The final week of the Florida Swing is unlikely to be the tough slog that the first three weeks have been, but that doesn’t mean that the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook is an easy test. More accurate to say that it is tricky rather than brutal: The players needs to think their way around the layout rather than withstand blows from the wind and/or the layout. It’s also a nice viewing experience on TV, with the track twisting and turning its way through trees, and also up and down an undulating plot of land.
Last time out
What a week: Weather chaos, leaderboard volatility, a Monday finish, a fine winner. Not a bad week for us either. We were not keen on the salary leaders and few of them justified their prices. On the other hand, we were particulary keen on Daniel Berger who was in the hunt till late Monday, Shane Lowry who also contended (and made a hole in one), and Sergio Garcia who landed another strong finish. We also opposed Tony Finau who didn’t break 75.
Here’s are some entirely FREE suggestions for you this week with MORE for subscribers (DraftKings Prices)
|A list||V. Hovland||$10,800|
Viktor Hovland ($10,800): The stats like him. He ranks 29th for Strokes Gained Tee to Green and that would be much higher if he was in anyway any good around the greens. That’s a tricky proposition this week, but he can overcome it with good approaches. He ranks fifth for the season on par-5s (the scoring holes) and 33rd on the short holes (five of them this week). He has seven top 10s, including three wins, in his last 10 starts and was third on debut in the tournament last year.
Denny McCarthy ($7,400) He’s made nine of his last 10 cuts and all but one of those results was on Bermuda greens: He knows what he plays well and it is grainy putting surfaces. That consistency is pretty much enough to be going with in a weakened field this week, but his first two starts at Innisbrook also offer hope: T–9 in 2019 and T–39 last year.
Brooks Koepka ($9,400) It’s just not worth spending this much on a salary for Koepka at the moment. He’s landed just two top 25s in his last 10 PGA Tour starts and that’s woeful for a player of his ability and his salary. He was last seen carding an 81 at TPC Sawgrass and laughing when his ball found water at 17, less like a man who found it funny, more like a man trying to make it look like he found it funny. His only course visit reaped laps of 71 and 76.
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The Copperhead Course at The Innisbrook Resort
The first thing to note is that this layout has a peculiar set up with five par-3s and four par-5s making up a total par of 71 at 7,340 yards. It’s also not an especially typical Florida resort layout because it is not flat. In fact, it is downright hilly and the putting surfaces are on the small side, too. Add in tree-lined fairways and we’ve got a distinct challenge.
What the players have said about it down the years has proved interesting and revealing. Bubba Watson explained that he had sat down to invesitgate the correct strategy whereupon his caddie Ted Scott messaged him with an instruction that read: “To play good around here you’re going to have to play boring golf. So you have to pick and choose your battles. Just kind of plod along and that’s kind of what I did.”
Jordan Spieth has expanded on that. “The course plays longer than the yardage, no doubt about it,” he said. “But I enjoy the challenge. You really have to be in the fairway out here and so whatever it takes to put it there, whether it’s driver or you got to go back to a hybrid or 2 iron.”
Two-time winner Paul Casey backs that up: “The difference between hitting the green and landing just short, the dispersion of where the shots finish is high. So there’s a premium on ball striking. Scoring’s never that low around here.”
New European Ryder Cup captain Henrik Stenson digs deep when saying: “It’s a course where you position yourself off the tee quite a lot, you have to lay back unless you really want to try and thread a few of the tee shots out there. So, quite a few 2-irons and 4-woods, 3-woods off the tee and little bit longer irons into the greens which are pretty small and kind of sits at an angle towards you quite a lot so you want to try to keep it underneath the hole because I can only imagine the kind of quick putts you can get if you end up in the wrong place or chipping from the wrong place.”
What we’re look at is smart decison making from the tee box, accuracy with approaches and decent scrambling skills when the greens are missed.
The weather forecast for Palm Harbor, Florida is a welcome contrast to last week. Thursday will have almost perfect conditions: Almost no wind, partly cloudy, no rain, temperatures in the high 60s. Friday will see the heat rise to mid 70s and the breeze to around 12mph. That breeze will remain at the weekend, but the temperatures will dip below 70.
Past Winners of The Valspar Championship
The Tour has been visiting Innisbrook since the start of the 21st century and the first winner was Jonh Huston. It was perhaps a hint that this event would be won by tidy types rather than the highest quality golfers.
