Today's Free Picks for
Posted Wednesday, March 7 at 1:10 PM EST.
Cutoff time for this event is March 8 at 7:30 AM EST.
2018 Valspar Championship
After the brief jaunt south of the border for the WGC event, it’s back to American soil for the second leg of the Florida swing. There has been a decent amount of investment in the Copperhead course at the Innisbrook resort of late, with some $4.5 million pumped into refurbishment work in 2015. Bunkers were moved closer to the greens while the fairways and green surfaces were reseeded with various breeds of Bermuda. This is a layout where the short, straight hitters come into their own. Measuring 7,340 yards for its Par 71, the fairways are of average width but lined with dense foliage and trees and the parkland character does lend an aesthetic similarity to Chapultepec, our host last week.
A number of the fairways are dog-legged with water in play on five holes, and a stiff breeze tends to roll in off the North Atlantic Ocean. The undulating fairways are bookended by small Bermuda greens, which take some holding. The sunny weather in Florida ensures these are rock hard, so a light touch on approach is key. This is not a bomber’s course by any means, with the thick tree coverage meaning that most players will, at certain points, take irons off the tee – minimizing any advantage the long hitters tend to have. Hit your tee shots into the wrong parts of the fairway and you are going to find yourself blocked out. Sometimes it’s better to leave your ball in the rough knowing that the angle of approach will be easier.
This is commonly regarded as a challenging stretch, and the level of difficulty is cranked up by the ‘Snake Pit’, which is Copperhead’s answer to the Bear Trap at PGA National. Worst still, this is the final three holes, so the nerve of any prospective champion will be thoroughly examined here on Sunday. The 16th is typically the toughest hole on the course, with water left and right and very little room to maneuver off the tee.
The 17th is a par 3 that plays a minimum of 215 yards, with bunkers and trees fringing the green and the 18th, well, only 9% of attempts here ended in birdie or better last year. Uphill with trees left and bunkers right, the prospective champion will need to get their drive away safely here. The green slopes markedly from back to front, making that winning putt a rather difficult assignment.
What we’re looking for this week:
This is a fairly unique test on the PGA TOUR in this day and age, with bombers not gaining any advantage over the grinders whatsoever. There are four Par 5s, despite the Par 71 total, but these are leveled out by the five Par 3s, Course management and shot placement are overwhelmingly more important than bombers off the tee. The list of winners here at Copperhead is fairly revelatory. Adam Hadwin, John Senden and Kevin Streelman are not what we’d call prolific by any means, but all three have triumphed here since 2013. The other champions – Jordan Spieth and Charl Schwartzel – have both won here and at Augusta but this is certainly a tournament where we can place our faith in shorter, straighter hitters, rather than the traditional big names who go about their business in a rather different fashion.
We had Hadwin last year to win at 80-1. He ranked second for Strokes Gained: Approach and fifth for SG: Tee to Green – confirmation that this is the archetypal ‘second shot layout’, and gamers should also note the switch from Poa Annua to Bermuda this week. Remember that this is a tough test as well. Hadwin’s winning mark of -14 was the lowest here in quite some time, and that probably reflects the pureness of the re-seeded and up to speed greens. Even so, from tee-to-green it remains a tough test, with shot shaping and wily approach play essential. For that reason, it does bring to mind two obviously correlating courses: Augusta National and Riviera. The former is lent weight by Spieth and Schwartzel, and without digging too deeply we also note that the likes of John Senden and Sean O’Hair have won at Copperhead and banked top 10’ss at Augusta. Visually a lot of the sight lines from tee-to-green do have a Riviera-feel to them, with dense tree-lines and occasionally stark elevation changes. The wind can get up too, and with water in play substantially on five holes – and lest we forget the complexity of the Snake Pit – drafting players who can pick their way around the layout will be the key to success this week. Hopefully some of the following will be on the first page of the leaderboard on Sunday.
Unless otherwise stated, the following bets to win outright will be placed at BET365 because of their cash-out option during the event:
To win outright:
Sam Saunders 140-1
It must be very difficult to be in the family lineage of the great Arnold Palmer, and it is a weight of expectation that would prove too much for many. Sam Saunders is just starting to show signs of standing on his own two feet. After finishing second in the ultra-competitive Tour Championship, the Web.com Tour’s curtain-call, in 2017, Saunders has kicked on nicely on the main tour this term with four top-30 finishes in his last five starts. Two of those have come at tree-lined tracks (Waialae and Riviera), and he is a player whose form does tend to follow him around given that he achieved three top-20s in the space of four weeks on the PGA TOUR last season. For what it’s worth and if you like these ‘local’ angles, Saunders was born in Orlando and still resides in St Augustine. Sam ranks 15th ON TOURin Birdie Average, 35th in Total Driving and 53rd in SG: Tee-to-Green (Risking 0.2 units to win 28 units).
