The late end to THE PLAYERS Championship is only one of the wrinkles we have to figure out for this week's Valspar Championship.
The withdrawal list is long. It includes Joaquin Niemann, Paul Casey, Doug Ghim, Sebastian Munoz, Cameron Young, Maverick McNealy, Taylor Pendrith, Brandt Snedeker, Patrick Rodgers, and Kevin Tway (as of Tuesday afternoon).
Let's get going on our Valspar research.
You can jump ahead to any specific section of the piece you would like.
Course Information and Key Stats
Golfers With Great Course History
Daily Fantasy Picks
Innisbrook Resort (Copperhead) Course Info & Key Stats
Distance: 7,340 (average: ~50 yards longer than the average par 71)
Average Green Size: 5,822 square feet (average: ~97% of the PGA average)
Green Type: TifEagle bermuda overseeded with Poa Trivialis
Stimpmeter: 12 (average for PGA Tour)
Past 5 Winning Scores: -17*, -8, -10, -14, -7
Past 5 Cut Lines: -1*, +1, +3, Even, +3
Key Stats (in Order of Importance): Strokes Gained: Approach, Strokes Gained: Off the Tee, Strokes Gained: Putting (on Bermuda), Birdie or Better Rate, Strokes Gained: Around the Green
Last year, this event was held in early May but returns to March for the 2022 schedule.
The bunker-heavy Copperhead course plays tough, about a stroke over par on average, via datagolf's course stats table.
It's an extremely tough track to pick up strokes off the tee (3rd toughest on Tour) and with approach (17th). That puts an emphasis on driving accuracy to a degree due to tight fairways and tons of doglegs. That means fairways and greens are both going to be at a premium.
We've seen a mix of winners here with good putters (Sam Burns, Adam Hadwin, Jordan Spieth) but also great ball-strikers (also Sam Burns, Paul Casey [twice], and Kevin Streelman). The 2021 version -- again, in May -- was more rewarding to great putters than usual.
Yes, I'm looking at all four strokes gained stats, but at tougher tracks, better golfers generally separate.
Golfers With Great Course/Event History
Past winners in the field include Sam Burns (2021), Adam Hadwin (2017), Charl Schwartzel (2016), Kevin Streelman (2013), Luke Donald (2012), Gary Woodland (2011), and Sean O'Hair (2008).
The following golfers have at least 8 rounds at Innisbrook Resort with an adjusted strokes gained average of at least 1.0, via DataGolf: Sam Burns (+2.30), Abraham Ancer (+2.23), Wesley Bryan (+1.50), Matt Kuchar (+1.45), Luke Donald (+1.44), Louis Oosthuizen (+1.35), Henrik Stenson (+1.33), Denny McCarthy (+1.30), Justin Thomas (+1.27), Bubba Watson (+1.22), Webb Simpson (+1.18), Charl Schwartzel (+1.10), Austin Cook (+1.05), and Bill Haas (+1.00).
Here are the most likely winners this week, according to my win simulation model, as well as their FanDuel Sportsbook win odds.
Win Simulation Analysis and Best Bets
The best value among the favorites is Louis Oosthuizen, which isn't uncommon for my sims. Louis is a great golfer, and at 24/1, there's some value (my model thinks he should be 22/1). Other than that, value is scarce among favorites and isn't finding positive value until Alexander Noren (+7000), Webb Simpson (+7000), and Aaron Wise (+7500). That gives us plenty of long-shot options without getting too weird.
Let's circle back to the favorites: while my model is a tick down on Justin Thomas (+1000) and Viktor Hovland (+1100), it's not so egregious that they're unbettable if you are into them.
Keegan Bradley (+4600) is also flashing near-even value.
I'll probably take a swipe at Hovland and Oosthuizen and then pepper the trio in the 70/1 and 75/1 range for the week as far as the outrights go.
Daily Fantasy Golfer Picks for the Valspar Championship
All stats cited below originate at FantasyNational. Strokes gained data includes stats from the past calendar year and is adjusted based on my field strength and recency tweaks. Putting surface splits also come from FantasyNational and include the past 50 rounds when possible -- unless noted. All ranks and percentile ranks are among the field. 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: $12,100 | FanDuel Sportsbook Win Odds: +1200) - Just barely, I have Thomas ranked ahead of Viktor Hovland ($11,900). Both are S-tier ball-strikers in the field. Thomas has the edge in course history, around-the-green play, and bunker play. Hovland is significantly more accurate, but the edge is too minimal to go away from JT as the top play this week.
Louis Oosthuizen ($11,400 | +2400) - Oosthuizen is actually rating as the best value among those with a salary above $10,000 in my model. He is in the 88th percentile or better in all three adjusted tee to green stats...and he's in the 86th percentile in putting. Goodness. He's accurate off the tee, he's good out of the bunkers, and he has fared well here in the past (7th, 16th, 8th, and 2nd here the past four starts).
Others to Consider:
Viktor Hovland ($11,900 | +1200) - Only barely behind JT to me and an easy pivot if Thomas is chalk.
Matt Fitzpatrick ($10,700 | +2400) - Striping irons and at a tough track; that's a good combo for Fitz this week.
Tommy Fleetwood ($10,500 | +46000) - In form and sets up well for a difficult course but hasn't played here before.
Alexander Noren ($9,800 | +7000) - Noren is pretty hot right now and is finishing well because of his iron play. He has been T6 at the WM Phoenix Open, T48 at the Genesis, T5 at the Honda, and T26 at THE PLAYERS. Noren also has an elite short game (96th percentile combine around the green and putting strokes gained marks). He debuted at Copperhead with a T21 a year ago.
Adam Hadwin ($9,400 | +5500) - Hadwin used great iron play and putting to top-10 at THE PLAYER'S last week, giving him a third top-26 finish in his past four starts. His missed cut in there at the Genesis came with poor putting, which has been a little more common for Hadwin lately than is normal but shouldn't stick around forever. He's a former winner at Copperhead (2017).
Others to Consider:
Russell Knox ($9,800 | +7000) - Sixth-best true strokes gained: tee to green over the past three months, per datagolf.
Aaron Wise ($9,500 | +7500) - Putting can and does hold him back but has upside in a field like this.
Harold Varner ($9,500 | +7500) - Form returned after his Saudi win and two missed cuts with a T6 at THE PLAYERS.
Patton Kizzire ($9,000 | +12000) - Kizzire is on the upswing. He's 17th in this field in true strokes gained: tee to green over the past three months and a respectable 39th in putting. He also has made three of four cuts at Copperhead in his career. He was T22 last week at TPC Sawgrass.
Joel Dahmen ($8,800 | +16000) - Dahmen faded at THE PLAYERS last week but still finished T33. The bigger reason to play him is that he is seventh in this salary tier in adjusted ball-striking over the past year. His accuracy also makes him a good course fit, which came true last year with a T30 in his debut.
Others to Consider:
Mito Pereira ($8,900 | +12000) - Maybe not the most ideal course fit but a better long-term golfer than the salary suggests.
Martin Laird ($8,900 | +12000) - Has third-best adjusted tee-to-green data in this salary tier. Ball-striking rarely misses.
Pat Perez ($8,300 | +19000) - Ideal game for the course; five of six in cuts made (including four straight) at Copperhead.