DraftKings Valspar Championship DFS Golf Picks & Plays
Welcome back for another week of PGA DFS at DraftKings, FanDuel, and FantasyDraft. We’re here to give you the full report on picks at the Valspar Championship at Copperhead. This week, we jump across the Gulf of Mexico to Tampa, Florida, my hometown and home to the Innisbrook Resort, which hosts the tournament on its expansive grounds. Innisbrook comprises four courses, one of which is Copperhead. Overall, this is a fun tournament with a star-studded field, as Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy were late additions to the billing.
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PGA DFS Valspar Championship Contests
Dogleg: $33 entry, $500k guaranteed (DraftKings) – $100,000 to 1st
Best Ball: $8 entry, $250k guaranteed (DraftKings)
Birdie: $3 entry, $225k guaranteed (DraftKings)
Eagle: $5.55 entry, $120k guaranteed (FanDuel)
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Copperhead is as menacing as its name suggests. I mean, any course with a segment called the “Snake Pit” is bound to be a difficult test. It averages 0.74 strokes over par and ranks 14th (of 50) overall in difficulty since 2009. Holes 16-18 are brutal and alone average 0.18 strokes over par. Normally, that wouldn’t be a big deal for three holes, but they are at the very end of the round. Forget trying to pick up a stroke coming in; only 10 percent will find a birdie in this stretch. Meanwhile, 23.5 percent will find a bogey or worse … per hole! Expect some fortunes to change late on Sunday.
Snake Pit aside, the course itself is tight and, generally speaking, all about attacking with strategic angles. The course cannot really be overpowered. Mature trees and corridors for sight lines make it feel even tighter than it is, especially into the greens. While the greens aren’t terribly small, they can be very difficult to access for anyone not thinking a shot ahead and missing the correct side of the fairway. This course requires strategy and placement in order to shoot low rounds.
For a personal anecdote, I have played Copperhead a couple of times throughout the years and can attest to its difficulty. What is tough to gauge from TV are the elevation changes that make some of the approaches really tough. Florida is pretty flat as a rule, but Innisbrook has fairways that run uphill from the tee box with the crest of the hill just out of range from the tee. This leaves a blind, downhill approach on several holes. Ultimately, it is a great track and very technical. Golfers must always be thinking a stroke ahead and be wary of overhanging trees that block out sight lines. It has been pretty darn dry here as well the past few months, so expect this to be reflected in the course. The fairways will likely be running a bit this week, making position that much more important.
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After 2015, the course was remodeled, installing new grasses tee to green. This will be the third year for the Bermuda/Poa greens here. Typically, they are very firm the first two years, and once the root structures mature and take hold during the third year, the greens tend to settle in and soften up a bit. Who’s to say if that’s the case this week, but generally new greens mature and play a bit different by this point. It will be interesting to see how the greens at Copperhead react.
So we know how treacherous Copperhead is, but where can it be attacked?
Checking out the chart above, you’ll notice another quirk about Copperhead: it’s a par 71, but it has five par 3’s and four par 5’s. This mandates the importance of par-3 scoring, or rather the approach distance of 200+ yards this week. You can use either stat to try and capture that group of players this week.
The rest of the course is made up of difficult par 4’s and some long par 5’s. For DK scoring, the par 5’s are crucial this week. They account for 37 percent of the DK points scored and play nearly a full stroke under par, while the par 4’s from 400-450 yards make up the largest group of that kind and play 0.40 strokes over par. Finally, the last three par 4’s are 450+ yards and play 0.60 strokes over par. Like I said earlier, approaches from 200+ yards are crucial here.
The wind is generally a factor at this track as well, with average speed during tournament weeks at nearly 15 mph. Be sure to check the forecast prior to lock.
1. Birdie or Better/DK Points
2. Strokes Gained: Approach
3. Par 5 Scoring
4. Par 4 400-450 yards Scoring
5. Bogey Avoidance
6. Approaches 175-200+ yards
Note: Regarding Strokes Gained, putting showed up in several places for me this week. Weigh in if you like.
PGA DFS Players:
Top Tier: $11.8K – $9K
Jordan Spieth ($11.8K) – Jordan Spieth has been defying the odds the past few weeks. With a sub-par game in general, he’s still finding ways to both score and post results on the leaderboard. He returns this week to a place he won in 2015. Spieth has been under the radar all season, and I doubt he gets the attention he deserves this week due to his slightly prohibitive price. That said, Spieth’s game is obviously close, and eventually it will all click and he will run away with one of these tournaments.
Sergio Garcia ($11.5K) – Sergio Garcia hasn’t played here much in the last few years, but when he does, he crushes it. As he should; his exceptional tee-to-green game suits this place perfectly. Coming off a great performance in Mexico where he was in it until the end, Garcia will be chalky this week. While many are looking for Sergio to back up his Augusta magic, because everyone loves a great story, he is more likely to win this week or next than to repeat Augusta given his red-hot approach game. Sergio struggled on and around the greens a bit last week on a course that really challenges that area of the game. Copperhead won’t do so quite the same way; as a result, Sergio should get a little boost if all else remains the same.
