The tour heads to Tampa Bay this week for the Valspar Championships. Last week one of our feature selections was able to take home the title as Dustin Johnson defeated JB Holmes and Bubba Watson in what can only be described as a battle of the bombers. This week the Copperhead Course at the Innisbrook Resort awaits the players. There will be no let up as Copperhead is a deceivingly tough course with long par 4’s and several long dogleg par 5’s that will test the player’s patience. Proper placement off the tee and accurate approaches will be in high demand as power will simply not be as big a factor in winning this week as it was last.
Given that this week is more of an all-round test of skill, it is not surprising that we find a very mixed-bag of players have had success here. Some power hitters have done well, like Gary Woodland and Robert Garrigus. While many shorter hitters who rely on accuracy have thrived here as well, like Jim Furyk and Luke Donald. As a result, I’ve looked at driving accuracy, par 4 scoring and past play at this tournament to determine my picks. I’ve given more weight than usual to recent performances as well as this course is not a place for a player to find his game so to speak. The winner will likely be someone who has been knocking on the door already this season.
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~ DraftKings Tiered Picks: Valspar Championship ~
Top Shelf (10k and above)
Jordan Spieth (12,200): Spieth enters this week a little under the radar having not been in the mix in the past couple of weeks. However, the course this week sets up much much better for Spieth than Doral did. Proof of this is that Spieth holds a top ten at this event earned two years ago when he was still a teenager. It’s remarkable to think that Spieth has actually been playing on tour for multiple years now given his still young age. Having held up well to the rigours of Doral last week, I think Spieth can come into this tournament with confidence and should hit the ground running, his accuracy and short game will be well suited to the venue.
Jim Furyk (10,900): Much like Spieth, Furyk held up extremely well last week at the bomber’s paradise and posted a top 12. This week, the tables turn dramatically in Furyk’s favour as the course favours accuracy and the field is also quite a bit weaker. Furyk is a past winner at this event and comes into this week in great form having posted top 15’s in each one of his appearances this year on tour. He is currently ranked 10th in driving accuracy, which will be a huge factor. I expect Furyk to be in contention this week and he’s one of my top choices to bring home the title.
Second Tier (8k to 9900)
Luke Donald (9900): This is a situation where current form and past results at a certain venue are colliding. Donald has been far from spectacular thus far this season, however he boasts a phenomenal record at this event having gone 6-1-4-4 in his last four visits here. What really gives me some confidence in Donald this week however is the top ten he posted at the Honda Classic, which showed that perhaps his game is really close to getting back to where it used to be. As a former number one player in the world, Donald is always a threat to win whenever he’s in a tournament. However this week, given his love for the course and improved form, he’s even more of a danger to win than usual.
Nick Watney (8900): Watney does not have the same accuracy and short games my other selections do, but he does boast a great record at this event having made the cut here the past 7 times he’s played (while also posting a T4). Watney has started the season with a bang, posting a 2nd and a T7 on his past four tournaments. Like Donald, he’s a former top ten player in the world and he seems to be re-finding his game. I think Watney makes for a fantastic under-the-radar play this week as many will have forgotten about his good start, given he took last week off. I would start him with confidence and hope he can break through for his first win in a while on tour.
Martin Laird (8600): For all the reasons I like Watney, I also like Martin Laird. He’s a three time winner on tour who has started out the season red-hot, narrowly missing out on getting his fourth victory. He’s also a long hitter and should be able to handle the longer par 4’s featured on this course better than most. Laird has a spotty record here, but has posted a top 5 which indicates he can handle the course. I think more importantly is the fact Laird may also be under the radar and is coming into the event in great form, another player I would start with confidence.
Daniel Berger (8400): I may be starting to sound like a broken record, but Berger also has many attributes in common with Laird and Watney that make him a good play. Berger is from the state of Florida and has played on this course before in amateur events. He’s had over a week to get over his heartbreaking loss in the Honda Classic and has been in great form since the start of the season. Like Laird and Watney, he has great length which should help him on the par 4’s here, but has also flashed a great short game as well. I think Berger is going to bounce back and keep his good start rolling with another nice showing at this event.
Third Tier (6k to 7900)
Russell Knox (7900): Knox has a lot of good vibes around him this week. He’s a straight driver of the ball who ranks in the top 40 in driving accuracy. Additionally, he seems to love the state of Florida having nearly won the Honda event twice and posted a T25 here on his first attempt last year. Knox’s game is built around many of the same attributes as past winner’s Donald and Furyk and he comes into this event red-hot with a T5 two weeks ago at the aforementioned Honda Classic. If I was picking a long-shot to win this week, it would be Knox.
Will MacKenzie (7400): MacKenzie has only recently returned to play this season, but he already seems like he has his game in good shape. He started the season with a playoff loss in a fall event but had to take some time off due to injury. Last week, he narrowly missed out on a win in the alternate event by posting a T6 in Puerto Rico. MacKenzie’s a great ball striker and accurate driver who has a game well-suited for this course. He posted a top 5 at this event last year and could very well contend once again. I think he’s a good bargain for his price.
Brian Harmon (7000): Harmon comes into this event after posting his best result of the year the week prior with a T11 at the Honda Classic. Harmon has a nice all-around game that has proven to suit this course very well. He’s posted a T11 and a T25 here in his past 2 visits and could be primed for another good week. More than anything, Harmon is priced right this week for your use on Draftkings. He’s a former winner on tour who allows you a ton of roster flexibility and could easily end up within the top ten on Sunday.
Robert Garrigus (6400): Garrigus is a big hitter who boasts a terrific record at this event. In two of the past three years he’s posted a T4 and T2 (losing in a playoff). Garrigus started his season a little late but looked decent in his last start at the Honda Classic (where he made the cut and finished top 40). I think he makes for an interesting and speculative gpp play given his terrific record at Copperhead.
Bottom Feeders (under 6k)
Matt Every (5100): Like many of my selections, Every is a Floridian who should be familiar with the course setup and weather conditions. Every won in Florida last year at Bay Hill and posted a T8 at this course right before his big win. As a straight driver and great putter, Every certainly has the game to succeed here. His price on Draftkings is low due to his recent slump in play, but recently Every has shown some signs of life by making his last 4 cuts. I really like Every as a gpp punt play. He’s been improving and should be motivated to play well given his title defense is coming up next week.
Sam Saunders (4300): Saunders is the grandson of Arnold Palmer who was able to earn his tour card last season. He’s started the season slowly but recently put together some very stellar play as he finished T2 last week in Puerto Rico, losing in a 5 man playoff. Saunders is a Floridian resident who should also be quite familiar with the course. His price on Draftkings is so cheap that all you really need from Saunders is a made cut and four rounds of play for him to reach value. He performed well in tough conditions last week and could easily reproduce those results with another nice performance here.
The course this week is another all-around test of the player’s skills. Try to target players who have their games in good order and have had past success here. Strategy-wise, it’s probably a good week to try for a more balanced lineup that can get you 6 golfers home for the weekend as many of the weaker players could struggle mightily.