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DraftKings PGA: Valspar Championship

Len Hochberg

Hochberg covers golf for RotoWire. A veteran sports journalist, he contributes to Sports on Earth and was an editor and reporter at The Washington Post for many years.


VALSPAR CHAMPIONSHIP

Purse: $6.3M
Winner's Share: $1.098M
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the Winner
Location: Palm Harbor, Fla.
Course: Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club (Copperhead)
Yardage: 7,340
Par: 71
2016 champion: Charl Schwartzel

Tournament Preview

As we return to the Florida Swing after a one-week hiatus, we've sadly realized that there really is no Florida Swing anymore. Before last week's WGC-Mexico, there was the Honda and after the Valspar there's Bay Hill -- and that's that. Three tournaments. Not even consecutively. The Tour comes back once more, for The Players in May, but you'd think that Florida, the state most associated with golf in the United States, would be better represented. On top of that, the Valspar doesn't even get a great field, plagued by its position on the calendar with a WGC immediately prior and another, the Match Play, in just two weeks. Even Bay Hill, the first one since Arnold Palmer died, will take a hit. But for now we're talking Valspar. Only two of the top-10 in the world are on hand, just six of the top-25, leaving the tournament with an OWGR strength-of-field rating of only 291, almost half of Riviera's number. No. 6 Henrik Stenson, fresh off a Mexico WD, and No. 7 Justin Turner head the field, along with No. 12 Patrick Reed, No. 16 Bubba Watson, No. 20 Matt Kuchar and No. 21 Russell Knox. And no one in that last quartet is playing especially well.

Thankfully for golf fans, Copperhead with its famed "Snake Pit" is always a fun watch and traditionally one of the toughest courses of the season. Last year, it was the sixth-hardest track on Tour. Charl Schwartzel won at only 8-under in the first year since the course underwent some modifications (nothing major). The Snake Pit is still the Snake Pit. Nos. 16-18 are among the toughest closing three-hole sequences on Tour. The 16th is the biggest brute, a 475-yard dogleg par-4 guarded by water along the right side, followed by the long par-3 17th and the narrow, uphill par-4 18th. There were 26 double bogeys at 16 last year and six scores worse. And that wasn't even the toughest hole on the course. That distinction goes to the 200-yard par-3 13th, which had 33 doubles and six "worse." That is one of the five par-3s on this oddly aligned scorecard, along with four par-5s.

The course is incredibly tight off the tee, with the average fairway just 22 yards wide at the 300-yard mark. What we've seen through the years is that driving distance and accuracy aren't good indicators, but it's important to note that driver is left in the bag on many holes. We'll delve deeper into the right golfer for Copperhead in the Champion's Profile below. It's not a typical Florida course, as it's situated on the West Coast near the Gulf of Mexico. There are tree-lined fairways, numerous doglegs, lots of elevation changes and strategically situated water. Greens are average size. There's only a small chance of rain the first three days, but there could be more on Sunday.


Key Stats to Winning at Copperhead

• Strokes gained approach the green (SGATG), greens in regulation (GIR)
• Scrambling
• Putting average (putts per GIR), strokes gained putting (SGP)
• Bogey avoidance


Past Champions

2016 - Charl Schwartzel
2015 – Jordan Spieth
2014 – John Senden
2013 – Kevin Streelman
2012 – Luke Donald
2011 – Gary Woodland
2010 – Jim Furyk
2009 – Retief Goosen
2008 – Sean O’Hair
2007 – Mark Calcavecchia

Champion's Profile

At Copperhead, boring golf rules the day. We're looking for grinders who can putt. Last year, the track was the third hardest for GIR, second
hardest in birdie average and seventh toughest in putting average. Guys who get on the green, take their two putts and head to the next tee are our model. There are spots to attack, but those are largely limited to the par-5s. Accuracy off the tee is always a bit misleading here. The fairways are extremely narrow with multiple doglegs. The thing is, just about everyone will be more accurate than their stats say because they'll be clubbing down. You'd have to go back to Gary Woodland in 2011 to find a big hitter who won. In fact, Luke Donald and John Senden are downright short hitters, and Kevin Streelman will never be mistaken for Bubba Watson. Since getting on the green in regulation is so tough, scrambling comes into prominence. But it all ends up on the green, where a strong putter will mask so many other problems this week.


DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS
(Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)

Tier 1 Values

Henrik Stenson - $11,700 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 10-1)

Let's start off by saying that this would be the perfect week to avoid the high-priced guys and fill your lineup from the $7,500-$9,000 range, and we may do that in our own cash game. That said, the format calls for a Tier 1, so here goes: Stenson is coming off a WD-illness in Mexico, but assuming he's healthy this course is right up his alley (we said the same thing about Chapultepec, sigh). He was T11 at the Valspar last year and T4 the year before. One of the sport's finest long-iron players. Stenson is second on the DraftKings board to Justin Thomas,. Thomas was T18 and T10 here the past two years, but that's not good enough to justify $11,900. Plus last week in Mexico he was having massive swing issues.

