This article is part of our FanDuel PGA series.
Course: Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort (7,340 yards, par 71)
Winner: $1,242,000 and 500 FedExCup points
The Valspar Championship has routinely been part of the early season Florida Swing, however, this year it has been moved nearly two months later. Why? Well prior to the cancelled 2020 edition, the Valspar found itself locked between some big events and that led many of the top players to just take a week off. It was a real shame because prior to the last edition in 2019, the fields felt like they just kept getting better each year. The Copperhead Course is without a doubt one of the favorites amongst players on Tour, so it's good to this event be put in a better spot on the schedule where several top ranked players are able to compete. Four of the top-10 in OWGR are in the field this week, led by World No. 1 Dustin Johnson. It is Justin Thomas, however, who is the betting favorite. Englishman Paul Casey will be looking for the rare three-peat of a PGA Tour event. It would be the first three-peat of an event since Steve Stricker won three in a row at the John Deere Classic from 2009-11. Innisbrook has routinely been one of the toughest challenges on Tour, and as evidence the winning score has been lower than 10-under-par just once in the last seven editions. It also always seems to come down to the wire here, as the margin of victory has been just one stroke or a playoff in 10 of the last 11 events. The weather looks very promising for the tournament with temperatures in the low-80's and a limited threat of precipitation throughout the event. With firm conditions and constant breezes, don't expected Vijay Singh's record winning score of 18-under-par to be threatened this week.
2019 – Paul Casey (-8)
2018 – Paul Casey (-10)
2017 – Adam Hadwin (-14)
2016 – Charl Schwartzel (-7)
2015 – Jordan Spieth (-10)
2014 – John Senden (-7)
2013 – Kevin Streelman (-10)
2012 – Luke Donald (-13)
2011 – Gary Woodland (-15)
2010 – Jim Furyk (-13)
Key Stats to Victory
- SG: Approach
- GIR Percentage
- SG: Off-the-Tee
One peak at the list of Champions here since it's inaugural event back in 2000 and you will quickly discover that the emphasis at Innisbrook is on ball striking. The greens are definitely on the smaller end for the PGA Tour, so precise iron players are going to be what you are looking for this week. With five par-3's, that makes approach numbers all the more important. Second in order of importance for me at the Copperhead course will be driving. It's not overly long, but angles play a big factor and some of the holes have a tendency to squeeze some of the bombers. The rough will be up to around three inches this week, which is about the highest the players have seen since the Honda Classic over a month ago. As with any course with small greens, scrambling numbers have to be included in the equation. There's some really difficult up and downs that players will find themselves in this week and those with the best touch around the greens will give them the best chance to save a par. These bermuda greens will be prepped to run at about 12.5 on the Stimpmeter. It always help to have a hot putter, but Paul Casey was just 43rd in SG: Putting in his victory back in 2019. Meanwhile, he led the field in total driving and SG: Tee-to-green. To keep it pretty simple, you're not winning at Innisbrook if you aren't hitting the ball very well.
FanDuel Value Picks
Paul Casey ($11,400)
Very little can top when a player feels confidence at a certain course and the two-time defending champion has that. Just thinking about his game, Casey is a perfect fit for Innisbrook. He's one of the best ball strikers on Tour and his short game and putting has come along as he has aged. The Englishman has four top-10s so far in 2021.
Corey Conners ($11,300)
Conners just continues to impress this season. He is coming off a T4 at the RBC Heritage, which was his fifth top-15 in his last six starts. The Canadian led after the first three rounds in his only other appearance here back in 2018 before a final-round 77 regulated to a T16. Top-15 on Tour this season in SG: Off-the-tee, SG: Approach, SG: Tee-to-Green, SG: Total, driving accuracy, and GIR percentage.
Jason Kokrak ($10,600)
Innisbrook has been one of Kokrak's best courses on the PGA Tour. Over the last six editions of the Valspar Championship, Kokrak owns four top-15s, including a runner-up in 2019. The 35-year-old has always been a great ball striker, but his putter has taken him to the next level. This season he ranks 18th in SG: Off-the-Tee, 21st in SG: Putting, and 24th in GIR percentage.
Russell Henley ($10,500)
I said iron play will be the most important factor this week and Henley might very well be the best on Tour in that department over the past couple years. This season he ranks fourth in SG: Approach, 11th in SG: Tee-to-Green, seventh in GIR percentage, and second in proximity to the hole. He's also fifth in scrambling and 10th in three-putt avoidance. Henley has finished T3-T9 in his last two stroke play events and finished top-10 here back in 2017.
Longer Shots with Value
Emiliano Grillo ($9,800)
Grillo is red-hot right now, with finishes of T6-T2 in his last two events. He has a total of eight top-25s this season already. Grillo can struggle with the putter, but his ball-striking is so strong. He ranks 10th in SG: Off-the-Tee, 23rd in SG: Approach, second in GIR percentage, and first in proximity to the hole. He surprisingly has played the Valspar Championship only once, but this course sets up great for his skill set.
Keegan Bradley ($9,700)
Bradley tied his best finish of the season last week at the Zurich Classic with a T4. It was also the seventh straight made cut in a row for the 34-year-old. Much like Grillo, Bradley struggles with his putting but his ball striking is so strong. He ranks eighth in SG: Approach and 10th in SG: Tee-to-Green. Bradley is also top-45 in both SG: Off-the-Tee and SG: Around-the-Green.
Charl Schwartzel ($8,900)
Schwartzel is coming off a runner-up at the Zurich Classic with fellow countryman Louis Oosthuizen. He comes to a course in Innisbrook where he has a win back in 2016 and a T6 back in 2017. Schwartzel ranks 10th for the season in SG: Around-the-Green, and his ball-striking is improving as of late.
Matthew NeSmith ($8,700)
NeSmith profiles as a great value pick this week for Innisbrook. He ranks ninth in SG: Approach, 29th in SG: Tee-to-Green, and third in GIR percentage. NeSmith already has six top-25s this season, which is more than he had all of last season. If the 27-year-old can just have an average putting week, he should have a pretty good chance at a strong finish at this course.
Strategy Tips This Week
Based on a Standard $60K Salary Cap
With Justin Thomas ($12,300) and Dustin Johnson ($12,200) sitting $700 and $600 respectively over the third ranked player in the field this week, I just don't see any value there for the top two ranked players in the OWGR. The real meat this week in my opinion is sitting between $9,500 and $10,500. There are so many options in which I did not even mention above in that range that I think would be very strong additions to your lineup at Innisbrook. Cameron Tringale, Charley Hoffman, Ryan Palmer, and Chris Kirk just to name a few. The more strong approach players you can get on your roster this week, the better.