Things we have learned in 2017:
- Dustin Johnson is not just a “bomber” anymore. The dude has an all-around game that is just further supplemented by his ability to drive the ball far. There is a reason he is officially now the number 1 golfer in the world.
- Alexander Noren is not Tyrrell Hatton. No matter what every other DFS insider says, Hatton’s game is on a better level – at least right now than Noren.
- Big name + first calendar event played = WD – looking at you Grace and Stenson…
- There is something supremely wrong with the 2017 versions of Russell Knox, Patrick Reed, and Kevin Chappell.
- The top ranked golfers, especially of the younger variety, have showed up to play this season, and do not want to share the wins with anyone else. This might push you toward stars + scrubs lineups, or at least making sure you anchor each lineup with one of the top names.
Now onto the preview of THE VALSPAR CHAMPIONSHIP (We previously got our calendars mixed up and said this week was the Arnold Palmer Invitational instead of next). The Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort hosts this too-often overlooked tournament, because it is purely underrated for the quality of course.
A par 71, Copperhead is known as one of the tougher tests on the PGA Tour, especially the final stretch that is so challenging it was dubbed “the Snake Pit” (not that coming up with catchy nicknames for a stretch of holes is a new concept *cough* Amen Corner *cough* Bear Trap *cough* Green Mile *cough* Blue Monster *cough* I hope you get the idea).
Any who… This tournament is a fun and fair contest that never gets the strength of field it deserves, thanks to a pair of WGC events, the PGAs tribute to Arnold Palmer, and prep for the season’s quickly approaching first major causing many of the elite to circle this week as a perfect week off from golf. The result of a weaker field is that there will be some especially chalky picks, which is reflected a little bit in our advice below, as we are not going to be the fools who overthink our lineups, pass on obvious choices, and get burned on the weekend.
So with that, here is what we’re thinking for the Valspar:
Pick of The Week
Ryan Moore $9,000 – I had Ryan Moore pegged for a solid 2017 season, and I think he starts to get that going at the Valspar. Moore has gone back-to-back top-10s here in the past two years, and I think he can get it done again in 2017. He had a quietly good wrap around season, and I’m throwing out the cut at Riviera, and chalking it up to weather. Driving accuracy is what shows up the most for his stats, in terms of where he’s been shining. On a difficult course, I think Moore has all the tools, and the history to put together a solid performance at Innisbrook.
Graham DeLaet $8,400 – The Canadian is skating his way into my pick of the week (see what I did there) because of the sneaky good golf he is playing of late. DeLaet has made four cuts in a row, and hasn’t finished outside the top 20 since January (in three tries).
One thing you look for in fantasy golf is when course history collides with recent form, setting off fantasy fireworks, as the metaphor might go. Well, DeLaet combines the form described above with two top 10s and one top 20 in his three previous starts. When it comes to the volatile DeLaet, the plan could always backfire, but I am still going to take the reassuring resume on this one.
Thick Steak Plays
Bill Haas $9,200 – Haas to me is a “can’t miss play” this week, which probably means he’ll shoot an 82 and withdraw — based on other “can’t miss plays,” like Grace and Stenson. Haas checks all the boxes in regard to Copperhead. After finishing 2nd in a playoff, I think Haas will be hungry to seal the deal this year. He hasn’t missed a cut and should be a staple in most cash lineups. The thing that’s great about Haas is that he is a GIR maker, and when he’s not hitting greens, he can back it up with being the #1 scrambler.
Matt Kuchar $10,200 – Kuch is the only other guy I like in this high range, and it’s mainly because he’s played this event every year since 2011 without missing a cut. He’s got some stats to back it up too, including scrambling, and driving accuracy. With how Kuch has been playing this year, and his dramatic price increase, I like Kuch to be a solid play with lower ownership.
Henrik Stenson $11,700 – I originally thought Stenson would be a great play from an ownership standpoint. His WD in Mexico burned an exorbitant number of players, and likely incited fears of a nagging or serious injury. However, it was well-reported that Stenson’s reason for withdrawing was a stomach issue, and that fact was reinforced when PGATour.com’s Rob Bolton made Stenson his number one on the power rankings this week. So instead of Stenson being a sneaky play, I see him instead as a defensive play, as I do like the Swede to bounce back and return to his usual, elite ball striking ways.