Bryson DeChambeau 75-1
You get the sense that DeChambeau’s scientific approach to course management will work well around Copperhead, and a T27 return here 12 months ago was a small hint of what may follow in years to come here. The John Deere Classic winner is in reasonable form of late with a best of T5 at the Phoenix Open, but the 24-year-old is someone for whom form is not necessarily instructive: he won the JDC last season not long after missing eight straight cuts! We would expect DeChambeau to have a higher GIR count than most this week, and while he isn’t exactly the model putter who seems to favor Bentgrass, he does at least have a top-five finish to his name in his last three starts on Bermuda (Risking 2 units to win 15 units).
John Huh 100-1
In the space of 18 months from the beginning of 2012, John Huh won his maiden PGA TOUR title (in only his fifth start), bagged top-20s in two majors (the Masters and US Open) and was named PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year. Some players would have kicked on from that platform and established themselves as one of the best players in the game, but Huh struggled to replicate that early-career form and has since slid to 229 in the Official World Golf Rankings but he does occasionally show glimpses of his best form and in recent years Copperhead has been particularly kind to him with a formline of 9-22-33. So good results here, at Augusta and at Riviera a few weeks ago, where he finished T26 and ranked seventh for Strokes Gained: Approach, confirms that tree-laden layouts suit his eye, and for a player with six top-10 finishes to his name in the last three seasons, at this price, he’s worth a small wager (Risking 2 units to win 20 units).
Austin Cook 100-1
Austin Cook is making his debut here but he’s a high-class pro that is simply overpriced every week. Does 100-1 sound like the right price on a pro who won on the PGA Tour only seven starts ago, has since been a 54-hole leader and also notched a decent top-20 at the Sony? Cook is clearly a top prospect. In just 20 starts on the PGA Tour, he's made no fewer than 12 top-25s and won already. His game stats are equally impressive - ranking third for greens in regulation and sixth for scrambling amongst many elite fields over the past 12 months. That sort of golf will inevitably create plenty of chances in contention and is good enough for us. Cook also ranks 18th ON TOUR in Driving Accuracy, which is an important statistic for this event. There are so many pros at lower odds than Cook but we promise you that Cook will win an event long before any of those others will. He’s too good to ignore and we’ll therefore continue to get behind him at prices like this (Risking 0.2 units to win 20 units).
Dominic Bozzelli 100-1
The 26-year-old played outstandingly well here 12 months ago, sitting solo fourth at the 54-hole mark and finishing strongly to secure his first ever top-three finish on the PGA TOUR. He is somebody who seems to ricochet in and out of form seemingly at the drop of a hat, although Bozzelli has shown some inclination for playing well when conditions are at their toughest: that fine effort here a year ago backed by T26 at the Genesis Open and T13 at the Honda Classic in the past few weeks. Incidentally, Bozzelli has won on the Web.com Tour, so we don’t need to worry about his intestinal fortitude should he get into the mix, and – spoiler alert – that win in 2016 came at the same Corales Puntacana Resort that the PGA TOUR will visit in a couple of weeks with those not playing in the WGC Match Play. Bozzelli ranks 14th ON TOUR in Approaches from 50-125 Yards and he clearly likes this course (Risking 0.2 units to win 20).
Head-to-head Matchups for the WGC-Mexico Championship
HEAD-TO-HEAD MATCHUPS for the Valspar Championship
The quality of talent at this level is getting better every year and there are literally between 45 and 50 golfers every event that have a truly legit chance to win but we can’t bet them all. To pick a winner outright is a big time challenge but the real money in these events is in the head-to-head challenges and that’s where our bread and butter will be earned. We may post daily head-to-heads as well so keep your eye out for those. In the meantime, the H2H wagers below are for 72 holes:
#7004 Sergio Garcia +132 over Jordan Spieth
If there is a discernible link between Augusta and Copperhead, then Sergio is the play here. Of course, there is more to like about Sergio’s game than that solitary, albeit brilliant, victory, and a long record of success at tree-lined layouts is just the start. The Spaniard was well in the hunt at the WGC Mexico on Sunday until he concluded par-bogey-par, but that shouldn’t overshadow a decent week for the 38-year-old. It’s been a decent enough start to 2018 for Garcia, who won the semi-prestigious Singapore Open to go with his top-10 in Mexico, and as mentioned, he generally does the business on tree-lined layouts; winning at Augusta, Valderrama and Sheshan to name but a few. With doubts continuing as to Jordan Spieth’s putting stroke and erratic performances overall, Garcia could arguably be the favorite in this field but Spieth is 8½-1 while Garcia is 16-1. Both are too low but the market will see that and figure they’re getting a bargain with Spieth to beat Garcia when in fact they are not. Pinnacle is not in the habit of handing out money but they are in the habit of enticing the unsuspecting into making a bad wager. This is an example of that (Risking 2 units to win 2.64 units).
