Last week our title selection finally came through and got the win. We hope it’s a harbinger of even better things to come in the next few weeks. As evidenced by the play, distance is a huge factor at Doral and it should come as no surprise that the three player’s in contention all week were the three biggest hitters in the game. One of the main reasons I decided to back Dustin Johnson was that I had actually watched him play quite a bit the past few weeks and he just seemed to be striking the ball purely and confidently on every shot. His scores may not have been super consistent, but you could tell it was just a matter of time. A good reminder that sometimes watching the sport and paying attention to the player’s body language can really pay dividends…
Onto this week…
This week the tour stays in Florida for the third consecutive tournament as it heads to Tampa Bay and the Copperhead Course at the Innisbrook Resort. There will be no let up this week for the players, as Copperhead is a deceivingly tough course and may actually produce a worse winning score than last week. It is a par 71 with long par 4’s, several tree-lined fairways and some water as well. There are also several doglegs on the course that means ball placement will be a high priority. Simple power off the tee will not be as key to winning as it was last week.
In looking at past tournament results, you really get an eclectic, mixed-bag of players having success here. Some power hitters have done well, like Gary Woodland and Robert Garrigus. While many shorter hitters have thrived here as well, like Jim Furyk and Luke Donald. As a result, I’ve used driving accuracy, par 4 scoring and a heavier than usual reliance on recent form and past play at this tournament to determine my picks. Most winners have put up decent results at Copperhead in the past and have come in playing solid golf. Not a surprise given the all-around test this course presents.
Odds to win: 24-1
Key Stat: 10th—driving accuracy, (past champion)
Furyk fits many of the criteria I am looking for this week. He’s playing incredibly solid golf—12th last week at a course that could not be worse for his game—has a great history at this event and is ranked high in driving accuracy. Furyk may be somewhat frustrating for fantasy players since it seems as if he blows it every time he gets close to the win. But also consider that he is putting himself in position to win more than almost any other player on tour as well. I think in a weaker field this week, Furyk stands a great chance to bring home the trophy, or at least get you a top 5 finish.
Odds to win: 50-1
Key Stat: 26th—par 4 scoring
Going in the complete opposite direction from my first pick is big hitting Nick Watney. Watney has a great record at Copperhead having made the cut here all 7 times in his last 7 appearances—which includes two top 15’s and a 4th place finish. Watney is a former top ten player in the world who has started the season very strongly. He ranks highly in par 4 scoring and should also be able to score better than most on the par 5’s given his length. I think he’s peaking at the right time for this event and should be buoyed by a week of rest. Given he didn’t play last week, he may be completely overlooked this week for gpps.
Odds to win: 50-1
Key Stat: 26th—par 4 scoring
I briefly debated whether or not write up Berger again this week but quickly decided there’s simply too much information trending in his favour at the moment to fade him. Berger again gets to play in his home state of Florida on a course he has played amateur golf on. Like Watney, his length should be a factor on the par fours and allow him more scoring opportunities than most. I really like the fact Berger gets to come into this event with a week of rest after his heartbreaking playoff loss in the Honda Classic. He’s young, so it’s not a guarantee he will bounce back with another great performance, but given the level of maturity and form he’s shown so far this year I am not about to bet against him this week.
Odds to win: 55-1
Key Stat: 38th—driving accuracy (5th—par 4 scoring)
Knox falls into the accurate driving category of players who I could see doing very well this week. What I really like about Knox is that even though he suffers from a lack of length off the tee he has a great approach game which allows him to score well on par 4’s. He debuted here with a very solid 25th and is coming off a top 5 at his last event, the Honda Classic. It seems as if Florida agrees with him as Knox has come really close to getting his first win a couple different times in this state. I think he makes for a solid play this week and should contend once again.
Odds to win: 110-1
Key Stat: 70th—driving accuracy
Continuing our run of more accurate hitters is Brian Harmon. Harmon has not had the greatest start to the season, with zero top-tens to his name thus far, however he did flash some serious form at his last event. Harmon finished the Honda Classic with a 64, tied for best round of the day, and recorded a T11. Harmon’s record at this event in his past two years played is extremely solid with a T11 and a T25. The course itself sets up well for him as he can excel in several different areas when his game is on and will not be handicapped by his lack of power. Harmon’s a former winner on tour who knows how to grind out an event. I think his price makes him a great play this week.
Odds to win: 110-1
Key Stat: 45th—par 4 scoring
Ending my picks is another great ball striker and big hitter who has exceled on similar courses where length and accuracy are both rewarded. Stefani debuted here two years ago with a T7 and has for all intents and purposes, become a much better all-around player since that time. He comes into the event off a missed-cut at the rain-sodden Honda Classic but his overall body of work on the season outweighs his last performance for me. There’s no doubt that Stefani has the correct sort of game to succeed this week and, particularly for his price on Draftkings, he has every chance of becoming the value play of the week.
Other Notes: Another great gpp play this week is Robert Garrigus, he has a fantastic record at this event and played solid at the Honda. Will MacKenzie is back playing and has a game that fits this course to a tee. If I was using any high priced talent I would probably go with Jordan Spieth, he posted a top 10 here as a teenager and the course suits his style of play.
Odds to win: 200-1
Key Stat: T8 last year
When Matt Every is on, he has the perfect blend of accuracy and great putting that should allow him to contend on this course. The problem is, Every’s game has been extremely inconsistent since his win last year at Bay Hill. However, Every has shown some signs of life recently. He’s made his last three cuts, including one at the long Torrey Pines (which doesn’t suit his game). Additionally, Every is a native Floridian who will obviously feel comfortable playing on the course. Every showed up here last year and finished T8th and then went on to win his first PGA tournament at Bay Hill the following week. I think a lot of positive emotions should be flowing through him this week as he prepares for his defense. At his price, he makes for a great tournament flyer on Draftkings.
Odds to win: 250-1
Key Stat: Past Champion
O’Hair is a former champion of this event who has shown some consistency in his game as of late. Once thought of as a rising star, O’Hair has developed into more of a tournament grinder. He’s made his last 4 cuts without posting a top 20, but he should come into this event confident in his game and with good memories from his past win here. At his price on Victiv I think O’Hair offers a great chance at making the cut this week and landing inside the top 30, a result that would be a huge boon given his price there.
Odds to win: (opened at 66-1 already dropped to 40-1)
Key Stat: 2nd—par 4 scoring
Laird is another big hitter who has started the season well and comes into this event playing some of the best golf of his career. He has a somewhat spotty record at this event but also has posted a T5 here as well. Like Berger and Watney, he should be able to use his length on the par 4’s to give him more scoring opportunities. He’s shown remarkable touch around the greens this year as well, which could also really help him this week. I like him as an under the radar/overlooked play who could easily rise from the pack to win this event.
Fade: I’m sticking with the same player and going Justin Rose here once again. I’m sure Rose will find his game soon enough, but if he couldn’t find his game last week on a course he’s won on before I’m not sure he’ll find it this week on one he hasn’t.
To Win: The easy choice would be to go with Furyk, but instead I’m going on a bit of hunch and thinking Nick Watney gets it done this week. He’s been on a roll to start the year and should be able to handle the long par 4’s, while also taking advantage of scoring on the par 5’s.