Valspar Championship: Thoughts after the latest PGA Tour Event
The 2018 Valspar Championship was an exciting tournament. This is not one of the major tour stops even though it leads to the Masters in April. They play at the Copperhead course at Innisbrook in Palm Harbor, Florida. This course I have personally played twice and walk as a standard bearer for the JCPenny Classic back in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. The tournament director like every other director is trying to get the biggest tour stars to come play in the tournament. This is to bring the course and area into the limelight. This week it was trying to lure Tiger Woods, one the best who has ever played the game. It made for exciting four days to have the crowds file into the Palm Harbor area.
As the first round begins on Thursday, the wind was a huge factor. As a golfer, the wind can do many weird things with the golf ball that some of us cannot predict. Tiger Woods was paired with Jordan Spieth and the star shot a one-under-par 70 Jordan shot a five-over par 76. A surprise though as a not so big star named Corey Connors took the open round lead.
The Copperhead head course is not easy the wind changes at a moment’s notice. The tour pros that made the cut found a way to get through the wind a post a good score. The second round was more of the same except Woods was climbing the leaderboard showing the Tiger of old. The leaders in the back of their minds started to wonder if this tournament is where he begins his comeback.
It has been since 1996 since Woods last appeared at Copperhead course. Then it was known as the JCPenny Classic where the PGA and LPGA grouped together as partners. Since then Tiger’s career has had major ups and downs. The tournament director has been trying to get him to come since then but it wasn’t on his schedule. As the start of the tournament came to the start he committed and then it got exciting. Ticket sales went up as everyone wanted a chance to see the PGA star in person at Copperhead. Between 150,000 and 200,000 people flocked to the course.
With the beginning of the third round the players that made the cut all of sudden began to separate themselves from the pack. The fan favorite, Tiger Woods, was only one shot back which meant he was in contention and in the past the players in front of him started to worry and linger. The first and second round leader Corey Connors held his position going into the final round.
As the final round began Tiger was in his signature Sunday red shirt and black pants. He was not in the final pairing but was in the pairing right before that one. The crowds and TV networks tuned in to follow Tiger all the way through his final round.
As the final round began, leader Corey Connors had a bad start which led to him slipping down the leaderboard. Tiger started his final round with birdieing the first hole and that put him in a tie for the lead. The roars from the crowd began and they started to believe this is the day he would win his 80th PGA victory. After the first hole he would have multiple opportunities to catch the leaders but unfortunately, he was unable to take advantage. He did birdie the 17th hole which pulled him within one shot of the lead. He had another birdie opportunity on 18th but missed it.
As a result, Woods finished one shot back of tour pro Paul Casey who only one tour win prior to winning the Valspar Championship.
The tournament was exciting no matter what and many of the fans loved to say that they got to see Tiger play. Even though he didn’t win the memories that he brought the fans that went liked what they saw. The fans are hoping he comes back next year so they get a chance to see him again on a course that some of them get a chance to play.
The snake pit, as a section of the course is called, is awaiting its next victims and many of the pros that play the event every year rank the course one of the toughest on tour. Golf fans are happy for Paul Casey, who is in his forties like Tiger. Hopefully, Tiger didn’t get too snake bitten and hopefully he is healthy enough to make a return to next year’s event.