By Len Ziehm

PALM HARBOR, Florida – The PGA Tour’s Florida Swing ends for another year this week, and that’s too bad.

The long-respected four-tournament run through March was labelled “probably the toughest stretch we have all year’’ by Shane Lowry, a former British Open champion.  And, indeed, this year’s Swing has been something special.

It started with a new event – at least name-wise – with the Cognizant Classic of the Palm Beaches replacing the Honda Classic, ending one of the longest-running sponsorships in PGA Tour history. Then came two extraordinary weeks of the Scottie Scheffler Show.

There was a lot of background noise at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Players Championship as the talks of a “merger’’ with the LIV Golf League heated up again. They threatened to be a distraction from the golf being played but, thankfully, Scheffler’s great play overshadowed all of that.

Scheffler had a pain in his neck last week, but he was even more a pain in the neck to his fellow competitors in dominating the API and then becoming the first repeat champion in the 50-year history of the Players Championship.

Now comes the Valspar Championship, teeing off on Thursday on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor. The biggest problem for the Valspar is that it won’t have Scheffler. It’s time for him to rest up for the Masters. He needs, and deserves, a break. So does reigning U.S. Open champion Wyndham Clark, who was fifth in last year’s Valspar but is sitting out this one after runner-up finishes at both Bay Hill and TPC Sawgrass the last two weeks.

There’s nothing wrong with the field for the Valspar, though. With Brian Harman and Xander Schauffele the tourney has two of the trio who shared second with Clark at The Players.

Plus, Justin Thomas is back at Copperhead along with the top four from last year’s stirring duel there.

Sam Burns, you might recall, was going for a three-peat last year and he made a game effort for it with a 67 on Sunday that elevated him into a sixth place finish. The problem was that Taylor Moore also posted a 67 and he needed such an effort to hold off Adam Schenk, who was solo second; Jordan Spieth and Tommy Fleetwood, who tied for third; and Burns.

Moore notched his first PGA Tour victory at last year’s Valspar, and he hasn’t gotten complacent.  Moore, like Burns, made the cut in all seven of his starts this season and finished ahead of Burns at The Players.  Moore tied for 31st and Burns, after fading to a 76 on Sunday, tied for 45th.  Burns, though, has four top-10 finishes in 2024 while Moore’s best is a tie for 25th at The Sentry – the first tournament of the year.

Even in its years without such strong story lines the Valspar was popular with the fans as the ``Most Colorful Tournament in the World.’’ A paint company’s sponsorship made that possible and the Valspar was designated the tour’s Fan First Tournament of the Year for 2023.

Unlike other PGA Tour stops, the Valspar can permit players to determine the names on their caddie bibs. (Moore said his will say “Defending Champ’’ but others will likely be more creative).  Also, unlike other tournaments, players can  designate a guest to walk with them inside the ropes and the iconic Packard’s Steakhouse in the Copperhead clubhouse will reopen after a lengthy closing for new construction. It’ll make for a fitting ending to a most memorable Florida Swing.

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Len has been covering golf for over 56 years. He was the golf columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times for 41 years and has been in the same role for the Daily Herald and several regional newspapers since 2009. Len is also a regular contributor to the Chicago District Golfer magazine  and his travel pieces are regularly published in Pro Golf Weekly, New England.Golf, eSouthernGolf and the Ohio Golf Journal. His works for all publications are available at It is in its 15th year of operation and has been enhanced by the photography provided by his partner Joy Sarver. An inductee into the Illinois Soccer Hall of Fame in 2004 (for his reporting and youth coaching, not as a player), Len was also inducted into the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame in 2019. He is also on the Advisory Board of the International Network of Golf, is a lifetime member of the Golf Writers Association of America and a member of the Golf Travel Writers of America.