Betting on Golf: Valspar Championship

Betting on Golf: Valspar Championship

This article is part of our Golf Picks series.

Valspar Championship Betting Preview

After a Monday finish at THE PLAYERS Championship, we head southwest to Tampa for the final stop of the Florida Swing – the Valspar Championship at the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook.

Five of the top 10 players in the Official World Golf Ranking, including No. 2 Collin Morikawa and co-favorites Viktor Hovland and Justin Thomas – at 10-1 odds – headline the field.  Last year, Sam Burns, at 70-1, picked up his first PGA Tour victory with a three-stroke victory over Keegan Bradley.

Copperhead is unique in that the par-71, 7,340-yard course includes five par-3s and four par-5s. The venue played a little easier than usual last year with Burns finishing at 17-under, which was just the second time since 2013 that the champion finished better than 10 shots under par. Nevertheless, this is typically one of the tougher tests on Tour on a yearly basis. The course features "The Snake Pit," a treacherous three-hole stretch that players will simply be looking to par to close out their rounds. With the winner ranking top-10 in Strokes Gained: Approach four of the last five years, I'll be targeting golfers that excel with their irons, especially from 175-225 yards, as many approaches will be struck in that range. Precision trumps distance off the tee thanks to narrow fairways and only three of the par-4s playing over 450 yards.

All odds via DraftKings Sportsbook as of 7:00 PM ET Tuesday.

Horses for the Course

The following five golfers, with a minimum of eight rounds played, have the lowest scoring average at the Copperhead Course since 2016:

Ancer played well in his first two trips to this track, finishing tied for 16th in his initial appearance in 2018 and fifth a year ago. With the course emphasizing accuracy off the tee and elite iron play, Ancer's success shouldn't be a surprise, as he ranks sixth in driving accuracy this season and was 23rd in SG: Approach last season. He's a bargain outside of the top 10 choices at 35-1. Closer to the top of the list we find Oosthuizen, who made the cut in all four appearances over this stretch, never finished worse than T16 and notched a runner-up in 2019. He was in contention at THE PLAYERS before fading in the final round, showing that his game is rounding back into form. He is a good target as the fifth choice at 16-1 odds to win.

The Right Approach

These five players, on a per-round basis, gained the most strokes on approach over their last five tournaments:

Hovland has taken his iron play to another level, gaining over a stroke per round and ranking third in SG: Approach this season. Over his last five starts, he was more than a quarter shot better on approach than anyone else, and he also ranks seventh in SG: Off-the-Tee. Hovland is coming off three top-10s in a row and finished in a share for third in his lone appearance at the Valspar Championship last year. He is certainly a worthy co-favorite alongside Thomas. On a list filled with European golfers we find Noren, who has been trending way up over the last month and a half. He has made five cuts in a row and picked up a pair of top-10s during that stretch. He also finished T21 here last year. The Swede is solid in all aspects of the game, and with the Copperhead Course testing scrambling ability, Noren's superior short-game play will come in handy.

Outright Picks

Jason Kokrak (25-1)

Kokrak has played about as well as anyone at the Valspar Championship, finishing T13, T2, T8 over his last three appearances in this event. That makes him a prime target in one-and-done contests and a strong candidate to contend over the weekend. With a pair of wins since last summer, he certainly knows how to find the winner's circle. He has been steady since closing out his 2021 schedule with a win, recording three top-30 finishes in five starts this year.

Keegan Bradley (50-1)

The value is too good to pass up here. Bradley held a share of the lead after three rounds here last year before settling for second, and he found himself in contention Monday at Sawgrass before fading late. Bradley has made the cut in all six tries this year, and he has notched a trio of top-12 finishes. It certainly doesn't hurt that he seems to play some of his best golf in the Sunshine State.

Troy Merritt (80-1)

Merritt seems to spring to life and find the winner's circle every few years. This is certainly a place where he's capable of doing so, as he has picked up a pair of top-10 finishes here. Over the last handful of months, he notched a top-5 finish at Pebble Beach and lost in a playoff at the Rocket Mortgage Classic. He's easy to overlook because he does not jump off the page in any one area, but also doesn't do anything poorly.

Top-10 Wagers

Bubba Watson (5-1)

This is one of the courses Watson seems to have circled on his calendar in recent years. He followed up a top-5 finish in 2019 with a T13 last year. He has played a light schedule this year, teeing it up on the PGA Tour only three times. However, he did notch a top-15 and also finished runner-up in a solid field in Saudi Arabia. His results here leave him underpriced at these odds.

Adam Hadwin (6-1)

This is a course that is up Hadwin's alley, as main weakness is his distance off the tee, which shouldn't be much of a deterrent at Copperhead. He's been hitting his irons well, ranking 30th in SG: Approach this season, and is a great putter on Bermudagrass. Hadwin should have plenty of confidence after shooting a Monday 67 en route to a top-10 finish at THE PLAYERS Championship.

Andrew Putnam (16-1)

Putnam is a tough player to peg, as he's recorded five top-10s since the start of 2021 but has also missed 16 cuts. He's much more suited for courses that don't prioritize distance, as he is one of the shortest hitters on Tour yet is one of the better iron players when he's at his best. If you pass on him at the betting window, Putnam makes for a sneaky low-cost option in DFS contests.

Head-to-Head Matchups

Matt Fitzpatrick (-120) over Tyrrell Hatton

Fitzpatrick left a bad taste in the mouths of many after a disappointing missed cut at THE PLAYERS, but he wound up on the wrong side of the weather, so that can be forgiven. Don't forget, he recorded three top-10s in a row prior to that. In Hatton's lone appearance at Copperhead in 2019 he shot eight-over-par and missed the cut. He is a fade for me this week.

Brooks Koepka (-105) over Tommy Fleetwood

This is an interesting one-on-one matchup considering both players are making their first appearance at this track. It does baffle me, though, to see it as a pick'em. Fleetwood had such a disappointing 2020-21 season that he didn't even make the FedExCup Playoffs, and Koepka is a four-time major winner who has recorded a T3 and a T16 since the start of February. Missing the final two rounds at THE PLAYERS could be a blessing in disguise for Koepka.

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Ryan Pohle
Ryan Pohle breaks down golf bets and covers college basketball for RotoWire.
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