#7012 Adam Hadwin +112 over Tony Finau
Hadwin would have been on our picks to win this week but the 33-1 offering is not rich enough for us. The Canadian didn’t just win here 12 months ago he really won. Never lower than T2, Hadwin took the lead on Friday and never looked back; taking the title despite a bit of a wobble on Sunday, which was to be expected from a guy embarking on the biggest moment of his career. The manner in which he got the job done suggested that the 30-year-old has a bright future, and a pair of top-10s in WGC events since suggests that Hadwin could navigate his way to the upper echelons of the game. His form is heating up rather nicely too, with T6 at the Genesis Open backed by T9 in Mexico; capped by a fantastic weekend of 67-66. Everything is shaping in the right direction for Hadwin this week and while we like Finau, in a course that favors management over distance, Hadwin is the prudent choice here (Risking 2 units to win 2.24 units).
#7026 Byeong-Hun An +139 over Gary Woodland
Last week we faded Woodland in Mexico, citing his difficulties in tree-lined events and he didn’t disappoint by finishing with one of the worst four rounds in the field. Woodland usually avoids these type of events. No Dean & DeLuca, no Riviera other than a missed cut in 2013 and some awful returns at the Masters (missed cut last year in 2017 and missed cut in 2015), strongly suggests that Woodland is very uncomfortable in these tree-lined settings. Incidentally, he missed the Masters in 2016 but a research of his history shows an avoidance of playing when the fairways are heavily lined with trees like they are here. Since winning the Phoenix Open just over a month ago, Woodland has shown up in body only and he may just be keeping his clubs warm for the Masters.
Ever since he won the BMW PGA Championship on the European Tour at the tree-lined Wentworth, Byeong-Hun An has been one earmarked for success at a layout such as Copperhead. He chose not to play at Riviera and did not qualify for last week’s WGC Mexico on account of his world ranking of 86th, but you suspect the Korean would have enjoyed proceedings at both. Never mind, we’ll just have to back him this week at a course that should suit his precision-hitting game. An ranks 10th on Tour for Strokes Gained: Approach and 25th for SG: Tee-to-Green, and there’s decent form in the bank too with T5 at the Honda Classic (played at the tough PGA National) and T23 in the Phoenix Open. He’s hungrier than Woodland right now and he’s better suited for this course (Risking 2 units to win 2.78 units).
For Fantasy Players:
Horse for the Course: Sergio Garcia
We previewed Garcia in the H2H matchups and will stick with him as our horse in DFS. Garcia could arguably be the favorite in this field, so a salary of $10,900 is more than fair game. Key Stats:
Greens in Regulation – 69.44%
SG: Tee-to-Green – +1.381
SG: Approach-the-Green – +1.385
Others to consider
Here’s a guy who is capable of the odd moment of magic out on the golf course, and on tight stretches like Copperhead, his ability to fashion birdie chances gives him a clear edge. It certainly worked here in 2016, where he carded rounds of 69 and 68 – believe us, those are excellent numbers around this stretch – on his way to T22. He has another top-20 return here to his name in 2012, so clearly there is something about Copperhead that Reavie enjoys. His season started on fire but he’s fallen a bit off the radar the past couple of weeks, which opens the door to grab him here. Raevie has made the cut 21 times in a row and when he’s firing on all cylinders is a joy to behold.
If you need a pro at a low DFS price, O’Hair could be your guy. He withdrew here last year after two rounds due to a neck injury but he was in line to make the cut. O’Hair hasn’t missed a trip to Innisbrook in 13 years. The old-stager is a former winner of this event in 2008 and lost out on a playoff in 2015, so clearly it is a stretch he enjoys playing. There is enough form at this course to add him to your DFS roster and it’s also worth noting that he was 70-1 to win this event last year so he is clearly underpriced at 250-1 this year. We doubt he’ll win but he likes this course and could fill out your lineup nicely.
At a course where keeping the ball in play is crucial, you would think that Kyle Stanley would be in his element. But there’s a reason why a player ranked 55th in the world, who won on Tour less than six months ago and who made it all the way to the TOUR Championship in the race for the FedExCup, is priced so low on DFS charts. There are reasonable enough concerns about form – 25-MC-MC-51-10 doesn’t get the pulse racing, and course form of 27-53-MC-MC is equally alarming but the bottom line is that this is a guy who, last season, served up five top-10s and 12 top-25s. He is a much, much better player than that $7,200 price tag indicates and if buying low is your thing, this is your guy.
Greens in Regulation – 7th
Driving Accuracy – 8th
SG: Tee-to-Green – 89th
Yeah, he’s worth it.
TOTAL risk for this week is 7 units and we'll update it once the event is official.
5 golfers to win outright @ 0.2 units each = -1 unit
#7004 Sergio Garcia +132 over Jordan Spieth = +2.64 units
#7012 Adam Hadwin +112 over Tony Finau = +2.24 units'
Note: Our wager of Byeong-Hun An +139 over Gary Woodland was a push as both missed the cut with an identical score of +4
Therefore 4.88 units in wins - 1 unit in losses = a net profit of 3.88 units for this event.
Open an account today at Pinnacle Sports
They offer win-only odds in the outrights and for the PGA, European, Champions and LPGA Tours only, but they make up for this in terms of value in their matchups. They consistently offer unique tournament matchups for the PGA which at 10-20 cent lines and no ties are the best on offer in the business.
Valspar Championship (Risking 7 units - To Win: 0.00)