The Cheat Sheet provides DraftKings fantasy golf players with course info, player history and the most noteworthy trends of the week to help them with their roster selections.
The Valspar Championship remains one of the more underrated stops on the PGA TOUR. The Copperhead Course is one of the best venues on the schedule as it offers the players a fair but tough test with plenty of longer par 3s and winding par 5s that ensure the scoring never gets too out of hand. The placement on the schedule (after two big events in a row) means that we don’t have a ton of elite players in the field, but with Augusta on the horizon, some have decided to use this as one of their final warmup events. Justin Thomas and 2015 Valspar winner Jordan Spieth are both in the field—as of writing—and there are currently nine of the world’s top 50 golfers set to tee things up this week.
The field maxes out at 144 players this week, and there could certainly be some more withdraws as the week goes on. Some young players in the field to keep an eye on include Ahskay Bhatia, Cole Hammer and top amateur Ludvig Averg, who had a solid T24 showing in his first PGA start of 2023, finishing T24. Like most regular PGA stops, the cut will take place after Friday’s round, and the top-65 and ties will play the weekend.
Set your DraftKings fantasy golf lineups here: PGA TOUR $1M Pitch + Putt [$250K to 1st]
Copperhead Course, Innisbrook Golf Resort—Palm Harbour, Florida
Par 71, 7,340 yards
Copperhead has hosted this event since its inception in 2000. It underwent a date change in 2007, and this venue has tended to play tougher since then; hence looking at course history before 2007 isn’t super useful. The other thing to note this week is that the course underwent huge renovations of greens, fairways and some bunkers after 2015. While the design of the course didn’t change much (if at all), the changes seemingly toughened up an already hard track.
Three of the last eight years have featured winning scores in the single-digit range, and in 2019 it played as the sixth-toughest course on TOUR, with a scoring average of 71.968. Scoring conditions have softened a touch over the past two seasons, and we’ve seen players start to figure out these new Bermuda greens (mainly Sam Burns).
Copperhead is unique in that it’s a par 71 but features five (yes, five) par 3s and four par 5s. Birdies can be had on the par 5s, but the majority of them are anything but pushovers and require three good shots to even sniff a birdie putt. Placement off the tee on the par 5s and longer Par 4s is crucial as the parkland setting has several doglegs built into the course design, which means that getting too wild off the tee will force layups and take away birdie chances.
The course itself isn’t brutally long, but it does play longer than its yardage due to both the doglegs and thicker rough. Long iron approaches this week will be plentiful, with the two most popular approach baskets being between 175-200 yards and 200+ yards. This almost always means more missed greens in regulation than normal as well, and we often see GIR% at this event trend 5-10% lower than the PGA TOUR average.
With water prevalent and placement being such a big factor, there is little doubt we need a player capable of a great all-around effort on the stat sheet. Great long iron play is essential, and a credible off-the-tee game is a must, but as Sam Burns has proven the last two seasons, the winners at Valspar need to be well-rounded and capable of either excelling around the greens or with the putter.
We’ve had some long-shot winners at Copperhead before (Burns was 80-1 in 2021) but no one that outlandish in terms of overall talent. Make sure whoever you’re starting for DFS or betting has a solid enough all-around game to take advantage of the gains they’re making tee to green.
2023 Outlook: As of writing, there are winds expected to reach over 20 mph on Friday, with gusts building as the day progresses. Saturday also has heavier winds and some rain that is expected to hit before noon — and could hamper play. The weather overall doesn’t look great on any of the four days, although Thursday will have lighter winds and no rain. As of now, looking to avoid Friday p.m. players could be an edge to exploit for DFS purposes, but we will have to wait and see how the week plays out. It’s also possible that more of the bad weather drifts into the weekend, making wave stacking less profitable. Either way, we should see low green in regulation percentages and a heavier emphasis on around-the-green play. Look for a winning total closer to 10 under par or worse this season.
Last 5 winners
2022—Sam Burns -17 (in a play-off over Davis Riley)
2021—Sam Burns -17 (over Keegan Bradley -14)
2019 — Paul Casey -8 (over Louis Oosthuizen and Jason Kokrak -7)
2018 — Paul Casey -10 (over Tiger Woods and Patrick Reed -9)
2017 — Adam Hadwin -14 (over Patrick Cantlay -13)
— Each of the past eight winners of the Valspar Championship had recorded at least one top 10 on the season before their victory here (Sam Burns had posted a T3 at the Genesis prior to winning in 2021 and a T9 at the API before winning in 2022).
