The fourth and last tournament on the Florida Swing is the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, Fla. 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 is 144, and the cut will be top 65 and ties. Sam Burns ($9,600) is the defending champion.
The Copperhead Course should be a tough test this week. Collin Morikawa ($10,700), Brooks Koepka ($9,400), Xander Schauffele ($10,300) and Matt Fitzpatrick ($9,000) are some of the golfers who’ve made the trip early, missing the cut at THE PLAYERS Championship last week.
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 eight water hazards coming into play on nine holes. Elevation changes will be a prominent feature throughout the course, not something we usually see in Florida. Even though it’s a par 71, Copperhead has four par 5s and five par 3s, four of which measure between 200 to 225 yards. The aforementioned “Snake Pit” consists of holes 16 through 18 and is extremely demanding. The 16th hole is the most challenging and one of the toughest par 4s on the PGA TOUR, with water 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 even strokes gained distribution across the major categories, Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green is a vital stat to focus on this week, with such a demanding test of golf. Strokes Gained: approach-the-green and short game need to be a priority when considering who to roster and par 5 scoring.
Those looking for daily fantasy golf sleepers should focus on golfers who are solid around the greens to go with their stellar iron play. Usually, chipping and scrambling aren’t precursors to success because you’re missing the greens, but the previous five winners here gained more strokes around the green on average than they did off-the-tee. Also, look at golfers who’ve done well at The Genesis Invitational along with previous courses on the Florida Swing.
Collin Morikawa ($10,700)
An unlucky circumstance with his tee draw last week resulted in a missed cut, but this should not deter anyone from backing Morikawa this week. He and Viktor Hovland ($10,800) are playing some of the best golf in this field, and while neither project to go under-rostered, we should side with the No. 2 ranked player in the world given how good his all-around game has been. Morikawa finished runner-up at The Genesis Invitational in his first start of the calendar year, gaining 6.8 strokes putting and 2.1 around the greens. He is a great long-iron player capable of hitting it close on these long par 3s and is elite in par 5 scoring over the long term. With Hovland struggling around the greens, Morikawa gets the nod over Hovland from the golfers over $10,000.
Shane Lowry ($9,700)
Our excitement to roster Lowry shouldn’t just come from his hole-in-one on the 17th last week but from his ball-striking in the final two rounds, gaining the seventh-most strokes tee-to-green at TPC Sawgrass. Lowry finished runner-up at the Honda Classic and followed it up with a top-15 finish at THE PLAYERS Championship. The Major winner also gained two strokes tee-to-green here in 2018. Lowry’s par 5 scoring was also on display last week, finishing 12th-highest. Matt Fitzpatrick ($9,000) should also be considered in lineups this week, especially if Lowry’s roster projection is trending too high. Fitzpatrick sets up well this week, ranking third in par 5 efficiency and eighth in Strokes Gained: tee-to-green over the previous 12 rounds. Fitzy also finished top 10 at The Arnold Palmer Invitational a couple of weeks ago.
Mackenzie Hughes ($7,800)
He’s been neutral with his ball-striking over the last two starts but also has a top-20 and a runner-up in his previous eight tournaments. Hughes nabbed a top-15 here in 2019 in between two missed cuts, a signal he’s capable of navigating this difficult track if or when he misses the greens. We rarely want to depend on a golfer’s short game, but Hughes ranks 16th in around the green and third in putting over the previous 50 rounds. A runner-up finish at The Honda Classic (2020) and a top 20 at THE PLAYERS Championship (2017) are a couple of breadcrumbs that could lead us to the Canadian this week while other people may overlook him.
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