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The Valspar returns this season, over two years after it was last played on Tour. The event got canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic and then received a new May date in 2021. The event has quickly become one of the more underrated on Tour, as the blend of nice Florida weather and a great venue has started to attract the attention of bigger names, including Tiger Woods who made an appearance here in 2018. However, the event has been dominated by Paul Casey of late, who comes in as the two-time defending champion here.
This year, the field features good top-end talent with both of the top-two ranked players in the OWGR in attendance in Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas. Paul Casey, Patrick Reed and SungJae Im have also made the trek here and round out the event with six of the top-20 players in the OWGR in attendance. The field here is set at 156 players and the cut remains standard as the top 65 and ties play the weekend.
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 toughened up an already hard track. Three of the last six years now 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.
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. The course itself isn’t brutally long but plays longer than its yardage due to the number of doglegs and thicker rough. On top of the tighter fairways and trees making life tough, water is also a big factor here and comes into play on 11 of the 18 holes.
The greens here are Bermuda and have played relatively firm and fast the past few years. It’s also interesting to note that since the green changes in 2016 two of the past three winners have had little to no success on the old greens prior to their wins, a trend that perhaps downplays the idea of relying on course history much this week. One final note, Copperhead also features its own brutally hard signature finishing stretch, “The Snake Pit,” which consists of two long, winding par 4s and a hard-to-hit par 3. These three holes almost always play over par for the week.
2021 Outlook: The new late April/early May date looks like it is going to bring us sunny skies and great conditions. Highs are set to be in the low 80s for all four days and there’s not a hint of rain in the forecast, as of writing. The only thing worth talking about this week is going to be the wind. The weekend looks relatively tame, but the afternoons on the first two days do have gusts exceeding 10 mph. Friday afternoon looks to top out around 12-14 mph. With little separation in conditions over the first two days, stacking waves here in classic format likely isn’t worth your time. Early risers in showdown format could have an advantage though as greens should get firmer in the afternoon.
Last 5 winners
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)
2016 — Charl Schwartzel -7 (over Bill Haas -6)
2015 — Jordan Spieth -10 (over Patrick Reed and Sean O’Hair playoff)
— Each of the past seven winners of the Valspar Championship had recorded at least one top 10 on the season before their victory here.
— Two of the past four winners here had never made the cut at Copperhead/the Valspar, before winning the trophy here.
Winners Stats and Course Overview
Paul Casey (8-under-par—2019)
2019 lead-in form (MC-T3-T25-T2-MC)
SG: OTT — +3.4
SG: APP — +4.6
SG: TTG — +11.2
SG: ATG — +3.2
SG: PUTT — +0.4
- 2017 winner Adam Hadwin ranked fifth here for the week in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green while 2018 and 2019 winner Paul Casey ranked first in this stat for the week in both his winning years. On a course with a ton of demanding approaches and tee shots, good recent tee to green stats should be emphasized.
- Bogey avoidance is also a stat to emphasize. Birdie opportunities are rare on Copperhead and recent winners at this event have all had decent to strong ranks in this category. Casey led the field in bogey avoidance in 2019 and 2017 winner Adam Hadwin was second in this stat for the week in 2017.
- In terms of ball-striking, Approach has been one to emphasize more here. Three of the past four winners have actually lost strokes off the tee for the week of their win, but each of the past four winners have also gained 4.6 strokes or more on approach. The average driving distance tends to be eight to 10 yards lower than normal here.
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.
All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
HORSES FOR COURSES
1. Paul Casey (best finishes: win-2019 and 2018): Casey was the winner here in 2018 and 2019. He gained 4.6 and 5.4 strokes on approaches in each of those events, while also gaining multiple strokes around the greens. He’s coming off a missed cut at the Heritage, but shouldn’t be doubted at his favorite venue this week.
2. Patrick Reed (best finishes: T2-2018, T2-2015): Reed has come very close to winning here in two of the past five seasons, losing in a playoff in 2015 and then missing out on a playoff by a stroke in 2018. He’s only finished outside the top 10 here twice in his past five appearances.
3. Jason Kokrak (best finishes: T2-2019, T8-2018): Kokrak has played this venue six times in the past now and carries four top-15 finishes at this event. He was in contention late in 2019 when he gained 5.1 strokes on the greens for the week, but eventually lost out to Casey.
4. Henrik Stenson (best finishes: T4-2015, T7-2017): Stenson leads the field in strokes gained total stats here over the past five seasons. The Swede has played here each of the past five times this event has run and gained 7.1 strokes on his approaches in 2019 alone. Overall, he’s finished T11 or better in three of his five appearances here.
