Another tough DFS week at the WGC-Cadillac Championship, but major props to Adam Scott for going back-to-back.  He showed some serious mental fortitude by coming back after those two early double bogeys to catch Rory.  Charley Hoffman and Anirban Lahiri showed up for us, but the DJ ejection on Sunday was pretty brutal to watch. But I digress.

Let’s move on to this week’s Valspar Championship which is held at the Copperhead course at Innisbrook Resort. This is another pretty tough track and I expect the cream to rise to the top again. A lot of studs who played last week at the WGC-Cadillac will be heading over, including Jordan Spieth, Henrik Stenson, Danny Willett, Branden Grace, Matt Kuchar, Louis Oosthuizen, and Patrick Reed. It’s a par 71 that features four par 5’s and five par 3’s which makes it a little unique. We could see more drama down the stretch this year, as one of the course’s biggest defenses is holes 16, 17, and 18, known as “The Snake Pit”. But unlike most Florida courses that are flat and wide open off the tee, Copperhead has some undulations and tree-lined fairways.  There are a lot of dog-leg holes forcing players (at least the longer hitters) to club down and emphasize accuracy. If you are looking for similar fields or tournaments with comparable courses, I suggest looking at the RBC Heritage, the Crowne Plaza Colonial, and The Players.

Because this is more of a classical layout that requires accuracy off-the-tee and strategic placement of shots, I’m going to heavily factor in course history.  One of my biggest fades this week is Danny Willett – not just because of price, but because this will be his first time seeing the course.  The key stats that I’ll be focusing on this week will be strokes gained tee-to-green, approaches from 175+ yards, and several putting stats. For those of you who haven’t checked out Fantasy Golf Metrics (@FGMetrics), you can see detailed stat breakdowns based on current form and course history.  These stat references I’m listing are directly taken from their awesome stat splits.

 

  • SG: T2G

At a classical “ball-striking and accuracy” course like Copperhead, I always start at strokes gained tee-to-green.  These greens should be firm this week, so really precise approaches will allow these players to not rely too heavily on scrambling (which I still think is key).  Looking at the top-10 players in SG:T2G on this course specifically, you’ll see a mix of past winners, pure ball strikers, and bombers who don’t mind clubbing down off the tee – notably Henrik “3-wood” Stenson (but is it really clubbing down when you still hit it 305 yards)?

PlayerSG:T2G Copperhead Course
Jordan Spieth6.491
Henrik Stenson5.101
Shawn Stefani5.096
Steve Stricker5.008
Jason Dufner4.751
John Senden4.452
Luke Donald4.268
Nick Taylor4.260
Gary Woodland3.923
Francesco Molinari3.655

 

As you can see, these are some of the most highly touted players of the week, and definitely some of my core targets.  For tournament purposes, I’ll likely avoid Luke Donald due to his current form, but everyone on this list makes for some great plays this week. People can say what they want about Jordan Spieth’s current form, but if you remember, this is where his run started last year.  He hadn’t won a tournament in over a year, and people wondered if he would ever win again… then he went on to have one of the greatest seasons in PGA Tour history. I’m in on Spieth.

 

  • Long Approaches (175-225 yards):

You have to be a little careful with this stat this week, because the course has five par 3’s.  I think factoring in approaches from 175+ yards and par 3 scoring will be the best way to determine who benefits most. Par 3 data on this course is a little skewed due to sample size, but three names popped out to me:  Jordan Spieth, Henrik Stenson, and Gary Woodland.

Taking a look at the top-10 players in proximity from 175-200 yards, you’ll see more popular names: Blayne Barber, Kyle Stanley, Chesson Hadley, Gary Woodland, Adam Hadwin, Francesco Molinari, Henrik Stenson, Steven Bowditch, Russell Knox, and Chris Kirk.  PRO TIP: Don’t play Steven Bowditch.  Free advice right there, kids.

If you move into the 200+ yard range, and sort based on the Copperhead course specifically, you’ll see these names:  Jon Curran, Will Wilcox, Chris Kirk, Justin Hicks, Troy Merritt, Andres Gonzales, Graham DeLaet, Harris English, Keegan Bradley, and Charlie Beljan.  Again, some of these stats can be skewed based on sample sizes, but if you match these proximity stats up with players’ proximity stats in recent events, it’ll be easy to see certain names pop out.

 

  • Overall Putting:

These greens are going to be slick, and with long approaches throughout the course, I think avoiding three-putts will be key. Additionally, scrambling is crucial since players will miss a bunch of greens, so I’m looking specifically at short putting.  There is always an unpredictable aspect of putting:  bad putters can get hot for a round or two, or great putters can struggle.  But usually, focusing on great putters is the way I like to approach these courses.

Again, I’m going to compile some data based on putting stats from Copperhead and from players’ current form, since FGMetrics makes it so easy. These numbers are all based on field ranks, not PGA Tour ranks:

 

Player3-putt Avoidance Recent3-putt Avoidance Copperhead
Jon Curran5th19th
Blayne Barber21st3rd
Retief Goosen1st25th
Daniel Summerhays12th17th
Charles Howell III11th21st
Patrick Reed25th8th
Jordan Spieth20th15th
Justin Thomas35th1st
Matt Kuchar15th31st
Spencer Levin33rd13th

 

 

PlayerPutting 5’-10’ RecentPutting 5’-10’ Copperhead
Troy Merritt18th2nd
Matt Kuchar15th10th
Carl Pettersson21st8th
Jamie Lovemark4th26th
Henrik Stenson8th28th
Brian Harman27th13th
Steve Wheatcroft28th12th
Stuart Appleby19th23rd
Ryan Moore1st46th
Jon Curran16th41st

 

Remember, sample size of all stats can be skewed for a number of reasons, so don’t make these numbers the end-all of your picks.  For instance, an approach shot from 174 yards is quite similar to an approach from 175 yards, but will be categorized in a completely different stat bracket. Same with putting.  Weigh all of these things in whatever way you feel is best, but don’t forget that in golf, current form has the highest correlation with success!  On to the picks….

 

My picks this week: Jordan Spieth, Harris English, Matt Kuchar, Graeme McDowell

Sleepers:  Gary Woodland, Sean O’Hair, Francesco Molinari, Cameron Tringale

 

Good luck this week!

 

 

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