THE PLAYERS Championship ended in a less-than-climactic fashion while Scottie Scheffler ran away with the title, which is a good reminder that the strength of a field does not always amount to an awesome event.
This week, we don’t have that conundrum because the field is taking a pretty substantial step backward. Only one top-10 golfer (Justin Thomas, 10th) and five top-25 golfers are in the field for the Valspar Championship.
With that in mind, let’s dig into the course, the key stats, the win simulations, and the best bets of the week.
You can jump ahead to any specific section of the piece you would like.
Innisbrook Resort (Copperhead) Course Info & Key Stats
Distance: 7,340 (about 40 yards longer than the average par 71)
Fairway Width: 28.1 yards (10th-narrowest of 80 qualified courses)
Average Green Size: 5,822 square feet (mostly average: ~97% of the PGA average)
Green Type: Poa overseed
Past 5 Winning Scores: -17, -17*, -8, -10, -14
Past 5 Cut Lines: -1, -1*, +1, +3, Even
Key Stats (in Order of Importance): Strokes Gained: Approach, Strokes Gained: Putting, Strokes Gained: Around the Green, Bogey Avoidance, Adjusted Strokes Gained
A quick note: two years ago, this event was in early May but was back in March for 2022, yet the winning score of -17 was repeated — by the same golfer both times (Sam Burns).
So, what’s in store for this week? Bunkers. Lots of them. There are 74 bunkers across the property. Water is in play in 9 of 18 holes, as well.
But it’s not just trouble with bunkers and water that can get golfers. The fairways are narrow, and Copperhead winds up being the second-toughest place on Tour to gain strokes off the tee (and it’s 21st in approach play plus 26th in putting). It’s tough to separate. You can’t overpower the course really, and distance isn’t going to be the real separator.
Sound familiar? It is a bit like TPC Sawgrass from this past week, which is one of the more comparable courses to Copperhead via datagolf’s course table tool.
We can downplay distance, and that puts an emphasis on everything from irons to wedges to putter as a result.
Golfers With Great Course/Event History
The best strokes gained averages among golfers who have played at least twice here over the past five years (a “-” indicates a did-not-play situation); results are listed from most recent to least recent (i.e. starts with 2022 and ends with 2018):
– Sam Burns (+2.57): 1st, 1st, – , 30th, 12th
– Justin Thomas (+2.46): 3rd, 13th, -, -, –
– Matthew NeSmith (+2.21): 3rd, 21st, -, -, –
– Brian Harman (+1.54): 5th, -, -, MC, –
– Keegan Bradley (+1.44): MC, 2nd, -, MC, 31st
– Matthew Fitzpatrick (+1.35): 5th, -, -, -, MC
– Rory Sabbatini (+1.35): -, MC, -, 18th, 5th
– Stewart Cink (+1.31): 7th, -, -, MC, 31st
– Adam Hadwin (+1.09): 7th, MC, -, MC, 12th
– Troy Merritt (+0.99): 27th, 8th, -, -, MC
– Luke List (+0.98): -, MC, -, -, 16th
– Denny McCarthy (+0.95): 48th, 39th, -, 9th, –
– Russell Knox (+0.95): 57th, 21st, -, 24th, 16th
– Zach Johnson (+0.90): MC, 29th, -, 24th, 16th
Past winners in the field include Sam Burns (2021 and 2022), Adam Hadwin (2017), Jordan Spieth (2015), Kevin Streelman (2013), Luke Donald (2012), Gary Woodland (2011), and spreadsheet ruiner Sean O’Hair (2008).
Win Simulations for the Valspar Championship
Here are the most likely winners this week, according to my win simulation model, as well as their golf betting odds at FanDuel Sportsbook.
Win Simulation Analysis and Best Bets for the Valspar Championship
As has been the case often lately, my model isn’t finding a lot of outright value across the board. The four favorites by the sportsbook odds are overrated in the model, but that’s different than saying they won’t win. That’s not the case at all! We’ve seen a ton of chalk winners this year, and that’s made it tempting to bet the favorites anyway. Of them, it’s Matt Fitzpatrick (+1500) who looks like the best option from a value standpoint.
What else, then? Justin Rose (+2200) and Keegan Bradley (+2200) are nearly even values, as my model would list Rose at 23/1 and Bradley at 24/1. A similar reality exists for Brian Harman (+3300), who my model has at 34/1.
Sam Ryder (+10000) is someone my model has at 91/1 and is also a DFS target, so a partial-unit bet makes sense as an outright.
