Analysis and write-up provided by KendoVT. Don’t forget to scroll to the bottom to see each player’s tournament history.
The PGA Tour moves to Tampa Bay this week for the Valspar Championship which will be played on The Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort. The Copperhead Course is a 7,340 yard par 71 with FIVE par 3s and four par 5s. The course is usually one of the most difficult par 71 tracks on Tour. It is known for the Snake Pit, a very tough three hole stretch (16, 17, 18) that will probably decide the winner come Sunday. Copperhead is deceptively long. Four of the five par 3s are over 200 yards, all the par 5s are over 550 yards, and only one par 4 is under 420 yards. Add the fact that driver off the tee is not a good play on most holes and the course becomes a daunting task with positioning and long iron play being a key to success.
Off the tee golfers will be challenged with tight tree lined fairways, massive doglegs, thick rough, elevation changes, and bunkers and water in play on some of the holes. The average driving distance at Copperhead is one of the shortest on Tour due to the fact that precision and placement are more important than distance and driver is left in the bag for most golfers on the majority of holes. Hole 16 caught my eye because it has a dogleg right off the tee with water lining the whole right side of the fairway making accuracy off the tee a must. If you over compensate and hit it left, trees come into play. If you over fade it (or over draw it for lefties), water is looming. The greens are firm, and average in speed (unless you land the ball above the hole since most greens here are sloped front back to front). They are also average in size when you take into account only square footage but will look much smaller to the Tour players because they will probably be hitting mid to long irons on their approach shots for the majority of the holes. As with most courses in Florida, the grass will be Bermudagrass but will have a blend of poa trivialis as well.
Looking at the course description above and trends for the course the last few years, a few key stats come to mind. I will be using these stats, current form, and course history to select golfers for my DraftKings lineups this week.
Key Stats For The Course
***In order of importance with the most important first. Not including Strokes Gained Putting (SG:P), which is a key stat every week.
Strokes Gained Tee to Green (SG:T2G):
Copperhead is another difficult course, so if you have read my previous write ups, it should come as no shock that SG:T2G is my most important stat of the week. The trends on this course from the last ten years confirms this for me. In the last ten years 35/44 golfers that finished T3 or better have been Top 85 in SG:T2G for that specific year and the majority of those 35 golfers were inside the Top 50 in SG:T2G for the year they finished T3 or better here.
Proximity from 175-200yds (Prox175) AND Proximity from 200yds plus (Prox200+):
Since golfers will be trying to position themselves in the right place off the tee on par 4s, not many drivers will be hit. Also, four of the par 3s are over 200 yards, so long iron approaches to the green will be plentiful. In the last ten years, nearly 60% of all approach shots at this course have come from these distances.
Par 5 scoring (P5):
Only five holes on this course play consistently under par and ALL four par 5s are in that category. Because of how difficult the par 4s and par 3s are, scoring must come from the par 5s. In the last ten years 32/44 golfers that finished T3 or better were inside the Top 75 in this stat for the specific year they finished T3 or better. I might take a look at Par 3 scoring (P3) as well since there are 5 of them on the course.
Good Drive Percentage (GD%):
I really like this stat better than simple driving distance or driving accuracy because it encompasses more than just where the ball lands on the tee shot. It also takes into account green or fringe in regulation from fairways missed. Since the fairways are so narrow and have doglegs, plenty of fairways are going to be missed and how golfers recover from these missed fairways will be important this week. I will be taking a small peak at Driving Accuracy (DA) as well.
Bogey Avoidance (BA):
Unlike a lot of easier courses where a golfer can make a bogey but make up for it later on easier holes, Copperhead doesn’t have too many birdieable holes. As I stated earlier, only 5 holes consistently score under par at this course. Golfers won’t be able to bounce back from bogeys like they can on a lot of courses, so avoiding them is key. In the last ten years 31/44 golfers that finished T3 or better were inside the Top 75 in this stat for that specific year.
High End Picks ($9000 and up)
Henrik Stenson ($11,500):
Stenson didn’t play as well as I thought he would last week at Doral but it was his first tournament in the United States this year so I’m going to give him a pass. He has one of the best tee to green games in the world, is usually accurate off the tee, hits a lot of greens, and has a great long iron approach game. He finished 4th at Copperhead last year and he is one of my favorites to win this week. (GPP and cash)
Danny Willett ($10,800):
Willett was in contention last week until he hit the water on 18. He missed a couple of birdie putts under 5 feet on Sunday which basically cost him the tournament. He ended up finishing 3rd but he impressed a lot of people with his masterful short game, especially from the sand. He has jumped inside the Top 15 in the World Golf Rankings and won a few weeks ago in Dubai. I probably won’t be using him in cash games because this is his first time playing Copperhead but he is on the verge of becoming an elite player, so sometimes you can look past no course history when picking golfers of his caliber. If you want to use him in cash games, I won’t be mad. I might actually change my mind by week’s end and use him in cash lineups myself. (GPP only as of now)
Matt Kuchar ($9,800):
Mr. Consistent makes my picks list once again this week and comes in as my #2 ranked golfer in my model. He has good course history at Copperhead making his last 5 cuts here with three Top 15 finishes. His stats this year so far line up real nicely with what I’m looking for this week. He’s 59th in SG:T2G, 10th in P5, 78th in DA, 20th in BA, and 44th in Prox200+. He hasn’t won in a while but this could be the week he pulls it off. (GPP and cash)
Harris English ($9,600):
Every time I see English priced over $9,000 I cringe but using him could pay off. He comes in as my #5 ranked golfer this week. He has had a solid year so far making 8/9 cuts with four Top 25s including two Top 10s. He’s 47th in SG:T2G, 33rd in BA, 65th in P5, 29th in SG:P, and 28th in Prox175. He has also made his last three cuts at Copperhead with two Top 10 finishes. If you are looking to avoid the $10,000 and up golfers in cash games this week, a Kuchar/English lineup might be the way to go. (GPP and cash)
Ryan Moore ($9,300):
Moore has quietly had a very solid season so far in 2016 making 5/6 cuts with FOUR Top 11 finishes. His stats so far this year line up real well with the course this week. He’s 31st in SG:T2G, 37th in BA, 2nd in P3, 38th in DA, 16th in GD%, 40th in SG:P, 79th in Prox175, and 51st in Prox200+. He has had an up and down career at Copperhead but has two Top 10 finishes here including a 5th place finish last year. (GPP and cash)
Graeme McDowell ($9,200):
GMac is my #2 ranked golfer this week when only looking at key stats for the course. He’s 53rd in SG:T2G, 3rd in BA, 12th in P5, 4th in DA, 9th in GD%, 71st in Prox175, and 12th in Prox200+. I won’t be using him in cash games because he has never played the course before but he will be in A LOT of my GPP lineups this week. (GPP only)
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Commentary based on DraftKings strategy and scoring.