Matt Kuchar $10,200 – Here is something I usually try to avoid, repeating a pick of Jon’s. I just couldn’t get around it this week though, as I was highly considering Kuchar to be my pick of the week. Circle the last two words of Jon’s breakdown: low ownership. A big reason why I love Kuchar this week is the strategy side of it. With the firepower of Justin Thomas and Henrik Stenson, compared to the relative weakness of the remaining field, I see A LOT of lineups moving past Kuchar. Given his identity as one of the most consistent finishers on the PGA, I will take what other DK players leave me.
Middle of the Road
Luke Donald $7,800 – Donald is my sneaky play this week. He seemingly loves this course, and has been having a quietly solid year. Donald has been lights out with his putter, and I think that will be what separates him this time around. He also has the added bonus of being a winner here, back in 2012 when it was The Transitions Championship.
Jim Furyk $7,200 – Furyk seems like kind of a no-brainer at $7,200. He’s got good course history here, and also has the stats — albeit a limited number of recorded rounds — to back it up. He’s a great scrambler, and his short game in general is something he can lean on. I like the Furyk pick in both cash and GPP
Russell Henley $7,700 – People sometimes forget the talent that Russell Henley has and has shown on tour since winning the Sony Open in his 2013 pro debut. He followed that up by surviving a 4-man playoff at the Honda Classic in 2014, beating the likes of Ryan Palmer, Russell Knox, and another R-named golfer you’ve probably heard of, Rory McIlroy.
After that second win, Henley was just ahead of the pace of Jordan Spieth, who was in his second season and would later earn his second PGA win. Needless to say, the golfing careers have taken different turns, as Henley has not won again since, but this shows you just how much talent the former Georgia Bulldog has.
His Achilles-heel has been streaky play, which bodes well for Henley this week, because he is atop the stat pages in strokes-gained putting, par-breaker %, and overall birdie numbers. Hopefully the preferred Bermuda greens will get Henley back into the win column here.
Adam Hadwin $6,800 – Jon will go on to reference his support for Hadwin despite his course history being “patently disgusting.” I think that is a bit of an overreaction because he’s such a young golfer… However, it is true that Hadwin has yet to figure out Copperhead after two tries. What I like is that he finally broke 70 on Friday last year, albeit it followed a Thursday 79 that essentially eliminated him from the cut.
Hadwin, like DeLaet (and I just realized I’m leaning on the Canadians this week – must be a fellow snow bird, mutual understanding kind of thing), comes in with great form. Hadwin, in fact, has yet to miss a cut since the season opener. So when you cannot align recent form with course history, I lean a little more often toward strong recent form.
Tom’s Fade of the Week
Charl Schwartzel $8,800 – Take the rationale above: Recent form > course history. Schwartzel has looked plain-bad in his one European Tour and three PGA Tour events in 2017. Not to mention, his history at this tournament is nonexistent outside of an unexpected win here last year. So as a defending champion, I think Schwartzel fits the perfect category as one to fade. Especially after you look through the South African’s career and see that it is really just comprised of his fluky Masters win in 2011 and his fluky win here last season. And really his European Tour history, though bolstered with a few more wins, is nothing to get too excited about.
Wow… I think I just sold myself on the argument that Charl Schwartzel is the most overrated golfer in the world (shots fired, cue the PGATour.com survey and puff piece), but for the sake of this article that is a moot point. For now I will just consider him to be a justifiable fade of the week.
Here’s Your Flyer
Robert Garrigus $6,800 – I can’t even believe I’m writing this, and let me also premise this by saying there are A LOT of good players in the 7-8k range, and the only reason to play Garrigus would be to differentiate yourself in a GPP. THIS IS NOT A SAFE CASH PLAY. I was between Garrigus and Hadwin this week, and Hadwin’s course history here is patently disgusting. Garrigus however, has notched two top 10’s in the past five years. If he’s going to contend it’s going to be because of his GIR%, and the fact that he can stick it close to the hole. Again, I can’t believe I’ve written Garrigus’ name down, so take it for what you will, but here is your flyer of the week.