— Three of the past six winners had already been in a Sunday Final group pairing at some point that calendar year prior to their win at the Valspar.
Winners Stats and Course Overview
Sam Burns (17-under-par—2022)
2022 lead-in form (26-9-MC-MC-MC)
SG: OTT — -1.0
SG: APP — +7.0
SG: TTG — +8.8
SG: ATG — +2.9
SG: PUTT — +5.2
- Burns again dominated on the greens at Copperhead in 2022. He gained over 9.0 strokes putting in 2021 on his way to winning and had another lights-out putting performance in 2022.
- Burns had played Valspar twice prior to his initial win in 2021 and had gained over 6.0 strokes putting on each of those previous starts.
- Winners have all tended to excel in the approach category but solid around-the-green play has been a staple of past winners as well.
- Each of the winners at Copperhead from 2015 onward had gained over 1.0 strokes ATG for the week — with several gaining over 2.5 strokes around the greens. Expect around the green play to potentially matter even more in 2023 with strong winds expected.
- Long iron proximity is also of vital importance as Copperhead has plenty of winding, longer holes that will require players to shape the ball and hit from 175 yards out.
Finding Values (DraftKings Sportsbook)
Odds to win are one factor to think about when picking players (but not the only thing, so be careful putting too much weight on them). This section is going to detail a few of the players who have the best fantasy value compared to their DraftKings Sportsbook odds of winning this week.
Wyndham Clark +3500 and $8,800
K.H. Lee +5000 and $8,000
All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
HORSES FOR COURSES
1. Sam Burns (best finishes: win-2021/2022): Burns has played this event four times but has dominated over that short time period. He’s gained over 5.0 strokes putting in every start at Copperhead, and is coming off back-to-back wins at this event. His 2023 start hasn’t been great, but given his track record, expect his putter to keep him in the hunt this week.
2. Adam Hadwin (best finishes: win-2017, T7-2022): Hadwin is another former winner of the Valspar with a great track record at Copperhead. He also finished T12 in 2018 and T7 in 2022. Coming off a solid week at the Players (T13), Hadwin will likely be a popular pick in DFS GPPs this week.
3. Russell Knox (best finishes: T16-2018): Knox has missed four cuts in a row coming into this week but has a very consistent record at Copperhead of making the weekend. In eight career starts, he’s only missed the cut once and has finished top 25 at Copperhead in three of the past four years.
4. Matthew NeSmith (best finishes: 3rd-2022): NeSmith ranks fourth in strokes gained total stats at Copperhead over the past five seasons — despite having only played in the event twice over that span. He finished 3rd at this event last year and T21 in 2021. He’s been dreadful in 2023 but certainly is in a potential bounce-back spot this week.
5. Luke Donald (best finishes: win-2012, T9-2019): Donald isn’t the player he once was, but he has played more consistently of late and keeps grinding out starts and cuts on the PGA. He won at this venue back in 2012 and has made the cut at Copperhead in seven of the past eight seasons.
1. Justin Suh ($8,900; T6-T24): Suh looks ready to take a step up in weight class. He’s made 10 cuts in a row and now landed two top 10 finishes on the Florida swing. His approach game has gained him 1.5 strokes or more in five straight events.
2. Jordan Spieth ($10,600; T19-T4): Spieth landed a T19 finish at Sawgrass, which is encouraging given his overall record at the event. He leads the field in strokes gained total stats over the last six weeks with two top-five finishes in that span.
3. Wyndham Clark ($8,700; T27-T34): Clark ranks fourth in strokes gained total stats over the past six events. His approach game has taken a massive step up in 2023, gaining him multiple strokes in three of his last four starts.
4. Ben Griffin ($8,400; T35-T14): Griffin has been a beacon of consistency since stepping onto the PGA TOUR. He’s made 12 of 14 cuts since last fall and gained strokes on approach in nine of his last 10 starts.
4. Kramer Hickok ($7,200; T44-T14): The American has made three cuts in a row now and has started to flash some good upward trends in both ball-striking and putting — where he gained 6.1 strokes against the field last week.
