Pat Mayo and Geoff Fienberg preview the course and run through the odds while making their 2023 The Valspar Championship Picks.
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2023 Valspar Championship: Field
144 Players | Top 65 & Ties Make the Cut
First Tee: Thursday, March 16
Defending Champion: Sam Burns
Following two weeks of elevated prize pools, it shouldn’t be shocking the field of 144 in Tampa isn’t quite the same quality. That’s not a terrible thing, however, variety can be good, especially at a fun course like Copperhead. Five of the worlds Top 20 are in the field — Justin Thomas, Matt Fitzpatrick, Jordan Spieth,
Keegan Bradley and two-time defending champ Sam Burns. They’re joined at the top by Tommy Fleetwood, Brian Harman, Justin Rose, Taylor Montgomery, Kevin Kisner, KH Lee, Davis Riley, Adam Hadwin, Denny McCarthy, Gary Woodland and Mav McNealy.
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World No. 60 Victor Perez is making his USA debut too, in advance of Match Play. Perez hasn’t played since the DP World Tour’s Middle East swing, but picked up a win in Abu Dhabi in January, along with three Top-30 finishes in three starts. We’re again getting the second start in three weeks for world’s No. 1 Amateur Ludvig Aberg. Aberg competed with the world’s best at Bay Hill two weeks ago and churned out an impressive T24 finish.
Oh, concerning Keegan (he’s now OUT btw), the Valspar is the site of one of his most memorable moments. This is where the term going “Full Keegan” was coined. In 2016, Keegan jumped out to a scorching opening-round 67 to tie for the first-round lead with Charles Howell III and Ken Duke, only to combust in the second round, where a Friday 79 had him heading home for the weekend. While the term gets thrown around a lot when a player has a sizzling Thursday followed by pure implosion Friday, going from first-round leader to a missed cut is truly how you go “Full Keegan.”
2023 Valspar Championship: Key Stats
Strokes Gained: Approach
Par 3s Gained: 200-225 Yards
Good Drives Gained
Strokes Gained: Short Game
Par 4s Gained: 400-450 Yards
Mayo’s Key Stats powered by FantasyNational.com
2023 Valspar Championship: Course
Innisbrook Resort (Copperhead)
Par 3s (5): Average length of 212 yards, three of five play longer than that
- Seven holes on this course had a sub-11% birdie rate a year ago and four of the Par 3s were a part of that
Par 4s (9): Average length of 441 yards, one short one (380) drags down the average a bit with the majority measuring 445+ yards
- The three toughest holes on this course are all Par 4s (Holes 3-6-16), all of which carried a bogey or worse rate over 24.5% last year
Par 5s (4): Average length of 582.5 yards, a number that is boosted by the 605-yard fifth hole
- These are the easiest four holes on the course and the three shortest ones had a birdie rate that was more than 3x the bogey rate
2023 Valspar Championship: Past Winners
2022 Sam Burns -17
2021 Sam Burns -17
2019 Paul Casey -8
2018 Paul Casey -10
2017 Adam Hadwin -14
2016 Charl Schwartzel -7
2015 Jordan Spieth -10
2022: Sam Burns (-17, playoff win over Davis Riley)
- Burns was the Round 1 leader with a 64 and carded four rounds in the 60s
- Burns lost strokes off the tee … but he was the only top-15 finisher to do so
2021: Sam Burns (-17, three clear of Keegan Bradley)
- Burns’ 63 on Friday was the round of the tournament and he carded four rounds in the 60s
- 11 of the top-12 finishers gained strokes on approach and with the putter
2019: Paul Casey (-8, one clear of Jason Kokrak and Louis Oosthuizen)
- His 66 on Friday was the round of the day and he gained 5+ strokes on the two golfers that finished T-2 for the tournament
- 11 of the top-12 finishers gained around the green
2018: Paul Casey (-10. One clear of Tiger Woods and Patrick Reed)
- He closed with a 65, his best round of the tournament by three strokes and five strokes better than Tiger
- Patrick Reed and Sergio Garcia were able to cash top-5 paychecks while losing a stroke+ with the putter (both were in the top 5 in approach)
2017: Adam Hadwin (-14, one clear of Patrick Cantlay)
- His 64 on Friday was the round of the day and proved to be the difference (Cantlay: 66)
- Finishes for the top 5 in approach this week: 11-1-2-14-5
2016: Charl Schwartzel (-7, playoff win over Bill Haas)
- Was five back of Haas entering Sunday (shot a 67, his best round of the tournament and the best round on the course that day)
- Eight of the top-10 finishers gained strokes putting in the 15-20’ range
2015: Jordan Spieth (-10, playoff win over Sean O’Hair and Patrick Reed)
- Consistency won out: Spieth shot 67-70 every day (the two runner-ups had a 72 prior to the weekend that ended up making a big difference)
2023 Valspar Championship: Notes
For adjusted par, even being a par 71, Copperhead plays longer than the scorecard since there are five par 3s complimenting the standard four Par 5s. Four of those Par 3s can measure more than 200 yards, and all rank inside the nine most difficult holes on the course.
Factor in the severe doglegs, the tree-lined fairways, 74 bunkers, nine holes with water hazards, and an average driving distance more than 12 yards shorter than the average course, and you have one of the PGA TOUR’s most difficult tracks. Oh, driving accuracy and greens in regulations hit are below PGA TOUR average, too. You’re looking for a player who can acutely manage each aspect of their game Tee-To-Green, and hope they don’t putt themselves out of the event.
