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Can Hadwin win it again?


Looking at this week's Valspar Championship at the Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club's Copperhead Course in Florida, we note that at 17/2 the British bookmakers have settled for World No 4 Jordan Spieth as their favourite with Rory McIlroy next best at 14/1.

As far as I am concerned, however, I believe that with less than a month to go to the Masters, the jury is still out on the current form of these two high-profile stars and that the next three men on the bookies' list of favourites, off-shore invaders, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson, are all better bets to win this week.

This feeling is enhanced by the fact that 10 of the contest's 17 champions, including this week's defending champion, Adam Hadwin, who is a Canadian, have not been Americans.

Unless you are a Tiger Woods at his peak, winning the same title back-to-back has never been an easy feat but with Hadwin coming to Innisbrook fresh from a T6 at Riviera and T9 at Chapultepec, you certainly can't count him out.

Anyone who has won on this tree-lined, par-71 course that can stretch to 3,3490-yards, has four par fives and five par threes and where shaping shots and scrambling expertise are far more important than power and distance, must have the tools to do the job again.

Mind you, with one of the longest and deadliest three-woods in his bag, the gifted stroke player that is Stenson might be even better equipped to play Copperhead, where avoiding bogies last year was critical and could again be this year, especially when negotiating the 16th, 17th and 18th holes which make up the dreaded 'Snake Pit'.

Each of these three holes has averaged over par in each and every one of the tournament's 17 editions - and last year was no exception. Hadwin, though, did better than most, playing this par 4-3-4 stretch in even par.

And the weather? It could play an even more important part than any of the course features this year and our forecast will not be good news for the players teeing off on Thursday.

It will be dry on Thursday, Friday and Saturday but a brisk north-wester gusting up to 31km/h in mid-afternoon on Thursday will heighten the importance of sound, shot-shaping skills in the first round.

Rounds two and three will be played in gentle breezes, but Sunday's final round threatens to be something of a nightmare for most with a 60 percent chance of afternoon thunderstorms being swept across the course by near gale-force winds gusting up to as much as 46 km/h in mid-afternoon.

Winning in these conditions will take a big heart, unflinching seld-believe and a bucketful of patience and right now it's not easy to see who the man of the moment will be.

Our developing statcast has no figures for play in winds over 30km/h, but of the 40 rounds played in winds below 30km Garcia handled it best of the leading contenders in this week's contest.

Spieth, who was not among the top 10 wind players, on the other hand, was world golf's best player in the rain over 40 rounds, according to the stats which also show Garcia to be the 7th best player in the rain.

It's a toss-up, but I think Garcia comes out tops.

Come stormy Sunday, though, and we shall see. Coming down the 'snake pit' in evil weather might mean it won't be over until the very last when the fat lady sings - or will the singer be a Spieth, a Garcia a Stenson or even a 33-year-old outsider like Luke List who has only won once in his 10 years on Tour, but who has suddenly burst into the picture with some truly effective performances in the past month or so.

And Tiger? The bookies have rewarded him for his solid mid-table performance last week by listing the long-time former World No 1 in 7th place at 30/1 this week, but I don't believe he has done enough as yet in his comeback from back surgery to suggest he could be a winner again this week

(Tuesday p.m. March 6, 2018

Jordan Spieth 17/2
Rory McIlroy 14/1
Sergio Garcia 16/1
Justin Rose 18/1
Henrik Stenson 18/1
Paul Casey 25/1
Tiger Woods 30/1
Tony Finau 28/1
Adam Hadwin 35/1
Ryan Moore 40/1
Gary Woodland 40/1
An Byeong-Hun 35/1
Adam Scott 40/1
Webb Simpson 45/1
Matthew Fitzpatrick 45/1
Kevin Na 45/1
Cameron Smith 50/1
Louis Oosthuizen 55/1
Luke List 55/1
Branden Grace 55/1.

NOTE: For all the latest odds, go to

For betting odds visit BetWay

Neville Leck

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