Top-10 targets for me include McNealy (+600), Fitzpatrick (+210), Patrick Rodgers (+1000), Harman (+360), and Ryder (+700).
Daily Fantasy Golfer Picks for the Valspar Championship
All stats cited below originate at datagolf and reference ranks relative to the field over the past 50 rounds. References to my combo model refer to a combination of long-term, field-adjusted form, key stat performance, and hole-by-hole-level strokes gained data.
Best of the Best
Justin Thomas (FanDuel Salary: $12,000 | Golf betting odds: +1000) – It’s a tough setup, and while the track itself doesn’t set up for Justin Thomas as well as we would want, he clearly has figured out how to manage his way around Copperhead. He has finished T13 and T3 here over the past two years. Outside the five-year range that I tend to look at for course form, we see a missed cut, a T18, and a T10 for Thomas at Copperhead. That means four top-20s in five starts. Notably, in that 2021 version (the T13), he led the field in strokes gained: tee to green but was 67th of 69 golfers to make the cut in strokes gained: putting. THE PLAYERS wasn’t kind to Thomas, yet the form leading in is stronger than what most others can say, and there’s a reason he plays this course well: because he’s really good.
Matt Fitzpatrick ($11,500 | +1500) – A missed cut at THE PLAYERS is not enough to move away from someone such as Fitzpatrick, who is ninth in the field in strokes gained: tee to green and 18th in putting even with 53rd-ranked irons in the field. He was T5 here last year, and the recent poor finishes should be enough for people to look elsewhere as far as core plays go. That’s especially true with two-time winner Sam Burns and fan-favorite Jordan Spieth in this range.
Others to Consider:
Keegan Bradley ($11,300 | +2200) – Putting trending up and 13th in T2G play.
Brian Harman ($10,600 | +3300) – A great course fit with form that’s a bit down; accurate; T5 here last year.
Wyndham Clark ($10,300 | +3700) – Not the ideal course fit but 5th in T2G.
Kyoung-Hoon Lee ($9,800 | +5000) – There isn’t really a hole in the game for K.H. Lee, and that leads to a top-10 rank in strokes gained: tee to green among the field. Lee’s recent finishes are bogged down by weak putting, which should correct eventually. We saw a T29 for him in his first finish at the Valspar in 2021, and he’s a viable course fit at Copperhead. Lee has the best win odds among the $9,000 range in my simulations.
Nick Taylor ($9,300 | +6500) – Two straight missed cuts (by two shots apiece in tough fields at THE PLAYERS and the Arnold Palmer Invitational) have Taylor’s salary in the low-$9,000 range even in a field like this. He ranks 27th in strokes gained: tee to green and 34th in strokes gained: putting over the past 50 rounds and is also 51st in accuracy off the tee. He’s played here a lot in his career, too.
Others to Consider:
Taylor Moore ($9,700 | +5000) – 12th in true strokes gained and good win odds for the salary.
Stephan Jaeger ($9,500 | +5000) – 14th in T2G play and irons are trending up, too.
Robby Shelton ($9,200 | +6500) – MC’d THE PLAYERS simply due to awful putting; 19th in T2G.
Matthew NeSmith ($8,800 | +8000) – It’s been a bit of a tough go for NeSmith lately. He missed the cut at THE PLAYERS (he was +11 through two rounds), and in 2023, he has four missed cuts in six starts. His two top performances were a T55 at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and a T39 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. So, why target him at all? Well, the field itself drops off quickly, and that means there’s not much in the way of value plays. But NeSmith is much more accurate (43rd) than he is long (89th), and his irons are largely fine lately for a value play. NeSmith has played really well here in his two career starts: a T21 in his debut in 2021 and a T3 last year while absolutely striping the irons.
Sam Ryder ($8,600 | +10000) – The putter hasn’t really been missing for Ryder, which is more of a problem if the salary is high. As far as a value play goes, a good putter is a very welcomed sight. That putter also comes with 18th-ranked irons and a driver that’s more accurate (67th) than it is long (96th). There are no guarantees down in this range, but fairways, irons, and putting is a good combo for a value play.
Others to Consider:
Alex Smalley ($9,000 | +8000) – Good win odds and is 17th in T2G play; don’t need tons of low-end value due to weak top of field.
Tyler Duncan ($8,700 | +6500) – Best win odds (1.2%) among $8,000 range; more risk/reward than I’d like.
Patrick Rodgers ($8,600 | +11000) – Irons are just 102nd but top-20 in the two other T2G stats; putter is fine, too.