Bear Traps, Blue Monsters, and Snake Pits… sounds like a great time! We’re in week three of the Florida Swing, and we’ve got yet another tough test of golf. This time it’s the Copperhead Course at the Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, FL. Copperhead is famous for its tight, tree-lined fairways and target-style golf. At Doral, it was all about the bombers. This week, it’s all about the tacticians.
2015 Valspar Championship
1. Jordan Spieth -10 (won in playoff)
T-2. Patrick Reed -10
T-2. Sean O’Hair -10
4. Henrik Stenson -9
5. Ryan Moore -8
6. Troy Merritt -6
T-7. Danny Lee -5
T-7. Jason Kokrak -5
T-7. Luke Guthrie -5
T-10. Harris English -5
T-10. Kevin Na -5
T-10. Charles Howell III -5
T-10. Justin Thomas -5
T-10. Brian Davis -5
T-10. Vijay Singh -5
T-10. Daniel Summerhays -4
We’re dealing with a 7,340-yard par 71. There are four par 5s and five par 3s. The guys who do well here tend to be those who can control it both off the tee and into the greens. So you’ll want to focus on driving accuracy and proximity. The greens were recently renovated, and they’re allegedly “slow” and “bumpy.”
Players talking slow, bumpy greens so far @ValsparChamp.
— Cameron Morfit (@CameronMorfit) March 8, 2016
On one hand, that probably decreases the importance you should place on SGP. But tournaments played on target courses generally turn into putting contests. Here’s an exchange with then leader Robert Garrigus from 2014 courtesy of futureoffantasy.com:
Q. Woodland won here, you played-off here and now you lead the bomber as it relates to the Copperhead course.
Is it because you can hit a lot of 3-irons off the tee?A. That plays a little bit into it. The week Woodland won he made everything inside of ten feet. I’m doing the same thing. I’ve missed a couple. I’m rolling the putts in I’m supposed to roll in.
So pick your poison. Anyone can get hot with the flat stick for a week, but you’re generally better off going with guys who can get it done on a consistent basis.
- Strokes Gained (Putting more so than Tee-to-Green)
- Driving Accuracy
- Scrambling & Sand Save %
- Bogey Avoidance
- Birdie % & Proximity from 175-200 & 200+ Yards
PICKS! PICKS! PICKS! PICKS! PICKS! PICKS! PICKS! PICKS! PICKS! PICKS!
Jordan Spieth $12800 (5-1)
This course was made for Spieth. It’s tough, requires accuracy and course management, and has the possibility to turn into a putting contest. It should be no surprise that he’s never finished outside the top-20 in three tries at Copperhead and is the defending champ.
As the clear #1 in the field, you might be a little afraid of his potential ownership, but don’t be. Yes, it’s relatively easy to fit him in, but there are a couple of mitigating factors to consider. Stenson should get lots of play at a savings of $1300 and the go-to strategy will be a balanced approach (probably starting with Kuchar). Spieth will be popular, but not to the point where you should look to fade.
Henrik Stenson $11500 (15-1)
Much like Spieth, Stenson is an elite talent with the type of game that plays well here. Clubbing down off the tee is pretty much his thing, so he’ll be in his element. Not only that, he’s an excellent wedge player, putter, and scrambler. Check, check, and check. With 31 consecutive cuts made and a solo 4th last season at Valspar, he’s one of the safest plays on the board.
Matt Kuchar $9800 (33-1)
Kuchar is essentially Stenson Lite. He’s made five straight cuts at Valspar (with three top-15s) and 17 straight cuts overall. He’s been around forever, so you know what you’re getting with him: accuracy and a great short game. Given the importance of angles this week, Kuchar is exactly the type of player you want to target. Despite below average length, he still performs well on par 5s. Why? He’s a master tactician. He picks out a target, sticks it, and sinks the putt. His par 5 birdie rate goes to show an underlying skill (or set of skills) that will prove extremely important this week.
Jason Dufner $9400 (40-1)
Duff Daddy’s been playing some solid golf of late (T-11 at Doral), and he has a great track record at Copperhead (seven straight top-30 finishes). A large part of his success can be attributed to his ball striking. He’s accurate off the tee and consistently posts solid GIR/proximity numbers. That’s the Innisbrook exacta.
Ryan Moore $9300 (45-1)
Moore is one of my favorite plays this week, and I
think hope he will fly a bit under the radar. He has a Dufner-like game (driving accuracy, GIR/proximity, etc.), but he can putt. And that’s huge. Moore’s played six tournaments in 2015-16, and he already has four top-11 finishes. I like that. His course history, when taken on average, isn’t as strong as Dufner’s (Moore has only made 50% of cuts at Valspar in eight tries), but he has two top-end finishes (8th in 2007, 5th in 2015), something Dufner lacks.
