Valspar: Burns, Bradley, or the Field?

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Patrick McDonald
·4 min read
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Two men have separated themselves from the field heading into the weekend at the Valspar Championship. Overnight leader, Keegan Bradley, was able to avoid a meltdown similar to 2016 and instead put together another fantastic round of golf. Bradley, who has not won on the PGA Tour since the 2018 BMW Championship, carded a 5-under 66 in Round 2, highlighted by an eagle on his last hole of the day, the par-4 9th. He will go into Saturday at 12-under par alongside LSU product Sam Burns.

Burns turned in a bogey-free, 8-under 63, good for the round of the day. What I find most impressive or maybe most concerning about Burns’ round is the fact that he only hit 10 greens in regulation. As you can imagine, his approach number are not fantastic, but the rest of his bag looks completely locked in.

As for the morning wave, before Bradley even teed off, he saw his lead disappear. The main culprit was the internet’s favorite golfer, Max Homa. Homa’s round of 3-under 68 was highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 14th hole. He was able to get his tournament total to 10-under par at one point, but bogeys on two of his last five holes brought him back to 8-under par heading into Round 3.

Between Burns’ irons and Bradley’s putter, there’s a chance that the two co-leaders come back to the chasing pack. This provides an opportunity to find some value down the odds board if you are willing to take on such a risk.

With a few pre-tournament plays of my own right behind the co-leaders, I’ll add a couple more selections much further down. The hope is that at least one of these players can make the most of their moving day and get back into contention. They have plenty of firepower to do so, it’s just a matter of piecing it all together for a full 18 holes.

Updated Odds (via PointsBet Sportsbook):

+250: Sam Burns, Keegan Bradley

+1300: Sungjae Im

+1400: Charley Hoffman

+1500: Max Homa

+1800: Lucas Glover

+3300: Jason Kokrak, Joaquin Niemann

+4000: Cameron Tringale, Charl Schwartzel, Kevin Na, Zach Johnson

+5000: Abraham Ancer

+6000: Viktor Hovland

+6600: Hank Lebioda, Tom Lewis

Round 3 Plays:

Dustin Johnson (+7000 to win):

Sitting nine-strokes back of the lead, most probably assume Johnson is out of the tournament. But to me, he is just one good round away from being right back in this thing. After a disappointing Round 1, Johnson rebounded on Friday and shot a 3-under 68. Despite the solid outing, Johnson left plenty of strokes out there, especially on the par-5's. Through two rounds, Johnson is only 3-under on the eight par 5’s that he has played.

In order to make a real move up the leaderboard, two things will need to occur. Bradley and Burns will need to fall back a bit and Johnson will most likely need to shoot something around 7-under tomorrow. But I’m confident that he’ll be able to. His strokes gained numbers were great on Friday, having gained 2.94 strokes tee-to-green. The putting has looked a bit awkward thus far and the numbers back up that sentiment. I’m hoping his comfort level on the greens will rise as the week goes on and hopefully in a very big way tomorrow.

Justin Thomas (+9000 to win):

Well, if Johnson’s putting has looked awful, Thomas’ has looked even worse. There’s no beating around the bush when it comes to the world No. 2. Through the first two rounds, Thomas is losing 6.25 strokes putting, ranking 153rd in the field. For reference, the worst putting performance of his career came at the 2019 Travelers where he lost 7.8 strokes putting over four rounds.

Do I envision Thomas suddenly becoming Ben Crenshaw overnight? No, of course not, but the room for improvement is massive. He sits 10-strokes back of the co-leaders, but he’s striking it similar to how he did at TPC Sawgrass. He was seven back heading into Round 3 at the Players Championship against a much stronger field, so I’ll dip my toes in at +9000 to see if he can do something similar.

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