Best bets for the Valspar Championship

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Valspar Championship 

Scottie Scheffler regained his position as the OWGR No. 1 player with a runaway five-shot victory at THE PLAYERS Championship. Scheffler, priced at 11/1, shot 17-under with a dominant tee-to-green (No. 1 in the field for Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green) performance and leading the field for Greens In Regulation (54/72; 75%). Tyrrell Hatton shot the low round (7-under 65) by three shots on Sunday to finish outright 2nd at -12. Viktor Hovland was one of our tips last week and he finished T-3 at 10-under along with Tom Hoge, who broke the TPC Sawgrass course record with a 10-under round of 62 in Saturday’s third round. Hideki Matsuyama rounded out the Top 5 at 9-under. A multitude of players finished T-6 to round out the Top 10 at -8 including Max Homa, Justin Suh, Justin Rose, Sungjae Im, David Lingmerth, Cameron Davis, and Min Woo Lee.

 

Scheffler will not be in this week’s field at the Valspar Championship. The next time we will see him is next week when he attempts to defend his title in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. Nevertheless, a quality field consisting of five of the OWGR Top 25 and ten of the OWGR Top 50 makes its way to Tampa this week.

Justin Thomas (11/1) did not do much at THE PLAYERS last week, but he finished 3rd last year behind Sam Burns (16/1), who is attempting for a three-peat here at the Valspar and looking to become the first player to win the same PGA TOUR event in three consecutive years since Steve Stricker at the John Deere Classic from 2009-11.

Jordan Spieth (14/1) won here at the Valspar in 2015. Matt Fitzpatrick (18/1) finished 5th here last year. Keegan Bradley (25/1) had a disappointing missed cut last week at TPC Sawgrass but was runner-up to Burns here two years ago. Tommy Fleetwood (25/1) looked like he was headed for a Top 5 finish last weekend before making two double bogeys on Sunday’s back nine including hitting one in the water on the famous 17th at TPC Sawgrass and finishing T-27.

Justin Rose (27/1) scored a Top 10 last week due to his outstanding Scrambling (23/30; 76.7%). 2017 Valspar champion Adam Hadwin (28/1) missed the Top 10 by a stroke last weekend and finished 7th here last year. Denny McCarthy (33/1) also missed the Top 10 by a stroke last weekend. Brian Harman (40/1) was Top 5 here last year. Others at 40/1 include Davis Riley, who lost in a playoff to Burns here last year, 2022 Korn Ferry Tour Player of the Year Justin Suh, and Wyndham Clark.

Other former Valspar champions in this week’s field include 2013 winner Kevin Streelman (200/1), 2012 winner Luke Donald (200/1), and 2011 winner Gary Woodland (45/1).

The Event

The Valspar Championship was founded as the Tampa Bay Classic in 2000. Originally, the tournament was a fall event but moved to the spring portion of the season in 2007. Valspar Corporation, a manufacturer of paint and coatings now owned by Sherwin-Williams Company, took over as the title sponsor in 2014. Four players have been multiple winners of this event including K.J. Choi (2002, 2006), Retief Goosen (2003, 2009), Paul Casey (2018, 2019), and Sam Burns (2021, 2022). Other previous winners of the tournament include former major champions such as Jordan Spieth, Charl Schwartzel, Gary Woodland, Jim Furyk, Mark Calcavecchia, and Vijay Singh.

The Course

The Copperhead Course at the Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club plays host this week to the Valspar Championship. The track is in Palm Harbor, FL about 22 miles north of downtown St. Petersburg and west of Tampa.

Innisbrook Resort (Copperhead) is a treelined, positional golf course that forces many layups off-the-tee and asks players to work the ball in both directions. It’s a shot-maker’s course with some significant elevation changes that will open the playing field to bombers and short plotters alike.

The 1974 Larry Packard design, with a 2015 redesign from Wadsworth Golf, is atypical of most Florida courses. The Par 71 of 7,340 yards is tight off the tee (5th narrowest fairways on TOUR) and encompasses tree-lined fairways, many elevation changes, dog-leg holes, and even double dog-legs, a Packard specialty. Innisbrook’s Copperhead Course has more of a Carolina feel to it rather than a typical Florida layout. Water is in play on 6 of the 18 holes and the course has 74 bunkers. There are five Par 3s here which is unique for a Par 71 layout, four Par 5s, and nine Par 4s.

The five Par 3 have an average length of 212 yards, three of five play longer than that.

Seven holes on this course had a sub-11% birdie rate a year ago and four of the Par 3s are included in that figure.

The nine Par 4s have an average length of 441 yards. One short one (380) drags down the average a bit with the majority measuring 445+ yards

The three toughest holes on this course are all Par 4s (Holes 3-6-16), all of which carried a bogey or worse rate of over 24.5% last year.