DRAFTKINGS DFS STRATEGY
Cash Games: Riley and Clark solid starters
Despite this being a weaker field, there are lots of good young golfers in the 8k range which makes sense to build around. Davis Riley ($9,000) has shown flashes of late and famously lost in a playoff at this event last season. He’s good enough around the greens and with the putter to produce even if his long game isn't at its best yet. Clark ($8,900) had been striking it well prior to last week and has now produced five top-40 finishes in a row. Both golfers are capable of putting in bigger weeks against this kind of field and make for good salary savers up top. Other potential targets for this format to consider include Ben Griffin ($8,400), Stephan Jaeger ($7,800), Dylan Wu ($6,800)
Tournaments: Fleetwood and Spieth can handle the wind
Both Tommy Fleetwood ($9,800 - see below) and Jordan Spieth ($10,600) are two of the most accomplished Open players of the past decade and should relish this event getting a little blustery. I spoke about Fleetwood’s chances below, but building around Spieth this week also makes plenty of sense. His top 20 at Sawgrass was his best finish there since 2014 and he’s now gained strokes around the green and on approach in four straight events. If his putter shows up, he could certainly challenge for another win this week. Victor Perez ($7,800) has the pedigree to compete against a weaker field and won just a few starts ago on the DP World Tour. Also, don’t overlook Ben Martin ($7,400) who played well in tough conditions at the Honda Classic. Other potential targets for this format include Trey Mullinax ($7,200 -see below), Michael Kim ($6,900), and Kyle Stanley ($6,200).
MY PICK: Tommy Fleetwood ($9,800)
As disappointed as Fleetwood will be after a Sunday 76 at Sawgrass knocked him down to T27 for the week, there are still a lot of positives to take away from his last two starts. The Englishman gained 5.0 strokes on approach last week and has now gained over 1.4 strokes on approach in each of his last three starts. Despite being a little manic on the greens (he lost -5.0 strokes putting at Bay Hill), he’s also got the kind of short game that can excel in the tough conditions expected for this event — and ranks 6th in strokes gained around-the-green stats over the last 50 rounds.
While his best finish on the PGA in 2023 remains a T20 at the Genesis, he’s got three top-five finishes on the PGA TOUR over his last eight starts (going back to late summer 2022) and grabbed a win on the DP World Tour last fall. Fleetwood has played Copperhead just once before, but it was a positive experience as he grabbed a share T16 last season and importantly showed upside on the greens gaining 3.9 strokes with his putter.
Despite never having grabbed a win on the PGA, this is a player who has five top-five finishes in majors since 2017 and certainly has the mettle to breakthrough against this kind of weaker field. At under 10k on DraftKings — and some appealing +2500 outright odds on the DraftKings Sportsbook — he makes for an excellent daily fantasy and betting target for the final leg of the Florida swing.
MY SLEEPER: Trey Mullinax ($7,200)
Mullinax is a player who could shine this week. He ranks out top 10 in proximity from 175-200 yards and >200 yards over the past 50-rounds and also has an underrated short game which has gained him strokes against the field in six of his last seven starts. In short, he’ll be well-equipped to take on the plethora of longer, winding holes that Copperhead throws at players and should also be in shape to handle the windy conditions which will likely make short games a bigger factor in 2023.
Mullinax is coming off a missed cut at the Players last week, but two weeks ago he gained 5.8 strokes ball-striking on his way to a top-10 finish at Bay Hill. He finished T8 at this event back in 2018 (while struggling with his game) and has also grabbed multiple top 10 finishes at TPC Southwind — a very comparable course to Copperhead which hosts the first playoff leg in August (FedEx St. Jude Classic). Mullinax is a streaky player — whose only PGA win came last season after missing two cuts in a row — but has now produced five top-15 finishes over his last 15 PGA starts. He looks undervalued at just $7,200 in price and is a solid longshot target in the outright market at +9000 on the DraftKings Sportsbook.
Set your DraftKings fantasy golf lineups here: PGA TOUR $1M Pitch + Putt [$250K to 1st]
Put your knowledge to the test. Sign up for DraftKings and experience the game inside the game.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is wavegoodbye) 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.