This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
Winner's Share: $1.242M
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the Winner
Location: Palm Harbor, FL
Course: Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club (Copperhead)
2020 champion: None
The Florida Swing has already swung, but the PGA Tour is returning to the Sunshine State for one final time in 2020-21. Unfortunately for Valspar tournament organizers, not many of the top players bought a round-trip ticket. While four of the top-10 in the world are on hand, including Nos. 1 and 2 in Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas, just eight of the top-25 and 18 of the top-50 are in the field of 156. In years past there had been 144, but until now the tournament had been played in March since 2007.
The Valspar field has never been overly strong, even before the schedule was rejiggered a few years ago (it was not played last year because of the pandemic). The move to late April-early May may have been designed in part to help a longstanding title sponsor but it didn't work out that way this year. You no longer have to look too far ahead to find the next big event on the PGA Tour calendar. We now begin the run-up to the PGA Championship, with next week's wildly popular Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow serving as the primary tuneup for the year's second major two weeks later.
Besides Johnson and Thomas, Nos. 7 and 8 Patrick Reed and Tyrrell Hatton fill out the top-10 contingent. Viktor Hovland, Sungjae Im, Scottie Scheffler and Paul Casey round out the top-25 entries. With Casey the two-time defending champion, he is the lone Valspar champion since Adam Hadwin in 2017. Phil Mickelson is back for the first time since 2004.
Maybe the difficulty of the course contributes to golfers staying away. Copperhead was the sixth-hardest course on Tour in both 2018 and 2019, when Casey's winning scores were 10- and 8-under. Charl Schwartzel won in 2016 at 4-under. It's one thing to get beaten up by a U.S. Open track, but why endure that in a regular Tour event?
Copperhead, the only course the tournament has ever known since arriving in 2000, is not your traditional Florida track. It's extremely narrow, tree-lined and situated on the west coast by the Gulf of Mexico. It's also an oddity for a par-71 in that there are five par-3s and four par-5s. But even with all those par-5s, the Valspar traditionally ranks near the bottom in birdies and eagles. Par is a good score on most holes, and there is no dishonor in simply trying to avoid bogey. Long iron play, along with scrambling and putting inside 10 feet, rule the roost here. The bermudagrass greens are moderate in size, averaging just under 6,000 square feet. There are about 75 bunkers and water on half the holes.
The hardest hole traditionally is the 475-yard 16th, the entry point to the famed Snake Pit. Then comes the 215-yard 17th before the 445-yard 18th ends one of the hardest three-hole stretches on Tour. They all play over par and, if the golfers aren't careful, way over par.
Weather-wise, temperatures should be in the 80s most of the week, and there's a chance of rain every day, though right now it doesn't seem to rise to the level of stacking a lineup based on tee times. Wind will be moderate but what's interesting is it is forecast to come predominantly out of the south the first two days before switching to the north on the weekend.
Fun Innisbrook factoid: Courtesy of the official golf course superintendents sheet, we learned that "Wildlife on course includes raccoons, bald eagles, coyotes, fox squirrel (unique at Innisbrook), alligators, turtles, snakes." Of course, snakes.
Key Stats to Winning at Copperhead
The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key Stats" follow in importance.
• Strokes Gained: Approach/Greens in Regulation (175-200 yards)
• Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green/Scrambling
• Strokes Gained: Putting/Putting Inside 10 Feet
• Bogey Avoidance
If ever there was a tournament where shorter hitters can prosper, this is it. Just look above at the past 10 champions. Only Woodland would be considered a long hitter. Copperhead may technically be long at more than 7,300 yards for a par-71. But there are a bunch of dog legs to stifle distance, not to mention five par-3s (Interestingly, the course considers its signature hole to be the 590-yard, double-dog-leg 14th, not one of the Snake Pit trio). We're looking at quality long iron players who are happy to play it safe. Casey and Hadwin are Exhibits 1 and 1A. This is one of the hardest tracks for greens in regulation, which brings scrambling into play. And more often than not, great putting has translated into success at Copperhead, especially from inside 10 feet. Casey is not a great putter but, combined with his tee-to-green expertise, he's obviously good enough. In 2019, we did see some big hitters creep onto the first page of the leaderboard – Jason Kokrak, Bubba Watson, Jon Rahm and Dustin Johnson – and even Casey kicked into a near gear, ranking 11th in driving distance at 306 yards. He was also fifth in greens in regulation, seventh in SG: Approach and first in SG: Tee-to-Green. That allowed him to repeat despite ranking only 43rd in the field in SG: Putting.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS
Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap
Let's start off by saying that this is a great week to avoid the highest-priced guys and fill your lineup from the $7,500-$9,500 range.