The four Par 5s have an average length of 582.5 yards, a number that is boosted by the 605-yard 5th hole.

These are the easiest four holes on the course and the three shortest ones had a birdie rate that was more than three times the bogey rate.

The “Snake Pit” is the signature stretch of closing holes here at holes 16-18. Pars are good scores all four days here. On average, players have only made birdie here around 10% of the time and have made bogeys around 22% of the time. No Valspar winner in the history of the tournament has played the “Snake Pit” at under par.

The fairways and rough are a Ryegrass overseed. The green complexes were changed to TifEagle Bermudagrass in 2016. However, the Bermudagrass is more dormant in March than in late April (where the event was played last year). The slightly less than 6,000 average sq ft greens are mostly Poa Trivialis overseed on average speed (12 stimpmeter) greens.

Seven of the past nine years, scoring at Innisbrook has been 10-under par or lower, but the winning score has been 17-under the last two years. Over the past five events, scoring has been +0.33 shots over par, ranking it as the ninth-toughest annual course on TOUR.

Last year, Copperhead played the easiest in its history with an average of -0.77 under par. In response, the course superintendents have increased the ryegrass rough from 3″ to 3.75″, and they moved the rough with an intermediate cut from 72″ to 21″ to bring the rough 51″ closer to the greens.

Correlated courses here include TPC Sawgrass, Harbour Town, Riviera, Colonial, TPC Southwind, TPC River Highlands, and TPC San Antonio.

Recent History/Winners

2022: Sam Burns (-17/267); 20/1*

2021: Sam Burns (-17/267); 70/1

2020: No Tournament (COVID-19)

2019: Paul Casey (-8/276); 25/1

2018: Paul Casey (-10/274); 25/1

2017: Adam Hadwin (-14/270); 125/1

2016: Charl Schwartzel (-8/276); 33/1*

2015: Jordan Spieth (-10/274); 16/1**

2014: John Senden (-7/277); 125/1

2013: Kevin Streelman (-10/274); 200/1

2012: Luke Donald (-13/271); 11/1***

2011: Gary Woodland (-15/269); 100/1

2010: Jim Furyk (-13/271); 30/1

Playoff Win over Davis Riley – *

Playoff Win over Bill Haas – **

Playoff Win over Sean O’ Hair & Patrick Reed – ***

Playoff Win over Sangmoon Bae, Jim Furyk, & Robert Garrigus – ****

Tournament Trends

  • 15 of the last 15 winners had at least one previous Top 10 finish that season.
  • 13 of the last 15 winners had played in at least two previous Valspar Championships.
  • 10 of the last 12 winners finished Top 45 or better in their last start before the Valspar Championship.
  • 11 of the last 15 winners had at least one previous career win.

Statistical Analysis

Five of the last six Valspar winners have rated 7th or better on Approach during their respective winning weeks.

Strokes Gained Approach (Last 36 Rounds)

  1. Russell Knox 25.3
  2. James Hahn 23.1
  3. Tommy Fleetwood 20.3
  4. Mark Hubbard 18
  5. Gary Woodland 17.8
  6. Adam Hadwin 16.8
  7. Robby Shelton 16.7
  8. David Lipsky 16.5
  9. Wyndham Clark 15.8
  10. Nick Hardy 15.2
  11. Erik van Rooyen 15.1
  12. Ben Martin 14.2
  13. Matt Wallace 14
  14. Justin Suh 13.8
  15. Chesson Hadley 13.3
  16. Davis Riley 13.2
  17. Michael Kim 13

Copperhead requires accuracy off the tee. Good drives gained is one of the better stats to measure driving accuracy because there is an element to strategy in play. Good drives measures fairways or fringe hit with a green in regulation to follow. Especially on a course like Copperhead with angles and tight fairways, it’s sometimes more advantageous to be in the fringe on the left side of the hole than on the fairway on the right side of the hole.

Good Drives Gained (Last 36 Rounds)

  1. Gary Woodland 33.8
  2. Justin Suh 33
  3. Dylan Wu 30.2
  4. Ryan Armour 28.3
  5. Matthew NeSmith 26.8
  6. Tyler Duncan 26.7
  7. Nate Lashley 26.1
  8. Will Gordon 25.7
  9. Justin Rose 25.4
  10. Adam Hadwin 23.8
  11. Russell Knox 21.9
  12. Brian Harman 19.3
  13. Joel Dahmen 16.7
  14. Luke List 16.5
  15. Davis Riley 16.3
  16. Doug Ghim 16.1

Opportunities gained measures the number of times a golfer hits a green in regulation inside of 15 feet or hits a green in under regulation. By incorporating Opps gained, we can give a boost to players who are not only hitting greens but hitting it close.

