March 13, 2023, 7:24 pm
The PGA Tour returns this week after Scottie Scheffler smoked the rest of the field by 5 strokes and claimed the sweet, sweet 4.5 million first prize and the title PLAYERS Champion. Scheffler was the best player all week and had a fairly stress-free Sunday on his march to victory. Min Woo Lee was two back heading into the final round, but did not have his best stuff on Sunday to the tune of a 76 and ended in a tie for 6th place. The pairing of Max Homa and Tyrrell Hatton both made strong charges on Sunday. Any chance Homa had at applying pressure to Scheffler was done in by his double bogey at 17, meanwhile Hatton was able to birdie his final 5 holes of the day and fire a back-nine 29 to secure a solo second finish. All in all, it was a fun tournament as it always is even without a very suspenseful back nine on Sunday afternoon.
This week brings the conclusion of the Florida swing as the Valspar Championship will be played at Innisbrook Resort (Copperhead Course) located in Palm Harbor, just outside of Tampa. We get a weaker field than we have seen lately since this is not a designated event, but there are still some decent names in the field this week. A weird anomaly of this tournament is that we have seen back-to-back champions twice in a row (Sam Burns in 2022/2021 and Paul Casey in 2019/2018).
As always with Florida courses, weather can play a major factor this week and really make this a difficult contest. At the moment, it looks like we could be in for some serious wind on Friday and Saturday, so that will be important to keep an eye on as the week goes on. Due to the nature of the weak player field and coming off one of the biggest non-major events of the year, others may not be as locked in this week and we can hopefully find an edge while others relax. Let’s dig in.
The Copperhead Course is a Larry Packard designed Par 71 that plays just over 7,300 yards. A rare setup is in play here with five par-3s and four par-5s. Lots of doglegs, tree-lined narrow fairways, a lot of elevation changes and thicker than average rough makes long iron play this week the key to success (surprise, surprise). Being in position off the tee and being able to get up if these smaller than average greens are missed have been a proven recipe to getting around the course.
The historic cut line at the event has been 2 to 4 over par, however it is important to note that 2 under par was the mark last year. Time will tell if that was an outlier or if that will become the new norm, but given how difficult this course plays in normal conditions and the potential for serious wind on Friday, I would guess a couple over par will be the line.
The greens will be pretty similar to what we saw last week at TPC Sawgrass featuring Bermuda grass with Poa overseed. A difficult finish is the calling card at Copperhead as players will face “The Snake Pit” on holes 16-18. The 475-yard par 4 16th is routinely the most difficult hole on the course and features a bogey rate of nearly 25%. The 17th is a 215-yard par 3 that has a birdie percentage under 10%. The finishing 445-yard par 4 18th also had a bogey rate over 20%. The potential for carnage at the conclusion of the tournament has always made this stretch of holes appointment viewing.
Once again, 144 players will be vying for the title this week and as mentioned earlier this field is a little weaker than the past few weeks. The big names making an appearance in the non-designated event this week include: Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Tommy Fleetwood and of course two-time defending champion Sam Burns. Other notables playing this week are: Keegan Bradley, Justin Rose, Denny McCarthy, Brian Harman and past champion Adam Hadwin. Sensational rookie Taylor Montgomery has withdrawn from the event and will be replaced by veteran Charlie Hoffman.
Per Fantasy National, let’s look at who has performed the best at this course (along with recent event finishes) using the Strokes Gained: Total filter at Copperhead Course.
- Sam Burns (1st-2022, 1st-2021, T30th-2019, T12th-2018)
- Justin Rose (MC-2021, 5th-2018, MC-2015, 8th-2014)
- Jordan Spieth (MC-2018, 18th-2016, 1st-2015, 20th-2014)
- Luke Donald (16th-2022, 54th-2021, 9th-2019, 64th-2018)
- Justin Thomas (3rd-2022, 13th-2021, MC-2017, 18th-2016)
Once again approach play is king this week, especially with long irons. Off the tee is neutralized this week with all of the tight doglegs and narrow fairways. Scrambling/Around the Green play will be important as well due to average-to-below-average green sizes and long-distance approach shots.
Here are the key stats I am considering when building my lineups this week.
- SG: Approach– A staple stat that translates to any course. It is the stat that has been proven to be heavily correlated with long-term success and past winners of this event. With fast, firm and probable windy conditions, golfers’ second shots this week will need to be dialed in to contend.
- ARG/Scrambling– Small greens and a good amount of long distance iron shots (especially on all the long par-3s) will lead to golfers needing to get up and down to save par. We want to make sure the golfers we roster are not a disaster when put in that position.
- Good Drives Gained– The rough length has increased from 3 to 3.75 inches for this year’s event. We want to make sure we are targeting golfers who put themselves in good position off the tee to avoid trouble.
