A couple of passing showers worked their way through Palm Harbor, FL on Monday. A few players were on property and remarked on several occasions how healthy the grass was. The Valspar Championship begins on Thursday and by all accounts the field will have their hands full with increased rough and wet conditions.

The average winning score at Innisbrook on the Copperhead Course over the last decade is 11 under par. In fact, 10 under par would have won seven of the last 10 tournaments. In 2023, officials increased the rough length from 3” to 3.75”. Player reports have the Rye grass overseed looking as damp and dense as ever. A second decision was made this year when the intermediate cut of rough around the green complexes was reduced in width. What was a 72” ring of medium height rough encircling the putting surfaces has been cut to a 21” ring. In doing so, the heavy rough is now much closer to the putting surfaces.

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What does this mean? Should we favor off the tee more than approach? Around the green acumen over tee shots?

I have played this course a couple of times, and you must find the fairway off the tee. To achieve that goal, the pros play positional golf. A majority of the field will all hit their tee shots in the same area, effectively laying up. Since many of the 156 in the field will hit less than driver, they will find the fairway more often.

By laying back and taking less than driver, their approach shots get longer. More GIRs will be missed and situations to save par around the green become quite common. The reduced intermediate area will put more pressure on their short game. When predicting the winner this week, pay attention to strokes gained around the green over off the tee. Players will be able to sperate more with a creative short game than with a positional gameplan from the tee.

Special notes: Severe rain is expected on Friday in Palm Harbor. The forecast calls for 1.25” of rain starting early Friday morning. The heaviest rain will fall from 5:00am until 1:00pm. Be careful choosing a specific starting time wave with Friday in question. Make sure you check the forecast before you click on any tickets.

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Keith Stewart is a five-time award-winning PGA professional, a betting contributor and content partner with Golf Digest and founder of Read The Line, the premier on-site live golf betting insights service covering the LPGA and PGA TOUR. Subscribe to Read The Line’s weekly newsletter here and raise your golf betting acumen. Keith’s winning content can also be found on Sports Grid, Bleacher Report and The Sporting News. Follow him on Twitter @readtheline_.

This article was originally published on golfdigest.com