Opportunities Gained (Last 36 Rounds)

  1. Davis Riley 28.8
  2. Gary Woodland 24.6
  3. David Lipsky 21.4
  4. Wyndham Clark 21.2
  5. Luke List 17.5
  6. Justin Thomas 17.1
  7. Jhonattan Vegas 16.9
  8. Matt Wallace 16.8
  9. Charley Hoffman 16.7
  10. Austin Smotherman 16.3
  11. Erik van Rooyen 15.5
  12. James Hahn 14.9
  13. Jordan Spieth 14.3
  14. Austin Cook 13.6
  15. Denny McCarthy 13.2
  16. Joel Dahmen 13.2

Almost one-quarter of the approach shots here at Copperhead come from this distance compared to about 17% on TOUR average.

Proximity Gained 175-200 Yards (Last 36 Rounds)

  1. Keegan Bradley 12.2
  2. Kevin Roy 10.5 (20 Rounds)
  3. Taylor Moore 10.4
  4. JB Holmes 10.2
  5. Justin Rose 10
  6. Nate Lashley 9.9
  7. Brett Grant 9.8 (24 Rounds)
  8. Brice Garnett 9
  9. Ben Martin 8.8
  10. Augusto Nunez 8.6 (21 Rounds)
  11. Lucas Glover 8.2
  12. Wesley Bryan 8.2
  13. Trey Mullinax 8
  14. MJ Daffue 7.9
  15. Carl Yuan 7.7
  16. Jhonattan Vegas 6.6
  17. Chez Reavie 6.5
  18. Tommy Fleetwood 6.5

Note: Average Feet Gained Per Shot from this Distance.

The four Par 5s at Copperhead are the easiest holes on the course.

Strokes Gained Par 5s (Last 36 Rounds)

  1. Wyndham Clark 22.6
  2. Garrick Higgo 19.7
  3. Kyle Westmoreland 19.6
  4. Justin Thomas 19.3
  5. Jhonattan Vegas 17
  6. Jordan Spieth 14
  7. Patton Kizzire 13.9
  8. Eric Cole 12.6
  9. Adam Hadwin 12.2
  10. J.T. Poston 11.9
  11. Matt Fitzpatrick 11.8
  12. Brian Harman 11.6
  13. Dylan Frittelli 11.4
  14. Patrick Rodgers 11.3
  15. Davis Riley 10.4

Weather conditions appear to be windy this week. In addition, the course staff has attempted to make Copperhead more difficult than it has been in the last two years. And then there’s the “Snake Pit”. Bogeys look to be a more regular occurrence than they have been the last two years.

Bogey Avoidance (Last 36 Rounds)

  1. Maverick McNealy 26
  2. Ben Griffin 25
  3. Matt Fitzpatrick 24.7
  4. Brian Harman 21.9
  5. Wyndham Clark 20.4
  6. Alex Smalley 18.6
  7. Eric Cole 18.6
  8. Dylan Wu 16.9
  9. Justin Rose 15.5
  10. Stephan Jaeger 15.2
  11. Sam Ryder 14.9
  12. Joseph Bramlett 12.9
  13. Adam Hadwin 12.2
  14. Nate Lashley 11.8
  15. SH Kim 11.6
  16. Tommy Fleetwood 11.5

Three of the five Par 3s measure this length at Copperhead.

Strokes Gained Par 3s 200-225 Yards (Last 36 Rounds)

  1. Patrick Rodgers 10.8
  2. Paul Haley II 7.7
  3. Luke Donald 7.3
  4. Chesson Hadley 7.1
  5. Joseph Bramlett 6.9
  6. James Hahn 6.8
  7. Kevin Tway 6.7
  8. Ben Martin 5.4
  9. Sam Burns 5
  10. Gary Woodland 4.9
  11. Patton Kizzire 4.8
  12. Mark Hubbard 4.6
  13. Tyler Duncan 4.4
  14. Ryan Armour 4.4
  15. Nick Hardy 4.3
  16. Ben Griffin 4.3
  17. KH Lee 4.2
  18. Justin Lower 4

Five of the nine Par 4s at Copperhead measure this length.

Strokes Gained Par 4s 400-450 Yards (Last 36 Rounds)

  1. Akshay Bhatia 13.7
  2. Robby Shelton 12.9
  3. Jordan Spieth 12.8
  4. Taylor Moore 12.5
  5. Dylan Wu 12.2
  6. Nick Taylor 11
  7. Ryan Gerard 10.5 (10 Rounds)
  8. Samuel Stevens 10.4
  9. Lee Hodges 10.2
  10. Russell Knox 9.9
  11. Ben Griffin 8.2
  12. Maverick McNealy 7.8
  13. Mark Hubbard 7.8
  14. Austin Cook 7
  15. Brandon Wu 7

Strokes Gained: Short Game not only includes Putting, but also Strokes Gained: Around The Green.