Charles Howell III - $9,400 (40-1)

Howell is battling to get into the 64-man Match Play in two weeks; he's currently 65th in the OWGR, but with a lot of golfers already having bailed on the WGC, he should get in. A high Valspar cash could also land him in the top-50 and a berth in his hometown Masters. Howell is fourth on Tour in bogey avoidance, 15th in GIR, 18th in scrambling and 35th in SGP. And he has top-15s here the past three years.

Bill Haas - $9,200 (20-1)

Haas lost in a playoff to Charl Schwartzel last year and was T14 in 2014 but for some reason is not an annual visitor to Copperhead. He's Mr. steady again this season: first in scrambling, 16th in GIR, 30th in SGATG, 7-for-7 in cuts, with six top-25s. At this price, however, simply cashing top-25 will not make him a successful pick.

Ryan Moore - $9,000 (25-1)

Moore was T3 here last year and T5 the year before, and this sort of track suits his strong iron play -- he's 17th on Tour in SGATG, Moore has played only three events in the past two months, including T28 last week in Mexico, so he should be well rested.


Tier 2 Values

Kevin Na - $8,700 (50-1)

Na is T22-T10-T2 in the past three Valspars. This season, he's notched three top-25s, with two of them top-10s. It's unclear where those results come from, as Na is 128th in GIR. But he's also 31st in SGATG. As always, current form and course history trump stats.

Graham DaLaet - $8,400 (40-1)

DeLaet surely will be a popular play, aligning current form and course history. The Canadian has three top-20s in his past three events, and ditto his past three Valspars, including T5 a year ago. DeLaet is 10th in strokes gained tee-to-green and 15th in SGP, plus third in total putting.

Jason Dufner - $7,900 (40-1)

Dufner has shown up at Palm Harbor for the past seven years and just keeps doing his Dufner thing: He's finished top-30 or better ever year with zero MCs. Never a great putter, he's still 71st in SGP this season, along with rankings of 30th in scrambling and 37th in bogey avoidance. He's riding three consecutive top-25s, including last week in Mexico.

Luke Donald - $7,800 (50-1)

Donald has made six straight Valspar cuts, including a win in 2012 and three other top-6s. He was T22 last year, which would still justify his current cost. Donald didn't get into the Mexico field, and that surely says something about his standing in the game, but he's been top-30 in his past three events. He's 12th in SGP. We expect a moderately high ownership of Donald on this course and in this weak field.


Tier 3 Values

Wesley Bryan - $7,500 (50-1)

Bryan surely will be a popular pick this week. He's never played the Valspar, which is a concern, but he's also coming off back-to-back T4s, and that counts for a lot. It's clear the rookie recently flipped a switch of some sort, so we'll ride it out. Bryan is 35th in SGATG.

Martin Laird - $7,400 (60-1)

Laird is 8-for-8 in cuts in this remarkable start to his season -- he already has three top-10s in 2017 alone. Laird is 16th in bogey avoidance, 20th SGP, 29th in both SGATG and scrambling. Yes, he missed the Valspar cut last but also has had some high finishes there and is obviously a different golfer right now.

Ollie Schniederjans - $7,100 (60-1)

Using the same reasoning as Bryan, we're going with Schniederjans. Statistically, there's little evidence to suggest a good week, but he's also flipped a switch, with six straight cashes, two of them top-10s. Schniederjans' one Valspar start, in 2015, resulted in a trunk-slam, but at least he's familiar with the track. He's 65th in SGATG, 82nd in SGP. Not bad.

Nick Watney - $7,100 (80-1)

Watney has made nine straight Valspar cuts, which means two things: He plays well there and he's old. Battling to meet the conditions of his major medical extension, Watney has gone T14-T28-T14 his past three starts. He's 33rd on Tour in SGATG.


Long-Shot Values

Kyle Stanley - $7,000 (Field, 2-1)

Stanley missed the cut at the Honda in his last start, but had a good run going beforehand. He's sixth on Tour in GIR, 11th in SGATG and 20th in bogey avoidance. T53 a year ago at the Valspar.

Chris Kirk - $6,900 (60-1)

Kirk is an interesting discovery in the bargain-basement bin. He has three top-10s this season, albeit all before the New Year. But he still has cashed top-40 in his past three events, and secued top-15s in the Valspar in 2014 and '15. He MCed last year. Kirk is seventh on Tour in GIR, 16th in SGP. Sure, those numbers are skewed to the fall season, but still, why is this guy so cheap, especially in such a weak field? We'll know more on Sunday (and hopefully not on Friday).

Scott Brown - $6,900 (80-1)

Brown cashed T7 here last year. He's 8-for-8 in cuts this year, including runner-up to Dustin Johnson at Riviera. He also has some decent numbers on and around the green: first on tour in scrambling from the fringe and 24th in SGP. This is not our heartiest endorsement, but Copperhead has been compared to courses in the Carolinas and Brown attended college in South Carolina, so there is that.

Adam Hadwin - $6,800 (80-1)

Hadwin is another guy we like here in the clearance bin. He hasn't missed a cut since October. He's ninth in SGP, seventh in scrambling and a conservative player ranking fifth in bogey avoidance.

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