WATCH: PRICE CHECK – VALSPAR CHAMPIONSHIP
The Cheat Sheet provides fantasy golf players with course info, player history and the most noteworthy trends of the week to help with roster selection.
Dustin Johnson solidified his spot as top dog in the golf world with yet another victory over another quality field. Johnson is now not only the number one player in the world, but he’s also the favorite heading into Augusta which is only four weeks away! There was some tension late in the tournament as young guns like John Rahm, Tommy Fleetwood and Thomas Pieters put pressure on DJ late, but ultimately he pulled away. Rory McIlroy also made a successful return from injury by finishing T7 on the week, while Henrik Stenson (who is in the field this week) withdrew from the tournament after only 11 holes (he was three over at the time) due to a stomach virus.
After a couple of blowouts and two of four weeks with the same winner, we’ll be guaranteed to get a new champ this week as Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth are all skipping this event. Even though this is a weaker field, there are still some big names in attendance. As mentioned above, Henrik Stenson is here and will look to rebound from an illness, while 2015 runner-up Patrick Reed, and Justin Thomas — who has already won three times this season — will also be in attendance. A few other big names making their way to Florida are Bubba Watson, Matt Kuchar and last year’s winner Charl Schwartzel. The cut is also back this week and will take place after Friday’s round with the top 70 players and ties all making the weekend. With 140 players in the field and a fairly thin group of elite talent, there’s definitely going to be some interesting decisions to make for DFS purposes.
Copperhead Course, Innisbrook Golf Resort — Palm Harbor, Florida
Par 71, 7,300 yards
Copperhead has hosted this event since its inception in 2000, but it is important to note that the event underwent a date change in 2007 and has tended to play tougher since — hence looking at course history before 2007 isn’t super useful. The other thing to note this week is that the course underwent huge renovations of greens, fairways and some bunkers after 2015. While the design of the course didn’t change much (if at all), the changes definitely made this already tough track play even tougher as the winning score last year was a mere -7 with only 17 players in total finishing under par.
Copperhead is unique in that it’s a par 71 but features five (yes five) par threes and four par fives. None of the par fives are overly difficult and the real teeth of the course lay on the longer par fours which force players to hit some demanding approaches. The course itself isn’t brutally long but plays longer than its yardage due to the number of doglegs, which often force players into playing less than a driver off the tee. On top of the tighter fairways and trees making life tough, water is also a big factor here and comes into play on 11 of the 18 holes. This isn’t a course where players will be looking to grip it and rip it as play off the tee this week will be more about position than anything. With some long par fours and at least three par threes measuring over 200 yards, pressure will be put on the players’ approach game on almost every hole.
One final note, Copperhead also features it’s own brutally hard signature finishing stretch “The Snake Pit,” which consists of two long, winding par fours and a hard to hit par three. This three-hole stretch should once again ensure an exciting finish and keep early celebrations to a minimum.
LAST 5 WINNERS
- 2016 — Charl Schwartzel -7 (over Bill Haas -6)
- 2015 — Jordan Spieth -10 (over Patrick Reed and Sean O’Hair playoff)
- 2014 — John Senden -7 (over Kevin Na -6)
- 2013 — Kevin Streelman -10 (Boo Weekley -8)
- 2012 — Luke Donald -13 (in four-man playoff)
- Each of the past five winners of the Valspar Championship had recorded at least one top ten on the season before their victory here.
- Five of the past six winners ranked 36th or better in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green in the year of their victory.
Strokes Gained: Tee to Green
Par 3 Scoring
Last year’s winner ranked fourth here for the week in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green while the third and fifth place finishers from 2016 also ranked first and second in this stat respectively for the week last year. On a course with a ton of demanding approaches and tee shots, this is very much a stat to emphasize.
Past winners of this event have also tended to rank well in Par 3 Scoring, and a solid week on the five ‘one-shotters’ on this course will be needed. Last year’s winner and runner-up ranked seventh and 12th in this stat for the week while the 2015 playoff trio ranked second and 12th respectively in Par 3 Scoring for the week.
I think Bogey Avoidance is also a stat to emphasize. Birdie opportunities are rare on Copperhead, and recent winners at this event have all had decent to strong ranks in this category in the year of their win. 2015 winner Jordan Spieth ranked third in this category in the year of his win, while in 2014 John Senden was 16th and 2012 winner Luke Donald was seventh in this category.
