By News Team
28th April 2021
With the second Major of the year not too far away, a strong field heads to Innisbrook for the 2021 Valspar Championship with both Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas among those in attendance in Florida. The course this week represents one of the sternest tests on Tour and is always a great watch.
Here’s our preview ahead of the opening round on Thursday.
Kokrak can go one better than 2019
As mentioned, Innisbrook is a proper test and one that takes plenty of getting used to. Course form is pretty key around here as shown by the fact that there have been three multiple winners since its inception in 2000. Given its intricacies, this is also a course where it’s hard to bounce back to form and therefore it’s hard to fancy either Justin Thomas (9/1) or Dustin Johnson (11/1). Thomas has to get over the disappointment of his Augusta implosion, while Johnson still doesn’t look anywhere near his dominant best.
Instead, it’s JASON KOKRAK who looks the best bet at a juicy-looking 30/1. The 35-year-old has often flattered to deceive in his career, but over the last 12 months, he’s turned his game upside-down. He got his first PGA Tour win at the backend of 2020 and has really built on that in 2021, particularly during February and March where his form figures read 9, 8, 9. He hasn’t been quite as good since but played much better than his finishing position suggested at the Masters, where a closing 77 rocketed him down the field.
He also didn’t play too badly in New Orleans last week either and that should have set him up nicely for this week at a course he clearly loves. In nine starts at Innisbrook, Kokrak has three top-10s, including finishing runner-up in 2019 where many thought he should have won. He was still searching for his first win then, but with that victory tucked under his belt now, he’ll be keen for further success and this week’s layout looks a perfect place to do just that.
Captain America looks poised for another strong showing
Louis Oosthuizen finished runner-up alongside Kokrak and that, along with his performance last week, makes him interesting at 30/1. He seems to falter in contention, though, and that’s a big enough reason to leave him out. That can’t be said for PATRICK REED, at 20/1, who is another who boasts some handy course form. ‘Captain America’ has finished second here twice in six starts, including losing in a play-off in 2015, and was also seventh back in 2016, so it’s a course which clearly matches up to his game.
Although the majority of his wins have come well into double digits under par, Reed often prospers on hard assignments where all facets of a player’s game are tested. He ranks eighth this season in Strokes Gained: Total and comes into this on the back of a great final round at Augusta. He’s a confident player and that round coupled with his victory at Torrey Pines and his course record here makes him a very interesting contender.