Picking winners of a golf tournament is hard. Doing it consistently is downright impossible. However, finding value is something all bettors must practice in order to give themselves the best chance to make hay when the day finally comes that they select a champion.
Below, we will cover the best bets for the Valspar Championship based on current form, course fit, and -- of course -- the value of their odds.
Another Scottie Scheffler runaway win is in the books, and we head a few hours south and to the Gulf side as the PGA Tour wraps up its Florida swing. The Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club awaits, and much like the last non-elevated event, we find a top-heavy field set to take on a tricky course.
Sam Burns (+1600) is the two-time defending champion and is rightfully priced just behind the favorites this week. While Burns has been a reliable winner over the past three years, a three-peat is among the rarest feats in professional golf, and we'll pass on that happening in favor of a more seasoned favorite. Beyond Burns and three other big names, the field thins quite drastically. With the new schedule staggering huge events in quick succession, this week is another breather, but it is perhaps our best chance to nab a mid-range winner.
With narrow fairways muting the importance of driving and, frankly, most of the top drivers nowhere in site, approach play takes center stage this week. Some scrambling and recovery will be important with 74 bunkers, so we don't want to ignore those stats. But iron play is the primary target. In addition to course history, we'll examine records at PGA National, the other challenging Florida course that now has a similar field for its annual tournament.
At The Top
Justin Thomas (+1000) - Thomas had mixed results early in his career at Innisbrook, finishing T10, missed cut, T18, and missed cut, but he's found some success the past two years after adding it back to his schedule. He improved on a T13 in 2021 with a T3 last year, gaining off the tee, on approach, and around the green in both seasons. He has to be disappointed with his efforts the past two months in the big payday possibilities, and JT is not one to stand on the sidelines out of contention for long. He finished fourth at the WM Phoenix Open but needed a Sunday 65 to shoot up the leaderboard and still lost by six strokes to Scheffler. He's made all the cuts but hasn't finished better than 20th aside from Phoenix, and this is a get-right spot at a course he likes that suits his strengths.
Davis Riley (+3100) - We're banking on a Burns-ish breakthrough for Riley this week. Despite a bizarro week on the course, he was runner-up last year in a playoff thanks to a 32-foot birdie from Burns. His strength is iron play, in which he ranks 29th on Tour this season, but last year he gained off the tee, around the green, and putting but was -0.62 with his irons, according to stats from datagolf. Some confidence will be key for him, as he enters off a missed cut but right on the heels of T8 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and T29 at the Honda Classic. Outclassed in the elevated events, Riley has a chance to make his mark this week, and this is a great spot on his schedule.
Ben Martin (+6500) - Just ahead of Davis in the strokes gained: approach season rankings is Martin, at 28th. He held his own without making much noise at Sawgrass, shooting four rounds in the 70s and finishing T54. But before that, he was T5 at the Honda Classic and T13 at Pebble Beach, the two events in the last month and a half that didn't have all the big boys in the field. Still searching for his first career victory, he is in some of the best short-term form of his career, with consecutive top 20s and another made cut a highlight for him since 2016. Hard to fully trust but undoubtedly striking our fancy, Martin is also someone I am backing as the Leader After Round 1 (+7000).
Matthew NeSmith (+8000) - Nesmith's strength over his career has been iron play, and he has room to improve at just 70th in the Tour's strokes gained: approach metric after finishing 30th, 11th, and 23rd the past three years. He tied for 3rd here last year and was 21st the year before, and while the recent form leaves much to be desired, he's been dancing with the world's elite of late. A T39 at the Arnold Palmer and three missed cuts over his last four events, NeSmith had just one round in the 60s over that span. Contrast that with his fall swing, in which he racked up three straight top 10s and broke 70 all but twice in those 12 rounds. The peak performance is there, waiting for the right field and event, and at 80/1, he's worth a flier.
Kevin Kisner (+14000) - A big number even for the wayward Kisner, who's been out of sorts for most of the season. The carrot here is the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play coming up in two weeks. Kisner was runner-up to Scheffler there last year and has won the Match Play before, and he needs to find some semblance of form to get his game into gear. There are fewer and fewer opportunities for a golfer in Kisner's mold to have a real shot at a premier event, and letting one pass is Kisner's path to irrelevancy. Innisbrook does not require massive length off the tee, so Kisner stands a chance here. Solid-if-unspectacular finishes of T33, missed cut, and T24 in the past three editions here are enough for me to consider him for a Top 40 Finish (+240).