The PGA Tour will remain in Florida for the fourth consecutive event in the Sunshine State during Thursday’s opening round at the 2023 Valspar Championship. Located in Palm Harbor, just outside of Tampa Bay, 144 players will compete at the Innisbrook Golf Resort Copperhead Course, which shares similarities to previous Florida courses such as TPC Sawgrass, while maintaining its unique design. Created in the vision of Larry Packard over 50 years ago, Copperhead has abundant par 3 holes, while its narrowly doglegged, tree-lined fairways will punish errant tee shots with three-inch Bermudagrass rough.
Sam Burns is the defending champion at Valspar, winning back-to-back events in 2021 and 2022 with an impressive -17-under-par each time. The 26-year-old American is currently in the midst of a slump, so it’ll be interesting to see how much his confidence goes up while playing on this course during the first two rounds. Paul Casey accomplished the same feat that Burns has done, winning consecutive events at Valspar in 2018 and 2019. This means we’ve only had three different winners across the last five events held at the Copperhead course, with Canadian Adam Hadwin clinching an outright win with -14-under-par back in 2017.
The field isn’t as loaded as we saw during the Arnold Palmer Invitational or The PLAYERS Championship but we’re still getting household names such as Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, and Matt Fitzpatrick rounding out the top three outright betting favorites at Valspar this weekend. Spieth won here back in 2015, which kickstarted his reign atop the PGA Tour that season, going on to win the Masters, the U.S. Open, and the Tour Championship. He’s been heating up lately, logging two T6 or better finishes, while still cracking a T20 finish at TPC Sawgrass last weekend despite going +3 during the second round.
From a DFS perspective, there should be quite a bit of value to acquire in the lower salary brackets, but we need to be careful about which blue-chip prospects we’re investing in. For example, Burns and Justin Thomas are priced highly based on their past performances at Valspar, but neither player has much momentum or confidence in their game at the moment. Last week, my recommended plays included Scottie Scheffler, Tyrrell Hatton, and Viktor Hovland, who all either won outright or finished in the top three, flooding DFS lineups with production. However, Rory McIlroy, Keegan Bradley, and Thomas Detry all missed the cut, countering the production from the top three plays.
I’ve dug into the numbers and identified six high-value players that should be considered must-add pieces when constructing your DraftKings and FanDuel lineups ahead of Thursday’s opening round from the 2023 Valspar Championship. Good luck and let’s cash some contests this weekend!
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- 2022 – Sam Burns (-17)
- 2021 – Sam Burns (-17)
- 2020 – Cancelled
- 2019 – Paul Casey (-8)
- 2018 – Paul Casey (-10)
- 2017 – Adam Hadwin (-14)
Relevant Betting Stats
- Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green
- Strokes Gained Off-the-Tee
- Driving Accuracy
- Sand save percentage
Copperhead is a difficult course that is known for its final three holes, referred to as the “Snake Pit” due to the difficult par 4s that bookend the lengthy par 3 on the 17th hole. Overall, it’s another course that features Bermudagrass on all of its surfaces, a common trend in Florida, which tends to run slower on the greens. These greens are also much smaller at just 5,800 square feet on average, which demands precision with players’ irons and approach shots. Ball striking remains a premium piece of staying atop the leaderboard at Copperhead, but don’t discount driving accuracy either.
There are five par 3 holes, contrasted with four par 5 holes, so there will be plenty of birdie opportunities for players who have powerful drives on the lengthier par 5s, some of which run north of 600 yards, while strokes gained tee-to-green will be another way for players to excel by hitting the green and landing the hole location on the shorter but more difficult par 3s. Dozens of sand bunkers lie in difficult places along the fairways and surrounding the greens, along with plenty of water hazards to add an extra layer of difficulty. Bermudagrass runs a bit slower than Bentgrass surfaces, but players should be accustomed to Bermudagrass since it’s been featured at all three previous Florida events. There is also more elevation than we’re used to seeing at Florida courses, but winds and rain are forecast during the weekend, which is more than enough to continuously shake up the leaderboard.
