’t won an event since the 2019 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

15 numbers to know about the tournament

156

Players in the field

$6.9 million

Total purse

$1.242 million

First-place prize money

1972

Year the Copperhead Course was designed

2015

Year the course went under restoration

71

Par for the Copperhead Course

7,340

Yards on the course

1

Back-to-back winner in the tournament’s history (Casey)

20

Years the tournament has existed, including this one

3

Players who have won the tournament twice (Casey in 2018 and 2019, K.J. Choi in 2002 and 2006, Retief Goosen in 2003 and 2009)

1

Strokes the tournament has been decided by (or gone to a playoff) in 10 of the past 11 years

5

Par-3 holes on the course

19

Players in the field ranked among the top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking

3

Previous Valspar champions in the field (Casey, 2016′s Charl Schwartzel, 2011′s Gary Woodland)

5

Previous Innisbrook champions in the field (2017′s Adam Hadwin, 2013′s Kevin Streelman, 2012′s Luke Donald, 2008′s Sean O’Hair, 2006′s Choi)