Strokes Gained: Short Game (Last 36 Rounds)

  1. Maverick McNealy 48.1
  2. Ben Taylor 40.8
  3. Sam Burns 33.1
  4. Harry Hall 30.9
  5. Peter Malnati 27.7
  6. Eric Cole 24.7
  7. Sam Ryder 23.2
  8. Ben Griffin 23
  9. Adam Schenk 21.7
  10. Matt Fitzpatrick 21.1
  11. Luke Donald 20.5
  12. Tommy Fleetwood 19.9
  13. Justin Rose 19.5
  14. Matt Wallace 18.6
  15. Nick Taylor 18.6
  16. Michael Thompson 18.2
  17. SH Kim 17.7
  18. Beau Hossler 17.7

Selections

Justin Rose 27/1 Boyd Sports

Rose has been a mixed bag at the Valpsar in recent years with missed cuts in 2015 and 2021, but also a 5th in both 2011 and 2018 and an 8th in 2014.

He finished T-6 last week at THE PLAYERS Championship ranking Top 5 in the field for Greens In Regulation, Total Driving, Ball Striking, Strokes Gained: Tee To Green, and Scrambling.

Rose won the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am six weeks ago for us at 35/1 and another victory or high finish would lock him onto the European Ryder Cup team.

Adam Hadwin 28/1 DraftKings

Hadwin won the 2017 Valspar and finished 7th here last year.

The Canadian was T-13 last week at THE PLAYERS, but was 3rd for Strokes Gained Off The Tee, 4th in the field for Strokes Gained: Tee To Green, 5th for Driving Accuracy, and 8th for Greens In Regulation.

Davis Riley 40/1 Circa Sports

Riley had an excellent season on the PGA TOUR last year headlined by a runner-up here at the Valspar losing in a playoff to Sam Burns, 5th at the Mexico Open behind Jon Rahm and 4th at the Charles Schwab Challenge behind Burns (again) and World Number 1 Scottie Scheffler. He also landed top 20 finishes at the Sony Open, the Memorial Tournament, the Wyndham (7th going into Sunday) and the PGA Championship.

After a shaky start to 2023 on the west coast, Riley, despite a missed cut last week at THE PLAYERS, has been more comfortable on the Florida Swing. Riley was 29th at PGA National but 3rd for Greens in Regulation, 7th for Ball Striking and 18th for Strokes Gained Tee to Green in that Honda Classic field. He was also 8th two weeks ago at the Arnold Palmer Invitational shooting a 66 on Sunday for the joint low round of the day in tough conditions.

Justin Suh 40/1 Circa Sports

Suh has made 11 cuts in a row and has finished 6th or better in two of his last three starts, 5th at the Honda Classic and 6th last week at THE PLAYERS Championship

The reigning Korn Ferry Tour Player of the Year has ranked 24th or better in SG Approach in four of his last five starts and on top of that he was 2nd in Tee to Green at the Honda and 15th at THE PLAYERS in the same department.

Wyndham Clark 40/1 Boyd Sports

Clark has made ten straight cuts, including multiple Top 10s dating back to October’s ZOZO Championship. He ranks 4th in this field in SG: Ball-striking and 2nd in total strokes gained per round over the past 36 rounds.

He was also 6th in last week’s field at THE PLAYERS for Strokes Gained: Off The Tee (T-27 overall finish).

Gary Woodland 45/1 Bet365

Woodland won this event on his debut way back in 2011 and has followed with an 8th and two more top-29 finishes.

He was 3rd in GIR, 8th for Strokes Gained Tee To Green, and 11th for Strokes Gained Approach last week at THE PLAYERS, but finished T-54 due to losing almost seven strokes putting.

Brandon Wu 60/1 BetRivers

Wu was in the hunt for his first PGA TOUR victory back in February before finishing runner-up to Justin Rose.

He has continued that good form into the Florida Swing with a T-14 at the Honda Classic (3rd for Strokes Gained: Tee To Green) and T-19 last weekend at THE PLAYERS (5th for Strokes Gained: Putting).

Akshay Bhatia 105/1 Circa Sports

Bhatia has three Top 7 finishes (2 on the Korn Ferry Tour) for 2023.

He just accepted Special Temporary Membership on the PGA TOUR which gives him unlimited sponsor exemptions and unlimited starts, so the pressure of just being able to get into tournament fields is now removed.

Matchups (18-8-3; 3-0-2 last week)

Justin Rose +110 over Sam Burns

Gary Woodland -120 over J.T. Poston

Dylan Frittelli -125 over MJ Daffue

Matt Wallace -120 over Harry Hall

SDC Championship (DP World Tour/Sunshine Tour) and LIV Tucson Selections will be posted on VSiN.com in the Picks-At-A-Glance Section this week.