Henrik Stenson ($10.2K) – Electing to skip an opportunity at repeating his “digestive pyrotechnics” from the previous year, Henrik Stenson didn’t appear in Mexico. He makes his US debut this season at Copperhead. On a course tailormade for him and his atomic 3-wood, Stenson has rattled off a 7th/11th/4th the past three years. Finding comfort on the greens, his normally mediocre putter has excelled here. Stenson has a game very similar to Sergio’s, but the difference is the form. We aren’t sure where Stenson is at right now. Course history says he should be fine, especially after his bounce back from Montezuma’s Revenge here last year. He’s not a Cash play but definitely has merit for GPPs.
Tony Finau ($9.4K) – While this is traditionally considered an accuracy course and Tony Finau is considered a bomber, he found a way to post a 5th place here last year. Finau continues to show improvement at every level of his game throughout this year’s campaign. Finau should be able to destroy the par 5’s this week, and if he approaches them similarly to last year, he could harness his power and grind out a win.
Other to consider: Gary Woodland, Justin Rose, Tiger Woods
Note: Rory McIlroy will be an interesting GPP play in this tier. He will be the lowest owned, but I can’t advocate playing him at a course that doesn’t seem to suit him. Still, if you seek GPP ownership leverage and can stomach the risk, he will be your guy. Just understand his floor is very much in play this week.
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Mid Tier: $8.9K – $7.5K
Matt Kuchar ($8.2K) – This could be one of the few weeks all year we get discounted ownership on Matt Kuchar. He had a pretty rough week in Mexico, but I am willing to look past that since he mostly struggled with his putter on one of the toughest courses to putt inside of five feet. Prior to that, he was 9th at the Hero and 5th at Waste Management. People are going to talk themselves out of “Kuch” this week, but don’t be that person. He should be just fine at an event at which he’s finished 22/11/33/38/14 the past half-decade.
Cam Smith ($8K) – Cam Smith is having his breakout year, and I expect it to continue this week. The course should fit his game really well: Smith’s not a big hitter and won’t need to be. With his lights-out approach (when he is on) and potentially the best scrambler on tour, Smith made both his cuts at this course. The finishes were mediocre, but again, I think Cam is an across-the-board improved player.
Jason Dufner ($7.8K) – The man with the dopest hat game on tour is a Cash lock here. Having made five of his last five cut here, and all of them inside the top 25, Jason Dufner is coming off a tough putting performance in Mexico that also saw his approach game dip. I am hoping other people see this and get scared a bit because the Mexico rounds at altitude in a no-cut event don’t faze me a bit. “Duff” is in form, and this is as good a track as any for him to knock out a top 5 or even contend late Sunday.
Adam Hadwin ($8.8) – What to say about Adam Hadwin this week? The Canadian is defending his first title after the Valspar Twitter account accidentally dissed him last week by saying the course will have a new champion come next week. He responded both on Twitter and by leading the field in Strokes Gained: Approach in Mexico. He looks primed to defy the odds and defend his title this week. A phenomenal putter who started his huge run last year at this event, Hadwin ought to come out firing this week. At his price tag, we don’t need a win but still a solid showing. I think Hadwin has it in him to deliver.
Others to consider: Byeong Hun-An, Kevin Na, Webb Simpson, Bill Haas, Jason Kokrak
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Value Tier: $7.4K and Lower
Chesson Hadley ($7.4K) – Ranked first in my model for approach recently, Chesson Hadley should be a chalk lock this week at his price. Red hot early on this season, he’s cooled off but has made the cut here in all three tries. He posted a 14th in his first attempt. Chesson is still playing well and has positive course history here.
Sam Saunders ($7K) – Sam Saunders might have a lot of notoriety at next week’s event, but this could be his week. Posting a couple of top 25’s here prior to his missed cut last year, Sam has shown an affinity for this track. I am hoping his recent MC at Honda keeps people away, as I find his eighth-place finish at Career Builder really encouraging. Several previous champions at Valspar have shown well at Career Builder. Could we add Sam’s name to that list this week? I love the value on Saunders.
Harris English ($7K) – While I am not exactly a fan boy, it is hard to deny Harris English has been playing better as of late. He’s posted solid results here in the past, making four of his last five cuts, with two Top 10’s as well. For his upside, value, and some course history to boot, use Harris to round out a few GPP teams this week.
Others to consider: Jim Furyk, Bryson DeChambeau, Nick Watney, John Huh, Ryan Palmer, Luke Donald
That does it for the Valspar Championship breakdown. Good luck this week, and I’ll see you next for Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.