- Par 5 Scoring- As with most difficult courses, taking advantage of the par-5s is going to be vital in scoring this week. I wouldn’t fault anyone for taking a look at par-3s over 200 yards which is what all 5 of those holes will play at this week.
- Proximity (175-200/200+)- This will help cover some of the par-3 scoring I mentioned since all of those holes play in this proximity range. There will also be a good amount of these shots on the par-5s that we want our golfers to take advantage of. Nearly 50% of second shots at this course fall in this range bucket.
Follow me on Twitter @mlafem10 for additional thoughts as the week goes on and I’d be happy to help out with any lineup questions you have. Let’s make some money!
Round 1 Props
Thrive Contest Plays for Thursday’s Round 1 Action
Adam Hadwin 66.5 Strokes MORE (70 PTS) – He fired a 64 in Round 1 last year at this event and played well last week. There were 11 golfers who went under this mark in the first round last year, but last year was the easiest the course has played in history. I am treating that as an outlier and while Hadwin does have good finishes at this course, he also has quite a few missed cuts in the in the mix. This is more of a bet on the number than the player, as I think we will only see a handful of guys go below 66 on Thursday.
Justin Suh 1.5 Bogeys MORE (80 PTS) – As with the pick above, this is more of a play on the number than the player. I bet on Suh to win this week and think he is starting to live up to the potential he showed with his rookie classmates of Morikawa and Hovland (and Wolff who is now on LIV). That being said, this is a really difficult course and I expect even the best to slip up on a hole or two along the way. Give me the over on the 1.5 for Suh.
Sam Burns 2.5 Bogeys MORE (115 PTS) – Something is off with Burns. He showed some signs of life last week at THE PLAYERS and maybe coming back to a course where he has excelled at will help him out. He’s lost strokes on his irons in 5 of his last 7 and has a lot of volatility to his game right now.
Props Record YTD
DFS Top Tier Play
A past champion of this event (2015) and is coming in playing some good golf on the Florida swing with a 4th at Bay Hill and 19th last week at TPC Sawgrass. Spieth is always electric around the greens and has won at several comp courses to Copperhead that included TPC River Highlands, Colonial Country Club, and Harbor Town. Perhaps what is most promising is that his iron play is trending in the right direction. He has gained in four straight events including over four shots last week. Off the tee can be a bit erratic from time to time which can be a concern here, but his short game can get hot enough to make up for that. I do think he will come in lower owned than Justin Thomas ($10,900) as well as some below him in this range in Tommy Fleetwood ($9,800) and Adam Hadwin ($9,200). Spieth also gains strokes in windy conditions and on difficult courses, so the weather doesn’t give me pause about him.
Others Considered: Tommy Fleetwood ($9,800), Keegan Bradley ($9,400)
DFS Mid Tier Play
Jaeger has the strong tee to green type of game that can do well here. For long term measures over the last 50 rounds, he ranks inside the top-50 of pretty much everything I am looking at (except for irons over 200 yards). If we shrink that down to the last 12 rounds to get a better idea of his short term form the same could be said except with some issues scoring on the par-5s. It really is his iron play that sticks out to me as he ranks 6th in the field in the short term on approach and has parlayed that to a 14th at the Honda (tough Florida course) and a 44th last week at THE PLAYERS (tough Florida course). Only 1/3 in made cuts here, but he is easily playing the best golf of his career right now and I think this is a great set up for his skill set this week.
Others Considered: Nate Lashley ($7,600), Justin Suh ($8,900)
DFS Value Play
Some of you may remember Hickok as the other guy from the epic 8-hole playoff at the 2021 Travelers Championship in which he fell short to Harris English. The 22-23 season hasn’t been kind to Hickok until recently as he had a stretch of 8 straight missed cuts from the fall until the WM Phoenix Open. His season took a turn with a 29th at the Genesis which he followed up with a 14th at the Honda and a 44th last week. Kramer is always solid off the tee with accurate drives and his lack of distance won’t get punished here with all of the doglegs. His approach play has been a lot better of late (last week looks a little shaky due to a couple water balls which tends to happen at Sawgrass) and is always solid around the greens. 3/3 in made cuts in his career at the Valspar and I am counting on him continuing his good form heading into this week.
Others Considered: Eric Cole ($7,300), Joseph Bramlett ($7,200)
Outright Betting Picks
Wyndham Clark (+4000) (FD)
Gary Woodland (+4000) (DK)
Justin Suh (+4000) (DK)
Stephan Jaeger (+6500) (FD)
Nate Lashley (+8000) (DK)
Position Player Name DK Salary G Jordan Spieth $10,600 G Stephan Jaeger $7,800 G Nate Lashley $7,600 G Kramer Hickok $7,200 G G REMAINING BUDGET $16,800 for 2 golfers