Graeme McDowell $9200 (40-1)
Graeme ranks near the top of the field in many key areas (driving accuracy, proximity, scrambling, etc.), and he’s actually been fantastic on par 5s this season. As I mentioned earlier with Kuchar, shorter hitters that perform well on par 5s interest me a great deal. He’s also been playing well on the Florida Swing so far; finished solo 5th at the Honda and T-28 at Doral. This is his first time playing Valspar, but that doesn’t concern me all that much. His skill set should play well here. It seems McDowell might be back on track, and I like him a lot this week.
Kevin Na $9100 (40-1)
Na has made five cuts in his last six Valspar starts, and has three top-10s in that stretch. He’s a decent driver of the golf ball and an excellent scrambler. He’s also one of the best on tour every year in terms of par 3 scoring and birdie rate. Let’s keep beating this drum… despite averaging only 283y off the tee, Kevin still holds his own on par 5s; posting an above average birdie rate.
Webb Simpson $8900 (45-1)
Disclaimer: Simpson WD last week citing a back problem. He’s allegedly good to go this week, but you’ve been warned. If you’re worried, just move on.
Webb rolls into Innisbrook, a course he clearly likes (64 FP per start in six tries, four top-17 finishes), on the heels of three straight top-17 finishes. He’s a GIR monster and ranks near the top of the field in terms of bogey avoidance. That combo should help keep him around through the cut, and his ball striking should lead to plenty of looks at birdie on the weekend.
K.J. Choi $8800 (50-1)
Accuracy, proximity, putting, scrambling, par 3 performance, bogey avoidance, course history… like Monta Ellis, K.J. have it all. Over the past 10 years, 33% of Choi’s starts at Copperhead have resulted in top-6 finishes. Granted, they all came five-plus years ago, but he is currently in top-notch and retro form (2nd, T-17, CUT, T-5 in last four events). His price is steep, but fear not. It’s actually probably a good thing for GPPs, as some will balk at $8800. More for us.
Russell Knox $8400 (60-1)
His price is back down in the palatable range, and I’m ready to jump on board. Knox is one of the best in the field in terms of driving accuracy, GIR/proximity, scrambling, bogey avoidance, and par 3 performance. All good things. He missed the cut in his first try at Valspar, but followed that up with 25th and 33rd place finishes in 2014 and 2015.
Luke Donald $8300 (60-1)
If you’re looking for a course horse, Luke is your guy. He’s played this event five times and finished 6th, 1st, 4th, 4th, and 53rd. In case you’re wondering, that’s an average of 82.4 FP per start. He was a bit off his game last season, so we’ll let that lone non-top-6 slide. Donald’s made five of six cuts in 2015-16 and looks to be slowly rounding into form. If there’s a course that could really jump start his season, it’s Copperhead.
Kevin Streelman $8200 (55-1)
Streelman is a former champion of this event and has four straight cuts made at Copperhead. He has excellent proximity numbers across the board, but especially so from the key yardage of 175-200 yards. Despite below average length, he’s one of the SGT2G leaders in 2015-16, which means he knows how to get around a golf course.
Danny Lee $8000 (70-1)
$8000 is too cheap for the quality of golfer you’re getting with Danny Lee. He’s reasonably consistent and safe, but he also has tournament-winning upside. His proximity numbers have dipped a little since last season, but I’m chalking that up to negative variance. He’s accurate off the tee and a solid scrambler. If you go on 2015-16 numbers alone, he probably won’t jump out at you. But he’s a fantastic golfer and will surely turn it around soon enough.
Martin Kaymer $7500 (85-1)
This will be short and sweet: he’s a 31-year old 2x major champion at $7500 in a “meh” field. If that’s not worth a flier, I don’t know what is.
VALUE PLAYS! VALUE PLAYS! VALUE PLAYS! VALUE PLAYS! VALUE PLAYS!
- Cameron Smith $6900 (150-1): Short but accurate, competed well in majors
- Francesco Molinari $6900 (150-1): Great price, accuracy player
- Lucas Glover $6600 (150-1): Might be the best ball striker on tour, it’s a Lucas Glover week
- David Toms $6300 (200-1): Been playing the kind of golf that should do well here (accuracy, bogey avoidance, etc.)
- Jon Curran $6100 (250-1): Was a popular play at Pebble and failed, same logic applies here with lower expected ownership
- Hudson Swafford $5900 (200-1): Great price, strong birdie numbers at key yardages, solid putter
- Spencer Levin $5900 (200-1): Excellent price, solid numbers across the board, my favorite cheap play
- Thomas Aiken $5600 (400-1): Solid pivot off of Mark Hubbard (who will be popular), great ball striking numbers