Close but no cigar for Rory last week! Gil Hanse made Doral great again, but Rory is still searching for that lost greatness early in the season. Now let’s talk about this week’s venue.
Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort is the definition of a classical layout. It’s a par 71 track (4 par 5s though) that stretches out at about 7,340 yards. With 2,330 of those yards coming at the par 5s, the remaining holes average just 358 yards. The defense of the golf course comes in it’s layout and the wind. Multiple dog-legs and trees-lined fairways force golfers to think twice about pulling the driver out of the bag.
That means positioning off the tee is more important than distance this week. We should also note the restoration done to the course since last year’s edition. The image above is the 14th green as recent as last June. They’ve relaid all the greens, replacing overseeded Bermuda with some fresh TifEagle Bermuda. We’ve seen in the past that sometimes new greens take a year or two to get broken in. That could mean tough-to-hit, firm greens this week, putting an emphasis on scrambling.
It also shakes up some course history stats. You may want to go back and flag any course horses that previously gained a fair amount of strokes with the putter here. They may not replicate that success on the new green surfaces. You can view this video for some additional information about the restoration project.
Head over to the Valspar Fantasy Golfanac for more information on the course and tournament history as well.
Players to Watch
Henrik Stenson… On a “down” week he still finished T28 at Doral. The guy is a staple in the top 25, regardless of the field depth. This week, it’s not so deep, and the course sets up perfectly for the Swede. He doesn’t rely on distance off the tee, but he has plenty of power which will be showcased with his long irons. Very pivotal around Copperhead. It’s also worth noting that Stenson cited the ease of scrambling around these greens. Good to see that kind of confidence with the grass surfaces. As an Orlando resident, it was shocking that he waited so long to play this event (last year’s 4th place was his debut). I don’t see why he can’t repeat that effort this week.
Graeme McDowell… Another Orlando man, it’s equally as shocking that G-Mac is playing this event for the first time. Of course, scheduling is always an issue, but McDowell fits the mold of this course to a tee. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him duplicate the performance that Stenson had in his debut (top 5). At the same time, it’s not always easy to figure out a course your first time around.
Jordan Spieth… As the defending champ, this would be a good time for him to get his motor started back up. Spieth is not exactly slouching, but he’s still considered to be in a slump by the incredibly high standards he set for himself last year. On a course that requires precision with the mid-to-long irons and/or putting, Spieth immediately jumps to the top.
Gary Woodland… Just like Spieth, his Under Armour teammate is also a past winner here. He doesn’t mind clubbing down one bit, and is solid in the approach game. I think the difference between a top 30 and contention this week will come down to the flat stick.
Ryan Palmer… A last-minute addition to his schedule. That lets us know that he’s playing for something. As World No. 67 currently, he’s on the border of the Dell Match Play event that takes place in a few weeks. What I really think his goal is though would be the top 50. Palmer has four weeks to crack the top 50 to earn a spot in the Masters. It helps that he’s great on bermuda and won’t mind if the wind picks up.
Will Wilcox… The Wave God has gained 2 or more strokes over the field in 15-of-51 rounds on Less-than-Driver courses. That’s 30%, which is not the best but it’s certainly very good. Considering his price and ability to rack up birdies quickly, I really hope Wilcox gives up the go ahead to send via Twitter.
Cameron Smith… The Aussie is another guy that could benefit from a less-than-driver venue like this. Sure, he contending at Chambers Bay, one of the longest layouts ever, but that took his A++++ game. In reality he averages just 287 yards off the tee, ranking 147th on TOUR. His only top 25 of the season came at Pebble Beach, where the field average driving distance was just 271 yards. [insert Aussie accent] Give em a shot, mate.
Luke Donald… I think it goes without saying, but I’ll say it. When Luke Donald is in the field at Innisbrook, you play him! Four top 10s in his last five starts here, including the 2012 victory. Sure he let us down a few weeks ago as a course horse, but the Englishman doesn’t get too many courses like this each year, so he has to take advantage while he can. Should grab a top 15 this week.
Patrick Reed… We talked about the course restoration that included fresh greens. Who won the Doral the year after they put in new greens? This guy! If the greens are firm and tough to stick, then scrambling will be a key factor, and Reed thrives on that kind of layout. He’s really disappointed a lot of owners over the past few weeks, which should make him a great GPP play on DraftKings.
Harris English… Despite his weekend mediocrity, English continues to rack up the DK scores. Over the past 10 weeks of PGA TOUR play, he’s gained 31.050 strokes over the field in 24 rounds, only Jason Dufner and Freddie Jacobson have more during that stretch. Add in the fact that he won the Southern Am here back in the day, and he should be in for another solid week. Obviously we’re not banking on that finish when he was an amateur, so it’s good to see the comfort has carried over, and he’s racked up two top 10s here in four tries.
Zac Blair… I gotta sneaky suspicion that Blair flies way under the radar this week. He really shouldn’t on a course like Copperhead that doesn’t require distance and demands a good short game.
Matt Every… I tried every tactic I could to remove Every from my final list of targets. I narrowed my list down to 53 golfers this week and Every is one of them. He loves bermuda and loves courses that take driver out of your hand. You could say that his success at the API leads to these stats being inflated. I took out the API victories, and Every is still nearly half a stroke better per round (compared to his typical performance) on both angles. The man remains a WD risk and DFL risk, but he’s also a solid GPP play this week, IMO.
Danny Willett… He’s a world-class player and showed as much last week. Now he’s priced incredibly high on DraftKings, and will be fresh on people’s minds. If Willett would have been priced over $10,000 last week he would have been under 2 percent owned. Now after one good week he may eclipse 10 or 15% at that price. That means he won’t be featured in many of my lineups this week. Decent option in other formats though.
Valspar Cheatsheet… Head over to Daily Fantasy Solutions and grab this week’s DraftKings cheatsheet for FREE! Yup, the cheatsheet will be made available for free this week, so come check that out this week! It will go live mid-to-late Tuesday.
My Top 25 for the 2016 Valspar Championship
1. Jordan Spieth
2. Henrik Stenson
3. Luke Donald
4. Matt Kuchar
5. Patrick Reed
6. Gary Woodland
7. Kevin Na
8. Bill Haas
9. Webb Simpson
10. Jason Dufner
11. Harris English
12. Graeme Mcdowell
13. Ryan Palmer
14. Danny Willett
15. Cameron Smith
16. Will Wilcox
17. Charl Schwartzel
18. Si Woo Kim
19. Branden Grace
20. Ryan Moore
21. Francesco Molinari
22. Russell Knox
23. Cameron Tringale
24. Kevin Streelman
25. Charles Howell III
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