Korea’s K.J. Choi became the first two-time winner in 2001 and 2006. He also became the first of 12 (of 20 winners) who hail from outside the United States. Retief Goosen of South Africa soon joined him as a double winner (in 2003 and 2009). Fiji’s Vijay Singh triumphed in 2004 and Sweden’s Carl Pettersson in 2005.
In 2007 Mark Calcavecchia broke the raiders stranglehold on the trophy and he was suceeded by Sean O’Hair. After Goosen’s second win Jim Furyk (2010) Gary Woodland (2011) added more home glory before England’s Luke Donald won in 2012.
Kevin Streelman had success in 2013, Jordan Spieth in 2015 and Sam Burns last year, but there has been more wins in recent times for those Internationals. Aussie Jonh Senden lifted the trophy in 2014, South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel in 2016 and Canada’s Adam Hadwin in 2017 before Englishman Paul Casey went back-to-back in 2018 and 2019.
Four golfers have won both here and at Augusta National. Four have also won here and at Deere Run (five if you count Bryson DeChambeau who won at Innisbrook in amateur competition). The reason? Augusta and Deere Run, like Copperhead, are undulating tracks. The five par-3s are something of a red herring. The par-5s are where players make their score. Elsewhere they hope to make par. A final note: Good Strokes Gained Tee to Green stats matter. Remember those player thoughts on the course: tidy from the tee, smart into the green, handy when they get missed.
Here’s A Line-up of Core Picks For The Valspar Championship
|A list||L. Oosthuizen||$9,900|
|B list||J. Kokrak||$9,200|
|B list||K. Bradley||$8,400|
|Deep dive||M. Kuchar||$7,700|
Louis Oosthuizen ($9,900) The South African is yet to join Retief Goosen and Charl Schwartzel as winners either here or in the States, but he’s come mighty close. He’s got five top 20s on the course, four of them in his last four visits, including second in 2019. He was also a playoff loser at Augusta National, a good pointer for this undulating test. The last time he missed a cut was at the end of 2020. That’s 21 times he’s played four rounds (three times there was no cut, but still).
Jason Kokrak ($9,200) The first three times he played the course he missed the cut but then something clicked. He’s landed five top 15s in seven starts since then, including three in the last three visits. He’s also missed just four cuts in his last 30 strokeplay starts (four elite events with no cut in there). A strong performer these days and reliable.
Keegan Bradley ($8,400) He’s a simple case of good course form and good recent form, but there’s more to it than that. He led through 54 holes in this event last year before Sam Burns sneaked past him for the win. That might hurt. So, too, might the two-shot penalty he incurred in very unlucky fashion last Friday when the wind blew his ball as he marked it. He finished T–5; those two blows mattered. That hurt too. Those two experiences might grate. They might also fuel his week.
Christiaan Bezuidenhout ($7,900) His last 37 strokeplay starts worldwide? He’s played four rounds 35 times (three no cuts events). This season on the PGA Tour he’s 10-for-12. He’s very reliable. South Africans have enjoyed the Copperhead Course test in the past and there’s no reason why Bezuidenhout can’t maintain that trend.
Matthias Schwab ($7,400) The Austrian remains something of an unknown quantity on the PGA Tour but he has finished T–7 in his last two starts at the Honda Classic and Puerto Rico Open. Moreover, he is a neat and tidy performer who should like this examination. Tree-lined tests were right up his street on the DP World Tour and he’s coped with elevation changes well, too.
Matt Kuchar ($7,000) The veteran has always enjoyed this course. He’s made 10 cuts in 11 starts and seven of them have been top 25s. He missed the cut at Sawgrass, but these days that might be no great surprise. When he’s faced shorter tests that require some wiliness he has played much better in recent times: think Waialae, Sea Island, El Camaelon – cuts made every time.
Other Player Options For The Valspar Championship
• Gary Woodland is not just a former winner here, he also landed two top fives in a row before missing the cut last week at Sawgrass.
• Beware Troy Merrit. Sure, he’s made two top 10s on the course, but he has also missed five cuts? Is seeking the boom worth the risk of bust?
• Justin Thomas has landed three top 20s in four visits with a best of T–10. He’s struggling to win these days, however, so is he worth the price?
COVID-19 and Injury Warning:
Pro DFS players know it makes sense to stay up-to-date on Twitter, DraftKings, FanDuel and-or subscribe to any number of email feeds and whatever to remain up to speed with injuries or COVID-19 withdraws. Players that don’t make the cut are tough enough. Players that don’t play all four rounds (even when pulling out at the last minute) make for a pretty weak lineup.
Go win your lineups and then tell us how you did. Twitter (@FantasyDFSX) is a good place for that.
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