Odds to win are one factor to think about when picking players (but not the only thing, so be careful putting too much weight on them). This section is going to detail a few of the players who have the best fantasy value comparative to their odds of winning this week.
|Ollie Schniederjans||80-1||$7,100||Daniel Summerhays $7,200 and 140-1
Fredrik Jacobson $7,100 and 200-1
Billy Hurley III $7,200 and 200-1
|Russell Knox||40-1||$7,800||Graeme McDowell $8,100 and 66-1
Billy Horschel $7,900 and 50-1
Luke Donald $7,800 and 50-1
HORSES FOR COURSES
Luke Donald has played the Valspar six times now and finished sixth or better on four occasions, including winning the tournament outright in 2012. Donald has made three straight cuts coming in and has not finished worse than 27th in that span.
Kevin Na has accumulated a nice record here over the years. Since 2009 he’s played the Valspar seven times and made six of seven cuts at this event. He also has three finishes of 10th or better, including an outright second place from 2014. Na has played well recently and shapes up well for Copperhead, a course that doesn’t emphasize driver off the tee.
Harris English had success playing junior golf on Copperhead and also has two top 10s to his name at this event over four visits. He hasn’t started the season well, but he is a player capable of turning it around in a hurry.
Charles Howell III has a sterling record here (as he does at many early season events). Howell has made five of six cuts here since 2009 and has three finishes of 10th or better in that span, including a second place finish from back in 2009. He’s been in great form to start the year and has not missed a cut yet in 2017.
Cash Games: As strange as it sounds, anchoring your lineups with Henrik Stenson might be a great way to start this week. The Swede is coming off a withdraw but he’s gone 11th and fourth at this event the past two years. Outside of his withdraw (stomach virus), he has not finished worse than eighth in 2017. Ryan Moore and Kevin Na are both affordable high floor plays under $10k, while Billy Horschel, Luke Donald and Jason Dufner all have high made-cut rates and nice course histories under the $8k mark.
Tournaments: Russell Henley (see write-up below) is definitely high on my list this week for GPPs, and he’s rarely more than 10% owned. In the $8-$9k range we find Webb Simpson, Graham DeLaet and Bubba Watson who are all capable of high finishes here. I doubt any of the three will be very highly owned. Other potential targets include Ollie Schniederjans ($7,100), Byeong-Hun An ($7,400), Chris Kirk ($6,900), Robert Garrigus ($6,800), Cameron Tringale ($6,700), and Cameron Smith ($6,600)
1. Gary Woodland was only T38 in Mexico, but with three finishes of T6 or better on the year, he’s still one of hottest players in the field this week. He’s only finished outside of the top 20 once in his last six cut events.
2. Wesley Bryan has back-to-back T4 finishes, and he enters the week with 35 scores of birdie or better to his name over his last two events.
3. Graham DeLaet enters the week on the back of three straight top 20 finishes, including a T10 his last time out at PGA National. He’s massively improved on the greens as he ranks 15th on Tour in Strokes Gained: Putting in 2017, after ending 2016 at 139th.
Top Strokes Gained: Tee to Green from Last Week
1. Dustin Johnson
2. Tommy Fleetwood
3. Joost Luiten
Top Strokes Gained: Putting from Last Week
1. Soren Kjeldsen
2. Phil Mickelson
3. Matt Kuchar
MY PICK: Russell Henley ($7,800)
There are a couple of different plays under $8k I really like this week, and Henley is definitely one of them. If you take out his missed cut at the Career Builder (a pro-am format some players don’t like) then you’ll see that in Henley’s remaining 12 competitive rounds in 2017 only one has been over par. The Georgia native is also enjoying a great start to the year statistically, as he’s currently ranked much higher in important categories like Strokes Gained: Putting, Strokes Gained: Tee to Green and Strokes Gained: Approaches than he was in 2016, and also comes in at sixth for the year in Bogey Avoidance. Henley missed the cut at this event last year but he’s played well at similar venues in the past and has played well in Florida over his career too. Well rested and under the radar in a weaker field, Henley’s in a great spot to post his first big finish of 2017.
MY SLEEPER: Cameron Tringale ($6,700)
Tringale is a hard player to get right, but he always brings upside for DFS. Since 2014 he’s recorded six finishes of T5 or better on Tour, and while he’s yet to win, Tringale has proven very capable of getting himself into contention — and an outright victory may come eventually. To add to his past record of high finishes is the fact that Tringale also has a very nice record at Copperhead. While he’s only four for six in cuts made at this event, three of those finishes have been 25th or better and they include a third place from back in 2013. Tringale may be slightly streaky but he did show great form on a longer par 71 a couple of weeks ago when he finished T8 at Riviera and he should find the course this week fairly similar in layout. I like the upside here with a player who seems risky from afar but carries plenty of appeal when examined a little closer.
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