2018 Valspar Championship Picks and Preview

This week the PGA Tour ships back stateside as a stacked field tees it up at the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club to play the 2018 Valspar Championship.

But before we get to all the gambling angles of the tournament, we should pay homage to the Godfather of Golf Gambling, Phil Mickelson, who captured his 3rd WGC title by taking down Justin Thomas in the 1st Playoff Hole at the WGC Mexico Championship to win for the first time since the 2013 Open Championship.

A few weeks back we revealed our First Class of the Sports Gambling Hall of Fame, and while Phil Mickelson didn’t quite make the cut he surely will be a contender to have his bust placed among the great gambling degenerates in sports history next year. From urban legends of his big Super Bowl bets, to his alleged involvement in a $3 million money laundering and illegal gambling ring, to his infamous practice rounds in which thousands of dollars are at stake (including his legendary hustle of Nick Watney at the 2010 Open Championship), there’s no denying that Phil is great advocate to the sports gambling world.

But besides his affection towards obscure cross-sport teasers, Phil can also double as your translator when you travel abroad to Spanish speaking countries…

…or if you need a ruling, Phil instantly turns into the most trusted golf official walking the course…

…he’s even a part-time Forrest Ranger!

The best part about Phil is that he’s so larger than life and unabashedly confident that you can’t help but love him. Those three moments above had me roaring with laughter during the telecast. It would be beyond ridiculous for anyone else to put themselves in those situations on Sunday. But not Phil. And that’s why him winning on Sunday was so important for the game of golf. When Phil is in contention down the back nine of a tournament, the PGA Tour is so much more enjoyable. It’s a great sign that his game is in tremendous shape with The Masters on the horizon.

So while one legend’s winless streak came to an end, we have the opportunity for two more to try and get off the schnide. While everyone knows that Tiger hasn’t won in over four years, Rory’s lack of presence in the victory circle since the 2016 Tour Championship hasn’t received quite as much attention. These two will try and get back on track against a very strong field that includes Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia, and Henrik Stenson.

The Copperhead Course at Innisbrook runs 7,300 yards on the scorecard at Par 71, including five Par 3’s. Most golfers can skate their way around the course without relying too much on the driver. With the way many holes are designed, most golfers will opt for precision instead of length off the tee to try and set up an ideal angle to the green (though someone like Rory could get hot with the driver and completely nuke the course). And though none of the Par 5’s are excessively long, their design often forces golfers to make it three-shot holes. Holes 1 and 14 feature double dog legs that could make it difficult for golfers to hit it there in two if they’re not on the proper side of the fairways. And on Hole 7 there’s a giant tree smack dab in the middle of the fairway they’ll have to maneuver around.

While the front nine is a relatively benign stretch of holes, the back nine delivers plenty of excitement. The most notable part of the back nine is at holes 12 and 13, which is played around a large lake on the south end of the course. The 200 yard 13th reminds me a little bit of a longer version of the famed Par 3 12th at Augusta. Golfers will have to hit over the water towards a narrow green and hope to avoid a pair of front and back bunkers, or come up short and slip into a watery grave. Managing to avoid big numbers at this stretch of holes will be crucial for the eventual winner this weekend.

With Bermuda greens, windy conditions (particularly on Thursday and Sunday) and the lack of emphasis on using a driver, you should find yourself gravitating towards similar golfers you liked at the Honda Classic a few weeks back. Here’s who I like for your betting cards and DraftKings Lineup this weekend (odds courtesy of MyBookie.ag):

The Favorites

  • Jordan Spieth – 7/1, $11,800
  • Rory McIlroy – 11/1, $11,300
  • Sergio Garcia – 13/1, $10,900
  • Henrik Stenson – 15/1, $10,200
  • Justin Rose – 15/1, $10,000
  • Paul Casey – 23/1, $9,800
  • Tiger Woods – 25/1, $9,500

A former winner at Innisbrook, Jordan Spieth rings in as the dominant favorite this week. Last week at the WGC Mexico Championship I profiled him as someone to build your DraftKings lineup around as his ball striking is on point so far in 2018. That analysis was spot on as he ranked 5th in Strokes Gained Tee to Green last week.

But his putting remains an unmitigated disaster. In the first two rounds, he’d routinely set himself up for birdie opportunities from 5-10 feet that he woefully botched. But the most cringe-worthy moment was this chokejob early in Round 4 to torpedo any chance he had to make a Sunday charge:


Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me. Like Rory McIlroy and his deficiencies with his wedges right now, I’m avoiding Jordan until he either starts making some putts or books a visit to the sports psychologist.

