The Battleship's Alley

The PGA Tour heads to Tampa for the Valspar Championship and the event’s most exciting field. Last Friday, Tiger Woods committed to the Valspar and will headline a field that includes Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia. Full field and times

Hadwin hangs on

After a series of close misses on Sunday, Adam Hadwin captured his first win on the PGA Tour. Hadwin held off Patrick Cantlay down the stretch shooting a 71. While Hadwin earned the W, it was Patrick Cantlay's coming out party and ensured the budding star would have full status on Tour the rest of the year. At the time of last year's event, Cantlay was the 1,424th-ranked player in the world. Now he is the 35th. Cantlay will not be teeing it up this week.

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The Course

The Valspar host is the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort. The Larry Packard design is one of the most difficult stops on Tour with narrow fairways and penal rough to protect scoring. The Copperhead course is unique to most Florida golf because the land has some nice movement and is by no means flat. The key at Copperhead is approach shots. Of the top eight finishers, Henrik Stenson ranked the worst at strokes gained: approach at 18th.

Storylines

Tiger's teeing it
On Friday, Tiger Woods announced he would play in both the Valspar and the Arnold Palmer as his final preparations for the Masters. Woods will look to continue to improve his play and scoring after taking big steps at the Honda Classic. Tiger looks to continue to shake off the rust from his lengthy layoff. A clear indicator is his meager par-5 scoring average of 4.87. In his last full season, 2013, Woods averaged 4.57 on par 5s, an equivalent of almost two shots better per tournament. If Woods can continue to clean up the little things, he should find himself with chances to win soon.

Finding some form
Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy come into the Valspar looking to contend for the first time in 2018 on the PGA Tour. Spieth has notched top 10s at the Genesis and SBS Tournament of Champions but didn't threaten the leaders in either. McIlroy got off to a strong start, nearly winning in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, but hasn't been able to put together four rounds in the states. With Augusta looming, each will try to find their first win of 2018 before the first major championship.

Paulie's Picks

With the exacting test that Innisbrook presents, Paulie is looking at some tactical players while avoiding others. Read Paulie's Picks

The Beau Show

New contributor and member of the Missouri women's golf team MacKenzie Perez gives you five things you need to know about one of the PGA Tour's promising young players, Beau Hossler.

The great ball debate

The golf ball rollback debate hit full tilt on Monday after the USGA released their annual distance report. Despite the USGA not making a statement, the PGA and PGA Tour both dismissed the belief that distance has seen an abnormal increase and have positioned themselves as anti-rollback. The announcements sent shockwaves through the golf industry and spurred some of golf's biggest players, media outlets and personalities to take sides. My favorite debate on the subject was between Geoff Shackelford, Jamie Diaz and Matt Adams on Golf Central. While Shackelford and Diaz spoke intelligently on the subject, Adams seemed to struggle to grasp the discussion. It's worth watching.

Important to remember

While all these various influencers speak out, it’s important to remember bias. For example, I love classic golf course architecture, so I am biased toward a rollback. Titleist produces the clear-cut best ball in golf, so they are understandably anti-rollback. Their competitors, such as Bridgestone, would love nothing more than a rollback to level their playing field with Titleist. The PGA of America has bias because a large number of their 29,000 members’ pensions are paid for by Titleist. The PGA Tour's players earn their livelihood using today's equipment, so it's easy to understand why they would be anti-rollback.

The only organizations that don't have bias in this matter are golf's governing bodies, the USGA and the R&A. These two organizations are in charge of making decisions that are good for the future of the game.

Offensive display of architecture

The European Tour heads to the Hero Indian Open where SSP Chawrasia (aka The Battleship) looks for his third consecutive title. Chawrasia will face stiff competition from a host of European Tour regulars and the growing Indian contingent, which includes last week's sensation Shubhankar Sharma and long-time pro Anirban Lahiri. The host course, DLF Golf and Country Club is a far cry from the minimalism trend that is sweeping architecture in America. The Gary Player design has numerous man-made rock outcroppings and devastatingly deep bunkers with foam faces. If architectural malpractice was a crime, Gary Player would be guilty on multiple accounts for his work at DLF.

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Campus Update with Will Knights


The Querencia Cabo Collegiate finished up yesterday with Oklahoma State winning their 5th tournament of the year and Cal’s Collin Morikawa winning individually. While OSU’s domination is impressive, Morikawa’s performance deserves the attention here. He finished at -16 for the tournament, outlasting OSU’s Matt Wolff by 3 shots for the win. No other individual finished better than -4 for the tournament. Morikawa beat the field average by 24 shots for the tournament as he shot rounds of 66-67-64 for the win. His strong performance led Cal to a 2nd place finish. Next week, Morikawa tees it up with the pros at Bay Hill.

Oklahoma State’s win further exemplifies their current dominance. They now have 5 wins and a 3rd on the season. Freshman Matt Wolff led the team with his fantastic performance but ran into the buzzsaw of Morikawa. Wolff beat the 3rd place finishers by 9 shots. Nine.

Elsewhere, Auburn won their home tournament by 25 shots over Georgia State. The Tigers placed 4 players in the top 11 (and 3 individuals) as they cruised to the win. It was an objectively weak field, but Auburn put on a very strong performance. David Kocher of Maryland won the tournament individually at -11.

Quick hooks
The Web Tour is back in action in Mexico.

Shackelford dives into the details of the distance dispute.