Recommended Plays: DraftKings
DraftKings maximum salary is set at $50,000
Jordan Spieth: $10,600
I’m staying chalky with Jordan Spieth to start my lineups on DraftKings. The 29-year-old Texas native has racked up 86.5 – 90.5 DK FPPG in three of his past four events and he’s going to be competing against a relatively lighter field at Valspar this weekend. Spieth is among the best players approaching the green and can be great at delivering one-putts in the early rounds, but he’ll need to stay under par in all four rounds to make a serious run at an outright win. Even if he falters a bit, Spieth is a good scrambler, has a strong driver, and won here eight years ago. Averaging 16-19 birdies during his past four events only builds the case for rostering Spieth at $10,600 on DraftKings, cheaper than Justin Thomas, who I do not trust despite his T3 finish at Valspar in 2022.
Ben Griffin: $8,400
After taking a hiatus from golf, 26-year-old American Ben Griffin is back on the PGA Tour this season and he’s looked good, hovering between T35 and T12 finishes since the Tour resumed in January at the Sony Open. Griffin has only missed two cuts, so we aren’t risking much in regards to his ability to start fast, however, he’ll need to stay at even par or lower during the final two rounds, which is where his scorecard tends to erode a bit. Ranked 30th in strokes gained tee-to-green, 17th in strokes gained around the green, and 28th in scrambling, Griffin is a fantastic value into DraftKings lineups at a meager $8,400 salary. It also helps to know that Griffin averages 4.28 birdies per round, which goes a long way when they are worth three points in DFS, compared to only 0.5 points for pars and -0.5 points for bogeys. Plug Griffin into lineups with confidence.
Byeong Hun An: $7,900
We’re deep in the value bucket when it comes to Byeong Hun An but he’s been the best player on the PGA Tour when it comes to strokes gained around the green. The 31-year-old South Korean is ranked 18th in driving distance, seventh in sand save percentage, and fourth in putts per round. An tends to start hot in the first two rounds before plateauing during the weekend, but he’s sunk 11-16 birdies in four of his past five events played. I like his outlook at Valspar despite his past struggles with T49 and MC, as he’s rounding into form and not making many mistakes with his game. Consider An a solid salary-saver at $7,900 on DraftKings.
Recommended Plays: FanDuel
FanDuel maximum salary is set at $60,000
Tommy Fleetwood: $11,000
I’m all in on Tommy Fleetwood having a resounding performance at Valspar this weekend. The 32-year-old Englishman has one of the best putters on the PGA Tour right now, which can bail out a lot of other mediocre aspects of a player’s game. It’s not just Fleetwood’s putting that’s impressive. He also ranks 17th in strokes gained tee-to-green, 22nd in strokes gained approaching the green, and sixth in strokes gained around the green. With Fleetwood ranking second in one-putt percentage at 47.4 percent this season, I’m willing to pay up for his production in FanDuel lineups. His debut at Valspar in 2022 led to a T16 finish, but we’ve seen him deliver over 83 FD FPPG in two of his past three events, so pay up to acquire one of the more enticing prospects on the Valspar slate.
Brandon Wu: $10,000
Brandon Wu may not dazzle with his strokes gained metrics or with his putter, but the 26-year-old Californian ranks fourth in total birdies this season, while also ranking first in putting from three feet or less. Wu has an accurate driver, which will allow him to avoid errant lies for his approach shots on the narrow fairways at Copperhead while finding greens in regulation 67.8 percent of the time. I’m most interested in his birdie average since it correlates with production in DFS lineups, and Wu is averaging over four birdies per round, which is more than enough to climb the ranks in DFS contests. He’s a bit expensive but he did log a T33 finish at Valspar in 2022, which was a season that included 14 missed cuts, so Wu should be able to deliver a T25 finish or better with improvements in his game.
Akshay Bhatia: $9,000
A relative newcomer to the PGA Tour, 21-year-old Akshay Bhatia has some impressive metrics that warrant serious consideration when constructing lineups on FanDuel. Bhatia is ranked 10th in strokes gained approaching the green, 33rd in total driving, which combines distance and accuracy, along with hitting greens in regulation 72.5 percent of the time, which is the fourth-highest rate on the Tour. Bhatia is among the best scrambling from the rough and the fringe and he’s sixth in birdie or better percentage, converting 26.7 percent of the time, while ranking ninth in bogey avoidance. I could go on and on with how impressive Bhatia has been this season, but he’ll compete in his first event since drawing a runner-up finish at the Puerto Rico Open a couple of weeks ago, where he went -5-under-par or lower in three of his four rounds. Yes, this field is more loaded than the ones where Bhatia has finished inside of the top 20, but I like his production and at this low salary, he’s a massive value play to insert into FanDuel lineups.
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