Nearly man Schauffele can enjoy success at the Valspar Championship

Xander Schauffele can use success in Florida as a platform for the Masters (Picture: Getty Images)(Credits: Getty Images)

It takes someone with extraordinary superpowers to keep an X-Man in place but you’re always going to finish second best when going up against Scottie Scheffler in his current form.

The world No.1 hogged all the headlines on Sunday when he became the first golfer to successfully retain the Players Championship and victory at Sawgrass followed an equally remarkable five-shot triumph in the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.

Scheffler would be the automatic choice to win this week’s Valspar Championship at Palm Harbour if he was hitting one of his thundering drives off the first tee on the Copperhead course on Thursday, but the 2022 Masters champion has decided to take a break with this year’s Augusta renewal just around the corner.

Scheff’s absence allows reigning Olympic champion Xander Schauffele to step forward and win instead of finishing in the unwanted role as a highly-regarded runner-up.

The 2016/17 rookie of the year has won seven PGA Tour titles but he’s finished second an agonising 13 times and has yet to win a major despite going close when second in the 2019 Masters, tied second in the Open at Carnoustie 12 months earlier and tied third at the US Open five years ago at Pebble Beach.

He’s gone close without claiming a cigar on this year’s circuit as well, finishing T10 at The Sentry at the turn of the year, T3 at the American Express, T9 at the Farmers and T4 at the Genesis before last weekend’s close shave.

So, the 30-year-old from San Diego has all the necessary skills to succeed, he just needs one final push to realise his potential on the biggest stages. 

Schauffele’s only faced the dangers at the Snake Pit, Copperhead’s dangerous final three holes, on one previous occasion when he took a share of 12th place, but he can improve on that over the next few days. 

He’s 15/2 with Ladbrokes and Coral to win the final leg of the Florida swing while Open champion Brian Harman, who also went close at Sawgrass, is 18/1 with the same two firms.

Defending champion Nick Taylor is worth following at 30/1 with Ladbrokes and Coral and our final each-way is Maverick McNealy, who keeps catching the eye, at 45/1 with the same pair of bookies.

• Luke Humprhries is enjoying the form which took him to the world title at the start of the year and can follow his Premier League Darts victories at Brighton and Nottingham with a Thursday night triumph in Dublin.

Back Cool Hand Luke to set up a third straight success by beating Peter Wright by over 2.5 legs in the first quarter-final of the night then follow Rob Cross and Michael van Gerwen to win their matches outright – all at 8/11 with bet365. Luke Littler is 4/6 with the same firm to beat Michael Smith by over 1.5 legs and it’s 7/1 if you stick all four in an acca.

• Missing the Six Nations? The winnings from our 9/2 tip for Wales to finish with the wooden spoon should be in your accounts by now, use them on a double for Bristol to beat Northampton Saints and Leicester to defeat Gloucester by over 9.5 points. It pays just over 2/1 with Betway.


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