Spieth chasing first successful defence at Valspar Championship


Jordan Spieth is looking to complete his first ever successful PGA Tour title defence when he takes to the greens of Palm Harbor for the Valspar Championship.

He will face tough competition from world number seven Henrik Stenson, who came in fourth place last time around.

John Senden will be chasing a second win at Palm Harbor, having won the crown in 2014, while Jason Dufner will be looking to get his season back on track after coming out the blocks fast with a win at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Spieth chasing first defence

The world number one has started six tournaments in 2016, winning one (Tournament of Champions), finishing second in another (Singapore Open) and with a top-10 finish to boot.

He was unable to defend his two 2014 wins in 2015 and will be hoping to claim his first successful defence at the tournament that kicked off a stellar year last time out.

KJ Choi has two top-five finishes from his last five PGA Tour starts while Stenson - who narrowly missed the play-off last season - will be hoping to improve on his 28th-place finish at the WGC-Cadillac Championship.

He enters this week's event as the second-highest ranked player behind Spieth.

Copperhead Course challenge

The 7,209-yard, par-71 course has proven something of a favourite for the pros in recent years.

A challenging course, Spieth believes the difficulty should work in his favour.

"I am excited about the opportunity at the Copperhead Course. I think the tougher courses play in my favour, and I thoroughly enjoy playing there with great memories going back to 2013," he said.

Stenson eager to stake claim

The Swedish world number seven has a huge challenge in knocking off Spieth, but he has a good record at Copperhead.

He finished just shy of the three-way play-off last year at the same event, and while his form is not as good heading into the Valspar Championship this year, he thinks the course suits his game and he will need a good result after last week's disappointing effort at Trump National Doral.

Spieth recalls 2015 triumph

Spieth's victory at last year's edition of the event kicked off a remarkable 2015 which included five wins, including the Masters and U.S. Open

He defeated Sean O'Hair and Patrick Reed in a play-off after the three were tied on 10 under, rallying from six shots back with six holes to play to force the play-off before holing a 30-foot birdie putt on the third extra hole.

Reflecting on the win, Spieth said: "It gave me a huge amount of confidence that what happened late in 2014 [wins at the Australian Open and Hero World Challenge] was something we could continue into 2015.

"It led to an incredible run. And it all started on the 17th green with that play-off putt."

More than world number one

There is a good reason Spieth is dominating the talk ahead of the Valspar Championship.

Not only is he number one in the world rankings, he is number one for birdie average and number one putting from 15-20 feet.

But the Copperhead Course is no easy-beat.

Last year, just five holes played to under-par averages.

Spieth hungry for repeat, Stenson confident

"[Repeating] would be spectacular," Spieth said.

"I think it's a challenge. I haven't had that many opportunities [as] most of my wins came last year."

Spieth is the standout name on the field, with the next best ranked contender being Stenson.

"I can't say I'm coming in with the same great finish I had at Doral that I had last year," said Stenson.