The TOUR returns to stroke play for the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook Resort. The Copperhead Course will play as a par 71, measuring 7,340 yards and will be putt on TifEagle Bermudagrass overseeded with Poa Trivialis. The field at press time is 156 golfers. The tournament was canceled last season due to COVID-19, so the defending champion is back-to-back winner, Paul Casey who won in 2018 and 2019.
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Editor’s note: Tyrrell Hatton has withdrawn from the Valspar Championship after testing positive for COVID-19.
The Copperhead course should be a tough test this week. Many top-ranked players like Justin Thomas (+700, $11,500), Dustin Johnson (+1000, $11,200), Patrick Reed (+1400, $10,300) and
Tyrrell Hatton (+2500, $9,400) are teeing it up with the PGA Championship a little less than a month away.
Simply put, the course is challenging. Before players even get to the final stretch of holes, aptly named “The Snake Pit,” they’ll have to navigate tight tree-lined fairways with water throughout the course. Holes feature many elevation changes, not typical of Florida tracks on TOUR, and doglegs throughout the course. There are 74 bunkers and eight water hazards that come into play on nine holes.
Even though it’s a par 71, the course has four par 5s. Copperhead also has five par 3s, four of which measure between 200 and 225 yards, which are a couple of design features that make Copperhead such a unique test of golf. The aforementioned “Snake Pit” consists of holes 16 through 18 and requires the utmost attention when navigating through those holes. The 16th is the most challenging hole at the Copperhead Resort and one of the toughest par 4s on TOUR, with water all along the right-hand side and trees on the left. If the golfers miss the fairway to either side, they’ll often make bogey or worse.
With a relatively level stroke gained distribution across the major stat categories, Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green is data to focus on this week with such a demanding test of golf. Strokes Gained: Approach-The-Green and short game needs be a priority when considering who to roster, as well as par-5 scoring.
Patrick Reed to Win +1400 ($10,300 on DraftKings)
Crank up the difficulty, and that’s when Reed shows up, ranking fourth in Strokes Gained: Total in his previous 24 rounds in difficult scoring conditions. He’s done no worse than 13th in his past three majors and has two runner-up finishes here in 2015 and 2018. The ball-striking has been inconsistent, but his irons were in similar shape heading into the Farmers Insurance Open when he won.
Viktor Hovland +1800 to Win ($10,500 on DraftKings)
Hovland is coming off a difficult Sunday finish at the Zurich Classic but is playing solid golf Tee-to-Green, ranking seventh over his previous 12 rounds. His short game foibles are an issue if he’s missing these small greens, but not enough to sway me off him. Hovland can score on the par 5s with his prowess off the tee, and his putting has been fantastic recently, gaining 1.5 strokes over his previous five tournaments. When the conditions get difficult, Hovland steps up, ranking second in the field to only Dustin Johnson in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green over the past 12 rounds in difficult scoring conditions relative to par.
Talor Gooch +8000 to Win ($8,000 on DraftKings)
A recent top five at TPC Sawgrass should put Gooch on our collective radars this week. It’s not only his PLAYERS Championship finish that should make the 70th-ranked golfer a potential add this week; it’s how well he’s hitting his irons, ranking second in the field in Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green to only Justin Thomas over the previous 12 rounds. He made the cut in all three Florida Swing tournaments this year and has solid finishes at correlated courses such as Quail Hollow (Wells Fargo) and TPC Boston (Northern Trust).
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