As for the rest of the favorites, I’m liking Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, and Paul Casey this week. All three of these guys excel at the so-called “Less-Than-Driver” courses, particularly Stenson who wields his 3 Wood like a howitzer. It’s amazing that Stenson still utilizes the Callaway Diablo Octane, which is currently available on eBay at $50, yet he can outdrive most guys off the tee who not only use a driver but are using superior technology.

And what about The Big Cat? With him, we’re starting to see a trend. At a more open track like Riviera where it forced him to pick up a driver he struggled. But at a place like PGA National with hazards and houses narrowing his focus down the fairway and limiting his use of the driver, Tiger Woods fared much better. With a similar set up at Innisbrook, I expect him to fare quite well this week. I don’t think he’ll win but I’m finally relenting and finding ways to throw him into a DraftKings Lineup. And if your book offers Tiger props, while there’s no value in “Yes” on a Missed Cut prop, I like betting Under 70.5 First Round Score at -120.

I got burned at the Honda Classic by saying that a long shot would win. Justin Thomas ended up ejecting that hot take right off the golf course. But once again I find myself liking a lot of guys deeper down the betting card. Here are a few others to watch and possibly sprinkle some win bet capital on.

Other Contenders:

  • Ryan Moore – 33/1, $9,100
  • Kevin Na – 38/1, $8,000

Innisbrook is a grinders course. Because of the positioning of the doglegs on most holes, guys will have to stay patient off the tee and make sure they put themselves in proper position in the fairway to set up their second shot. And with breezy conditions that make it difficult to hit the small greens at Innisbrook, those who have great short games to scramble for par will hang around the top of the leaderboard. Guys like Ryan Moore and Kevin Na fit this bill to a T. These guys will never be the flashiest on the course, but they stay in their lane and know who they are – shorter, precise hitters who can gain strokes on the field with a solid game around and on the greens. They won’t be the sexiest names in your DraftKings lineup, but they should be quite useful this weekend.

Honorable Mention: Adam Hadwin (30/1, $8,800), Chez Reavie (45/1, $7,900), Cameron Smith (50/1, $8,000), Kevin Streelman (50/1, $7,500), Steve Stricker (55/1, $7,500), Zach Johnson (58/1, $7,700)

  • Chesson Hadley – 75/1, $7,400
  • Bud Cauley – 90/1, $7,200

These two bombed badly at the Honda Classic, particularly Hadley who in some DraftKings contest had over 30% ownership (yuck). But I’m willing to forgive and forget this weekend and hope both can rebound. Despite a terrible showing, their season-long strokes gained stats remain strong and each has had good performances on Bermuda greens in the past. While I expect Hadley’s ownership to remain relatively high, I think they can outpace their price point and longer odds with solid performances this week.

Honorable Mention: Scott Stallings (65/1, $7,300), Brandon Harkins (90/1, $7,000), Chris Kirk (90/1, $7,100)

  • William McGirt – 110/1, $7,300
  • Vaughn Taylor – 200/1, $6,700

Here are two guys who should have low ownership on DraftKings but could surprise for a Top 10 or 20 finish this weekend. Neither of these guys are tremendously long off the tee, but they both ranks inside the Top 75 in Strokes Gained Tee to Green and Strokes Gained on Approach in 2018. They’re also able to make up their shortcomings in length with great touch on and around the greens. If you’re scrambling for a useful guy at the end of your DraftKings lineup, these two might be the solution to your salary cap woes.

Honorable  Mention: Aaron Wise (100/1, $6,900), Brian Gay (150/1, $7,000)

Valspar Championship DraftKings Lineup #1

  • Paul Casey – $9,800
  • Ryan Moore – $9,100
  • Webb Simpson – $8,500
  • Ollie Schniederjans – $7,700
  • Steve Stricker – $7,500
  • Bud Cauley – $7,200

Valspar Championship DraftKings Lineup #2

  • Sergio Garcia – $10,900
  • Tiger Woods – $9,500
  • Chez Reavie – $7,900
  • Kevin Streelman – $7,500
  • Chesson Hadley – $7,400
  • Vaughn Taylor – $6,700

Valspar Championship DraftKings Lineup #3

  • Henrik Stenson – $10,200
  • Adam Hadwin – $8,800
  • Kevin Na – $8,000
  • Cameron Smith – $8,000
  • Zach Johnson – $7,700
  • Brandon Harkins – $7,000
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