Outside of the Par 5s, which even play more difficult than you think, the entire course is brutal, but the SNAKE PIT (hiss noise) is where the big blow-ups happen. And it’s far more noticeable since they’re the closing holes. And also because there’s an awesome statue signifying the lurking danger ahead …
Essentially, it’s the budget Bear Trap. It could use a good PR firm to enhance its image. Holes 16, 17 and 18 are among the most difficult three-hole stretches played annually on the PGA TOUR. No Valspar winner has ever played the Snake Pit at better than even par.
Historic Snake Pit Data
- Hole 16: Par 4 | 475 Yards | +0.28 (Rank 1) | 8.6% Birdies; 24% Bogeys; 5.6% Doubles or Worse
- Hole 17: Par 3 | 215 Yards | +0.11 (Rank 7) | 9.6% Birdies; 18% Bogeys; 1.1% Doubles or Worse
- Hole 18: Par 4 | 445 Yards | +0.15 (Rank 6) | 11% Birdies; 22% Bogeys; 1.8% Doubles or Worse
I plead with you, do not victory lap a winner until they tap in on 18. The potential for multi-shot swings over this final stretch almost seems inevitable, and may even create a decent live betting opportunity on a player already in the clubhouse.
The cutline had not been below par dating back to 2003, then 2022 came around. Conditions were a tad softer and the cut of Top 65 and ties came in at -2. Not sure if that’s the new norm or an outlier.
If it wasn’t tough enough (shout out Maven!), Copperhead has the second-most three-putts inside five feet of any course since 2011, trailing only Riviera. And it features the lowest birdie or better percentage of any course on the PGA TOUR. This would be an amazing U.S. Open course if it wasn’t in Florida. But having a U.S. Open at Copperhead in the middle of June would result in more players with heatstroke than finishing under par.
A true outlier, both Par 5 and Par 3 performance have had a more meaningful impact on the Top-5 finishers over the years than Par 4s. It’s one of the only courses on the PGA TOUR where Par 4s rate last between the three.
Strokes Gained: Approach has factored into the Top-5 finishers’ performance over 2.5 times more than Strokes Gained: Off The Tee, and 2.1 times more than Strokes Gained: Around The Green. Isolating only past victors at the Valspar, SG: APP has been 14 times more influential than SG: OTT. A staggering number.
Additionally, versus the average course on the PGA TOUR, Par 3s, Par 4s from 400-450 yards and approaches from 175-200 yards are more impactful at Copperhead than most venues.
Birdie Streak: Front to back is the way to go. Holes 9-10-11-12 all ranked in the top-half of holes last season for scoring (all had a birdie rate north of 12.5%), with 11-12 both being among the five easiest. Trying to go the other direction is a little reckless … sure, you get #1, the easiest hole on the course and owner of a 40.8% birdie rate, but the end of the back-9 is brutal with 16-17-18 ranking among the seven toughest on the course. For showdown, start on the front: you get the good mental vibes of starting with a birdie and then can build a streak as you enter the back-9.
2022: Chalky Sam Burns paid off at $9,600, but he was one of only three golfers priced $9,000 or higher that finished in the top-14 DK scorers for the week
2021: There was no wrong pricing structure this week. Of the 13 golfers who scored 80+ DK points … four carried a sub-$7,000 price tag, four were over $9,000 and three of the top-4 scorers for the week were $7,900-$8,400.
2019: Five of the top-9 in DK pricing missed the cut, three of the four that played the weekend were top-6 scorers on DK for the week.
2018: Three of the top-4 DK scorers cost at least $9,500, but that’s not to say punt plays didn’t cash … five of the top-9 DK scorers cost you $7,700 or less.
2017: The top-7 scorers in terms of DK points were all sub-$8,000 while six of the top-7 in pricing failed to score even 61 DK points.
2023 Valspar Championship Picks
Backing former champs at Copperhead has paid dividends in the past, so maybe it’s time for Hadwin to notch career win No. 2. The 2017 champ was trending upwards all season before his Tampa breakthrough, and it appears we’re getting a lesser version of the same thing in 2023. Despite struggles at lengthy courses like Torrey Pines, Bay Hill and Riviera (against the world’s best players), the Canadian has handled himself nicely in the weaker field events, picking up Top 20s in La Quinta and Houston, while making a run in an elevated field start in Phoenix (T10). After missed cuts in 2019 and 2021, Hadwin returned to Valspar form a year ago with a T7 finish, and is flashing the form to build on that this week.
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Let’s hope his recent heater continues. After another quality performance at THE PLAYERS, Suh has now made 11 straight cuts, and has seen his results dramatically improve since the PGA TOUR shifted from the West Coast to Florida. Many have the poor weekend putting performance at the Honda stuck in their heads, but he’s actually gained on the greens in five of his last six starts overall, along with five straight starts of gaining with his irons.
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Pat Mayo is an award-winning video host and producer of long and short-form content, and the host of The Pat Mayo Experience daily talk show. (Subscribe for video or audio). Mayo (@ThePME) won the 2023 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Podcast of the Year and was a finalist for three FSWA Awards in 2023 (Best Podcast, Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year). His 27 FSWA nominations lead all writers this decade and are second-most all-time.
Mayo has been recognized across multiple sports (Football, Baseball & Golf), mediums (Video, Writing & Podcasting), genre (Humor), and game formats (Sports Betting, Daily Fantasy, and Traditional Season Long Fantasy).
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is ThePME) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and do not constitute a representation that any particular strategy will guarantee success. All customers should use their own skill and judgment in building lineups. I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.