Pat Mayo and Geoff Fienberg preview the course and run through the odds while making their 2021 Valspar Championship Picks. The guys give their fantasy golf picks, provide their one and done strategy for the event from Copperhead.
2021 Valspar Championship: Field
2021 Valspar Championship Field
156 Players | Top 65 & Ties Make the Cut
First Tee: Thursday, April 29
Defending Champion: Paul Casey
The rearranging of the PGA TOUR schedule has severely impacted the quality of fields in some events. Just ask Pebble Beach and The Honda Classic. No tournament may have benefitted more, however, than the Valspar Championship. Once the forgotten Florida event, surrounded by a WGCs, The PLAYERS and The Masters, the Valspar now stands alone as the final Florida start with little competition in sight. Few elites want to play the week after The Masters, the team event in New Orleans is entirely skippable, as is the Byron Nelson, so that leaves the Valspar and Quail Hollow as the two prep events for the PGA Championship.
Because of this, both the No. 1 and 2 ranked players in the world, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas, will be in competition this week. And it’s not just them elevating the field. Top 10 players Patrick Reed and Tyrrell Hatton are also joining in on the fun. “Fun” being relative, as Copperhead can be quite trying. Rounding out the top of the field are two-time defending champ Paul Casey, Corey Conners, Viktor Hovland, Joaquin Niemann, Jason Kokrak, Abe Ancer, Bubba Watson, Russell Henley, Sungjae Im, Louis Oosthuizen, Scottie Scheffler, Justin Rose, Ryan Paler, Kevin Na, Charley Hoffman, Chris Kirk, Gary Woodland, Lanto Griffin, Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Cameron Champ and Max Homa.
Additionally, there are a few surprises popping up too. After a near-miss on the EURO TOUR a week ago, Sam Horsfield is making a cameo. Rasmus Højgaard makes his second PGA TOUR start in a row after the Zurich last week. And after a Top 5 finish in the team event, Peter Uihlein earned a late exemption into the field. On top of his solo third with Richy Werenski at the Zurich, Uihlein won the week previous on the Korn Ferry Tour.
Brooks Koepka is not in the field this year, but his stand-in, Chase, will be.
Oh, Keegan Bradley will be in attendance as well. Why is that notable? Well, 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 ignite 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.”
2021 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
2021 Valspar Championship: Course
Innisbrook Resort (Copperhead)
2021 Valspar Championship: Past Winners
2019 Paul Casey -8
2018 Paul Casey -10
2017 Adam Hadwin -14
2016 Charl Schwartzel -7
2015 Jordan Spieth -10
2021 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, eight water hazards and an average driving distance more than 12 yards shorter than the average course, and you have one of the 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 Bear Trap with no budget for a good PR firm. Holes 16, 17 and 18 are among the most difficult three-hole stretches played annually on 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 | +0.30 (Rank 1) | 8.5% Birdies; 24% Bogeys; 6% Doubles or Worse
- Hole 17: Par 3 | 215 Yards | +0.14 (Rank 7) | 9% Birdies; 19% Bogeys; 1% Doubles or Worse
- Hole 18: Par 4 | 445 Yards | +0.17 (Rank 6) | 11% Birdies; 22% Bogeys; 2% 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 has been +1 or higher every year since 2013 and has not been below par dating back to 2003. And now the field is expanded to 156 players from 144, likely creating more chaos. Expect the Valspar to have one of the lowest 6/6 lineup percentages on DraftKings of any event all year.
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 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 TOUR where par 4s rate last between the three, likely because six of the nine par 4s measure 445 yards or less.
Strokes Gained: Approach has factored into the Top 5 finishers’ performance 2.57 times more than Strokes Gained: Off The Tee, and 2.03 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 TOUR, par 3s, par 4s from 400-450 yards and approaches from 175-200 yards are more impactful at Copperhead than most venues.
2021 Valspar Championship Picks
Tyrrell Hatton ($9,400)
Editor’s note: Tyrrell Hatton has withdrawn from the Valspar Championship after testing positive for COVID-19.
Buy low on the dropping star. Hatton, still the No. 8 ranked player in the world, is now quickly being dismissed in favor of trendier players at the moment. Seems like a mistake. While 2021 hasn’t been great for the Brit, he does hold his lone PGA TOUR victory in Florida, and the numbers suggest he’s rounding back into form despite middling results. He finally figured out Augusta (to an extent), with a T18 finish, by far the best of his career, mainly on the back of quality irons in the short game. Then at the Heritage, his T39 doesn’t appear great on the surface, but Hatton gained with the driver, on approaches and around the greens. Plus, he was T8 at the team event last week. If he can get the putter to cooperate this week, he’ll be back firmly in the mix.
Sungjae Im ($9,200)
While we’re waiting on Dustin Johnson’s irons to return and watch him lap the field, it’s already happened for Sungjae. Most of the year it’s been all driving and putting keeping him afloat. That isn’t surprising, he’s great at both. But if he can get dialed in on approaches it will be a return to the winner's circle. And that finally happened at the Heritage. Im gained 3.5 strokes on approach for the first time since the year’s opening event at Kapalua. If he can retain that fire with the irons, the rest of his game matches the course perfectly, as evidenced by his T4 finish in his tournament debut in 2019.
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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 2020 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and Golf Writer of the Year awards, along with the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Best Sports Betting Analyst award, and was a finalist for four FSWA Awards in 2020 (Best Podcast, Best Video, Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year). His 21 FSWA nominations lead all writers this decade and are third-most all-time. Mayo has been recognized across multiple sports (Football, Baseball & Golf), mediums (Video, Writing & Podcasting), genre (Humor), and game formats (Daily Fantasy and Traditions Season Long). Beyond sports, Mayo covers everything from entertainment to pop culture to politics. If you have a fantasy question, general inquiry or snarky comment, ship it to Mayo at ThePatMayoExperience@gmail.com and the best will be addressed on the show.
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