2023 Valspar Championship Rankings: Jordan Spieth in the lead from a deficit after a wild day of putting

A three-way tie ensued after the first 18 holes of the 2023 Valspar Championship as Stephan Jaeger, Ryan Brehm and Adam Schenk all sat in the lead at 5 under. While everyone is a nice player, the group has a few legitimate issues piling up behind them. Namely the fact that some of the best golfers in the world are on their heels.

Jordan Spieth, Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Thomas and Sam Burns are all three shots from the lead. This trio shot all 2 under or better Thursday at Innisbrook, and all four are looking for their first wins of 2023. Spieth was particularly strong with his putter to put a back in the lead group going into round two on Friday .

Let’s take a look at how the first round of the Valspar played out with a ranking collapse after 18 holes.

The leaders

1. Stephan Jaegar, Ryan Brehm, Adam Schenk (-5): There’s more on Brehm and his wild ace below, but let’s just say this isn’t a trio of guys that anyone would have expected to top this ranking after 18 holes. Together they have a top 10 finish in their last 75 starts worldwide. Not exactly a recipe for keeping a handful of Ryder Cuppers away for the next three days. Jaeger has the lowest odds and hit the ball best on Thursday when he finished third in the field in the approach game. Still, it would be surprising if someone from this group lifted the trophy on Sunday.

Other contenders

T4. Jordan Spieth, Lucas Glover, Maverick McNealy (-4)
T7. Tommy Fleetwood, Ben An, Alex Smalley, Patton Kizzire, Kramer Hickok (-3)
T12. Justin Thomas, Sam Burns, Davis Riley, Adam Hadwin (-2)

Spieth had his best putting day since May 2021 when he won over four shots on the greens in Round 1 of the Charles Schwab Challenge. He topped the four again Thursday in Tampa and post-round discussed the unintended benefit of feeling more confident with his putter (not just today, but recently) and how it’s affecting every other part of his game. This is fascinating stuff.

“Being comfortable with the speed control and overall comfort of the putter allowed…I felt like I could play to the middle of the green and not attack pins,” Spieth said. “It’s a different place than I lived as I was trying to get better and better with the putter. So, holes like #7 today, I didn’t go to the pin at all. I just walked up to the middle of the green and said I’ll make a 2 putt from 35 feet and move on and try to get a look at the last two.

“So that part released the fact that I didn’t hit a lot of fairways and then when I start my ball hits [has] been really solid, including the tee for the last month or so, and it just needs to be tightened up a bit. I didn’t feel like I had done a great job in the last three days and today it kind of felt like it. So hopefully [it] gets better every day.”

shot of the day

Ryan Brehm hit an ace on the par 3 17, which is one of the toughest holes on the course every year. He was playing sixth hardest at about 0.1 strokes over par when Brehm smashed in his. It was only the fourth ace on that hole in the history of the tournament, and he did it all while looking like an absolute king.

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“It honestly surprised me a bit when I saw how it went in the hole,” said Brehm, “but we got a good reaction. There was a lot of fun. I was really just trying to cover the leading edge of the green and we had the wind coming off the right. I think we had 189 to cover the leading edge and it probably flew close to 200 yards. So it was pretty fun to see that thing seep in.

Brehm said it’s his fifth career ace (he’s 99% sure) but his first in 15 years.

Valspar Championship 2023 odds, tips

Odds via Caesars Sportsbook

  • Jordan Spieth: 2.11
  • Stephan Jaeger: 17.2
  • Justin Thomas: 17/2
  • Tommy Fleetwood: 19/2
  • Underdog McNealy: 12-1
  • Sam Burns: 12-1

Because as lukewarm as this ranking at the top is, the betting board is actually solid. I don’t know if I completely trust Spieth at 11/2 and I probably prefer Fleetwood at 19/2 or Burns at 12-1. The guy who really intrigues me, however, is Akshay Bhatia, who shot 1 under on Thursday, led the field in the approach game and is 125-1 win the golf tournament. At least worth a look!

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