Sleeper picks for the Valspar Championship

Byeong Hun An … Resonates from several angles upon arrival. For starters, following Dubai, the WMPO and Honda, he’s gone a respective T6-T23-T5, so current form is covered. In his debut at last year’s Valspar, he ranked 17th in strokes gained: tee-to-green and 15th in proximity to the hole en route to a share of 49th place, so he’s not only experienced but he’s established a modicum of comfort on the course. Perhaps most impressive is how he’s been lashing it in 2017-18. Currently T2 in total driving and 27th in greens in regulation leaves him seventh in ball-striking. That’s taken pressure off his short game that’s measurably improved, and he’s also capitalized on the longest holes more often, slotting T13 in par-5 scoring.

Vaughn Taylor … The Copperhead Course has an uncanny slant of rewarding those who have performed well on it in the recent past, so he will test conventional wisdom. After opening his career here 4-for-4, he’s gone five consecutive appearances without a cut made, but he’s made only one start in the last six (2016). Currently 75th in the FedExCup standings with two top 10s and another pair of top 20s. Ranks 15th in fairways hit, T29 in proximity to the hole, 24th in scrambling and T42 in par-5 scoring.

Rory Sabbatini … Evidence that seven isn’t a lucky number, but the coincidence doesn’t dismiss his promise. Since concluding the 2013 season with seven consecutive cuts made, he’s strung together no more than six straight. Four times. Since the Sony Open in Hawaii two months ago, he’s 6-for-6 with a pair of top 20s, including in his last start at PGA National where he recorded a season-best T17. He’s 9-for-12 at Copperhead with only one missed cut in his last six trips (2015). Currently T40 on TOUR in proximity to the hole, 11th in strokes gained: around-the-green and T22 in par-5 scoring, all valuable assets this week.

Dominic Bozzelli … If a PGA TOUR sophomore with only three career top 10s can be the focal point of converging trends, he’s the latest case study. En route to a career-best T3 at last year’s Valspar Championship, he ranked T2 in greens hit, fourth in strokes gained: tee-to-green, fourth in scrambling and inside the top seven in par-3, par-4 and par-5 scoring. Now coming off a similarly balanced T13 at The Honda Classic. Also ranks 26th in strokes gained: putting.

Jack Maguire … There are numerous reasons why the 23-year-old might ring a bell. It could be because you’ve tracked his progress on the Web.com Tour where he debuted with five top 10s in 2016. Maybe it’s due to the fact that both of his cuts made in five PGA TOUR starts occurred under the bright lights of the U.S. Open, first with a T58 as an amateur at Chambers Bay in 2015, and then with a T42 at Erin Hills last year. Or perhaps you even recall the ace he converted at TPC Scottsdale in 2016. No, it didn’t occur in the Coliseum that is the par-3 16th hole – certainly, that would have rushed to mind – instead, he connected at the par-3 12th. Whatever the case, he’s making his debut at the Valspar Championship but on a course with which he’s hardly unfamiliar. In 2012 at a prominent, 54-hole, junior event at Copperhead in which he competed multiple times over the years, he co-led after the first round and finished T6. (Sam Burns, who is also in the field this week, tied for 41st in the same tournament.) This is also a home game for the St. Petersburg native and resident. Maguire gained entry via open qualifying on Monday, his second successful four-spotter of 2018 (Farmers).

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