5. Ryan Moore (best finishes: T3-2016, T5-2015): Moore has only made 6-of-12 cuts at this event, but he landed Top-5 finishes here in both 2015 and 2016 and ranks third in strokes gained total stats here over the past five seasons. He comes in off a made cut at the Heritage and will look to build on that at one of his favorite venues.
1. Corey Conners ($9,600; T8-T14): Conners is playing some of the best golf of his life right now. The Canadian ranks fourth in this field in SG:TTG stats over the past 50 rounds and has four top-10 finishes in his past five starts.
2. Emiliano Grillo ($8,300; T8-T14): Grillo is coming off a second-place finish at the RBC Heritage. The Argentine ranks third in this field in SG: Ball Striking stats over the past 50 rounds and has finished T11 or better in three of his past five starts.
3. Chris Kirk ($8,200; T8-T14): Kirk has now gained strokes OTT and on Approach in five of his past six starts. He’s landed top-10 finishes in three of his past six stroke-play events and continues to excel since grabbing a shock runner-up finish at the Sony in January.
4. Russell Henley ($9,000; T8-T14): Henley is coming off an RBC Heritage start where he gained 8.8 strokes on his approaches alone and finished T9. He’s got top-10 finishes in back-to-back starts now.
5. Charley Hoffman ($8,600; T8-T14): Hoffman continues to churn out the solid results as the veteran has now made seven cuts in a row coming in. He’s finished top 20 in five of those seven starts and ranks seventh in SG: TTG stats over the past 50 rounds.
DRAFTKINGS DFS STRATEGY
Cash Games: Conners and Ancer can make a dynamic duo
In an event with a tough setup and a couple of big names who didn’t look so great the last time we saw them, going more balanced in cash games feels like the right play. Both Corey Conners ($9,600) and Abraham Ancer ($9,300) feel fairly priced here and rank top five in bogey avoidance over the past 50 rounds. Slightly further down, the likes of Chris Kirk ($8,200) and Emiliano Grillo ($8,300) also feel like good value as both men have been playing great tee-to-green golf of late and also rank out well in bogey avoidance. Some other targets to consider for core or cash game lineups include Lucas Glover ($7,700) and Doug Ghim ($7,300).
Tournaments: Timing a Dustin bounce back could be profitable
Dustin Johnson ($11,200) comes into this event as the second-highest priced golfer on DK, the first time he’s not been the highest priced in quite a while. He’s not played his best in 2021, but is coming off a T13 at the Heritage and finished T6 here in 2019. Lower ownership on him could be had here as many figure to fade him based on a high price tag and slow start to his season. Louis Oosthuizen ($9,500-see below) may also fall into a similar category as he could get bypassed for more popular names in his range. Down further, the likes of Peter Uihlein ($7,300), Alex Noren ($7,300), Keith Mitchell ($7,000-see below) and Kyle Stanley ($6,800) should all be on your radar as potential big field GPP targets.
MY PICK: Louis Oosthuizen ($9,500)
The Valspar has always appealed to players who love tough courses and that’s likely why we’ve seen a player like Oosthuizen excel here of late. The South African will be playing Copperhead for the third time in five years and has finishes of T7, T16 and T2 (2019) to his credit here now. A winner at the Open in 2010 and a runner-up at every single other major championship now, Louis comes in this year ranked sixth in bogey avoidance and first in short game stats in the field, stats which set him up beautifully for the four-day grind that Copperhead will throw at the players.
A water ball on the first playoff hole last week will be disappointing, but it should also provide plenty of motivation to get himself back in the hunt quickly. Oosthy has been trending a bit under the radar of late but was T26 at The Masters and had gained strokes Putting, Around the Green and On Approach in three straight starts before the team event. If he’s ever going to grab us that elusive win, a place like Copperhead will likely be where he transpires and at $9.5K, he makes for a nice pivot target for me in big fields, on a week where placing points will likely make up a big part of your DraftKings scoring.
MY SLEEPER: Keith Mitchell ($7,000)
The Valspar appeals to high-end tee to green players and when he’s in form, Mitchell has proven he can compete on the toughest courses with the best. He’s struggled since the restart last year but comes into this event off the back of three straight made cuts, including a T17 at the Valero in his last solo outing. The American is another player coming off a nice team event, where he and partner Brandt Snedeker ($7,300) ended up finishing in T4 for the week. Mitchell also looked like the stronger player in his group last Sunday as he was darting a ton of long iron shots for his team in the final round.
A player who generally has done his best work on Bermuda greens, Mitchell gained 8.1 strokes putting here in 2017, en route to a T11 finish in his only past visit to this event. While his approach play waned at the start of 2021, his putter has remained steady and he comes in having gained strokes putting now in five straight starts. Given the favorable venue and momentum he’s riding, it wouldn’t be shocking to see another good fantasy week transpire from Mitchell here and he makes for a nice upside target for me at $7K flat.
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