Tier 1 Values
Justin Thomas - $11,500 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 9-1)
Even though Thomas is first on Tour in birdie average, he's well-equipped to dial it down off the tee and play conservatively. He played the Valspar from 2015-17, finishing T10-T18-MC.
Paul Casey - $10,000 (20-1)
This one is relatively easy: he has won the tournament two times running and has been outstanding in 2021.
Corey Conners - $9,600 (20-1)
Conners is ranked 10th on Tour in bogey avoidance, a position achieved thanks to improved putting. He played the Valspar well even before discovering success on the greens, tying for 16th in 2018.
Louis Oosthuizen - $9,500 (30-1)
Oosthuizen has never won in the States. He came close last week and he came close at the last Valspar, tying for second behind Casey. He was also 16th in 2018 and seventh in 2016. Oosthuizen is ranked first on Tour in putting from inside 10 feet.
Tier 2 Values
Sungjae Im - $9,200 (30-1)
This course sets up pretty darn near-perfect for Im, who tied for fourth in his lone Valspar in 2019. He ranks second on Tour in greens in regulation from 175-200 yards and is 18th in bogey avoidance. Im tied for eighth at another beastly Florida track a couple of months ago at the Honda.
Jason Kokrak - $8,700 (30-1)
Kokrak has been a staple on the first page of the Copperhead leaderboard – and that was before he suddenly learned how to putt. Kokrak ranks an impressive 21st in SG: Putting this season. He was co-runner-up in 2019, tied for eighth in 2018 and T7 in 2015. While Copperhead is not a traditional Florida track, Kokrak finished top-10 in all three Florida Swing events he entered earlier this season, including THE PLAYERS.
Emiliano Grillo - $8,300 (50-1)
Grillo has made quite an OWGR leap in just the first four months of 2021, soaring from 156th to 78th. He tied for second last time out at the RBC Heritage. Grillo is ranked second on Tour in greens in regulation and third in bogey avoidance. He's played the Valspar only once, missing the cut six years ago.
Chris Kirk - $8,200 (50-1)
Kirk does not have a good track record at Copperhead, but that hasn't seemed to matter in 2021. Kirk is playing well most everywhere, with four top-8s already this year, including his past two times out. He's in the top-65 in every strokes-gained category and is 18th in bogey avoidance.
Tier 3 Values
Talor Gooch - $8,000 (80-1)
Gooch has had a couple of marquee finishes the past few months, tying for 12th at Riviera and for fifth at THE PLAYERS. He's a good fit here as well, ranked 40th in bogey avoidance and 34th in GIR 175-200.
Sam Burns - $7,900 (60-1)
We're ready to jump back on the Sam Burns train. He had a good and potentially invaluable week playing alongside Billy Horschel at the Zurich, where they tied for fourth. Burns finished 30th at the Valspar in 2019 and 12th the year before.
Charles Howell III - $7,700 (100-1)
Howell tied for ninth at THE PLAYERS and notched a top-20 last time out at the RBC Heritage. He's ranked 15th on Tour in bogey avoidance. Howell has made his past five Valspar cuts, including a nice stretch from 2014-16 when he finished T14-T10-T5.
Doug Ghim - $7,300 (100-1)
Ghim is ranked 27th in SG: Approach and 18th in SG: Tee-to-Green in advance of his first Valspar. He's made seven of 10 cuts so far in 2021, cutting his world ranking almost in half, from around 400 to start the year to 221st today.
Matthew NeSmith - $7,100 (125-1)
This Value Pick staple has made four straight cuts and eight of his past 10. NeSmith is ranked third on Tour in greens in regulation.
Charl Schwartzel - $7,100 (100-1)
Schwartzel is coming off a near-miss paired with Louis Oosthuizen at last week's Zurich Classic of New Orleans. He's ranked fourth on Tour in greens in regulation from 175-200, which makes sense for someone who won this event in 2016. He has made his past four cuts.
James Hahn - $6,900 (150-1)
Hahn has not played since withdrawing at the Honda with a rib injury (so he should be low owned). He tied for 41st when he last played the Valspar in 2017. Hahn is ranked 27th on Tour in bogey avoidance and 20th in GIR 175-200.
Chase Seiffert - $6,600 (200-1)
Seiffert is becoming a bit of a go-to play for us, especially since he's seemingly entrenched in the mid-$6,000s. He is ranked 20th on Tour in bogey avoidance and 73rd in GIR 175-200. Seiffert has made his past six cuts. Included in that is a tie for third at the Honda.