We are ready to move past the WGC: Mexico Championship last weekend where “illness avoidance” was necessary as a key statistic and the altitude in Florida will not require caddies to take out their calculators.
For those that have read the 2017 Valspar Championship content posted on Sunday, there are a few key statistics that we will be focusing on when selecting our core group of players. Keep in mind that this is not your average Par 71 course. There are 5 par 3’s and 4 par 5’s at Copperhead. Of the par 3’s, only one of them plays under 200 yards. This is going to put a heavy emphasis on the long iron play. The key statistics we will be looking at with this regard is Greens in Regulation and proximity from 200-225. Players having a strong long iron game will have great success at Copperhead.
The Par 4’s throughout the Florida swing do not create as many birdie opportunities as we have been seeing in the tournaments leading up to the Sunshine state (i.e. Hawaii, California and TPC of Scottsdale). With tougher Par 4 scoring we are not going to weight driving distance as heavy this week. It will be more crucial to focus on GIR and Strokes Gained (SG): tee to green.
The weather for Thursday and Friday is looking ideal. Winds near the coast are pretty common in FL this time of year but it does not look like it will have an impact this weekend. There won’t be an edge for picking a certain wave of players on Thursday/Friday. Just pick the best golfer, easy as that.
Our Core of Players
Henrik Stenson ($11,700): The early consensus is that even a first round WD at a no cut event won’t turn people off of Stenson. Stenson checks the box in almost every category we are emphasizing this week. The GIR and SG: Tee to Green is simply too impressive to ignore. Our general game theory is that if a player you like is going to be chalky, you must be twice the field to have an advantage. Side note: you can drink the tap water in Florida. Load up on Stenson this week, he should be able to get back to shooting darts on the greens this week.
Bill Haas ($9,200): With an unusual 5 par 3’s in play, why not take one of the best Par 3 specialists in the game? His last two attempts at Copperhead have resulted in a playoff loss to Schwartzl last year and a 14th back in 2014. Pretty impressive for that course history we were emphasizing. Haas comes into the event in great recent form and is the top ranked player in the world in scrambling. Prior to the WGC-Mexico, Haas rolled out 6, yes 6, top 20’s in a row. Not only can Haas dominate the Par 3’s, he is also top 20 in SG: Tee to Green. Don’t be afraid to roll out some Haas this week.
Gary Woodland ($8,900): Woodland checks the boxes in GIR, scrambling, SG: tee to green and proximity 200-225 yards. He played great at the Honda Classic with a T2 finish. He won this event in 2011 so you know he is comfortable with this course.
Charles Howell III ($9,400): CHIII recent form really stands out to us. In the FantasyLabs model he has exceeded salary expectation in 8 of his last 10 events and has not missed a cut since last October. He has elite course history here and ranks near the top in GIR (15th) and scrambling. The one red flag with CHIII is his driving accuracy at 53%, but due to his scrambling he can recover from his tee shots if he finds the rough. This may not even be an issue as players will find themselves clubbing down to increase their accuracy.
Graham DeLaet – ($8,400): Graham DeLaet, EH? This Canadian is really starting to make a name for himself. Not only is he a course horse, he is also entering the tournament in great recent form. DeLaet has posted 3 top-20’s in his past 3 attempts. He has been near the top of the leaderboard the past few weeks and that victory is coming one of these weekends. The Canadian has been on a tear and I don’t see it stopping at Valspar. The $8,400 price tag is simply too cheap in a weaker field.
Jason Dufner ($7,900): Here we have another guy in just great recent form and is completely mispriced this week. In Dufner’s last 7 tournaments he has finished top 25 in 6 of them. He has elite course history at Copperhead – since 2010 he has finished no worse than 28th. Dufner is such a solid golfer all around, he checks the boxes in all the key metrics we are looking for this week.
Others to consider: Patrick Reed, Russell Henley, Wesley Bryan and Kyle Stanley
Byeong Hun-An ($7,400): The first Dark Horse of the week is the one and only Ben An. He has been close to winning this year but just needs to close it out on Sunday. An checks the box in SG: Tee to Green. He is ranked 29th coming into the tournament. Although An lacks the course history we are looking for, he makes up for this with his SG: Tee to Green. While An may have solid SG: Tee to Green and Par3 statistics, it might be a roller coaster watching An as he lacks in bogey avoidance and proximity from 200-225. I’ll take my chances and buckle up for the ride.
Billy Horschel ($7,900): Billy Ho the ol’ Florida Gator. He plays comfortably in Florida and comes off a nice T4 finish at the Honda Classic two weeks ago. Horschel leads the PGA Tour in GIR with DJ and Spieth just behind him in that category. He also finished 2nd in tee to green at Honda Classic. Checking the box in multiple categories and playing back in Florida, Billy Ho is our other dark horse this week.
Others to consider: CT Pan, Steve Stricker
Chalk to Fade
Matt Kuchar ($10,400) – Yes, Kuchar provides you that “safety” you want in a cash game play. I am not advising you against playing Kuchar in a cash game. However, in a large field GPP, simply making the cut isn’t going to provide you with that upside needed to win. Also, the last two times Kuchar was priced above 10k, he managed to miss the cut (Safeway Open and RSM Classic). I would simply rather pay up for Stenson who has that upside to win.