Every year on the PGA TOUR, there seems to be one player whose game excels to that next level and they simply dominate the sport (see Jordan Spieth last year). The thought of this is insane as almost every guy on TOUR has a legitimate chance to win every week he tees it up. To maintain such a streak of form and quality play is stuff we amateur golfers dream about. This year, Adam Scott has thrust himself into that highly sought-after role of TOUR dominance. With his win last week, the womanizing Aussie has catapulted himself into 6th place in the OWGR and has finished no worse than 2nd in his last three starts. Not bad.
With no Scott in the field this week, players can relax as the TOUR continues it’s Florida swing. The Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort plays host to the Valspar Championship where we saw Jordan Spieth capture his first of 5 wins on the season last year. Spieth managed to outlast a grooved Sean O’Hair and a daffy Patrick Reed on the third playoff hole and claim the title. As I watched the Golf Channel’s rerun of last year’s final round last night, I noticed a few things about this track. For one, the rough is incredibly long and chewy so hitting greens is going to be at a premium this week. Spieth missed a fair amount of his front 9 greens but his stellar short game was on full display as he successfully got up-and-down on numerous occasions. The greens at the Copperhead Course also appeared to be relatively small in surface size which is something that only adds to the difficulty of GIR management. A closely correlated positive however comes with how receptive the surfaces were. Players were able to flight approaches from various distances and varying heights which easily held on the soft surfaces. Now, the greens and fairways actually underwent a massive overhaul after last year’s tournament in which everything was restored to the original Larry Packard design. The greens were reseeded with TifEagle Bermuda (they were Bermuda prior to this as well) which is a genetically modified grass seed that allows for the purest form of Bermuda surfaces in the world. I do not expect these changes to have any negative effects on playability and, in fact, the surfaces might actually roll a tiny bit better as a result. As part of the restoration project, some of the greens have been expanded to allow for more pin positions but upon further research, I was able to find out that Tournament Officials have intentions to expand the aprons around the greens as well. For those of you unfamiliar with the term ‘apron’ in golf, it simply means the closely mown portion of the fairway that leads up to the greens (aka the fringe). So, long story short, the expansion of greens and the expansion of fringe completely counteract one another so I’m not completely sure what to make of these changes. I would be far more comfortable relying on GIR expectancy from last year’s setup as smaller greens require more precise ball-striking which is essentially what we’re targeting.
The Copperhead Course isn’t exactly long by any stretch but it certainly isn’t short either. It’s a slightly odd layout as it comes in at a Par 71 but still has four Par 5s which means Par 3s are plentiful as well. With five Par 3s, four of which measure over 200 yards on the scorecard, a premium can be placed on Par 3 scoring this week. Players who manage these Par 3s well, will almost certainly find themselves playing the weekend. Next, we’ll be looking at Bogey Avoidance. The Copperhead Course typically does a good job at protecting itself against low scoring and a lot of this can be attributed to players’ propensity for bogeys on the difficult and unforgiving track. Finding players who tend to avoid bogeys and plot along with Birdies and Pars will be key to success this week. More often than not, a simple way to avoid Bogeys is by hitting the majority of your greens in regulation and thus GIR will be a focus this week. As you can see, all of our key stats are closely correlated this week so we’re really looking for a specific type of player. Moving right along, we’re going to place a lot of stock in Fantasy Golf Metrics’ Putting Splits Analyzer this week as I believe these Bermuda greens are going to be rolling incredibly true and thus we want players who excel on these types of surfaces. Last, but not least, Course History continues to be a staple in our player search. For the ease of readers, those keys stats are:
- Course History
- Par 3 Scoring
- Bogey Avoidance
- FGM Bermuda Putting Splits
High End Targets ($9,000+)
• Matt Kuchar
The first thing that jumped out to me about Kuchar this week is his value. His current odds versus salary delta is +3 as he’s being given the 5th best odds to win the tournament but is priced as the 8th most expensive golfer. It’s typically very difficult to find true value in this high end price tier so anytime it presents itself we must give said player extreme consideration. Kuch is a complete geek but he’s a total stud on the links. In his last two appearances here, he’s managed to reel off pedestrian finishes of T33 (’15) and T38 (’14). Kuchar’s all around game is incredible as he ranks 43rd in GIR, 29th in Par 3 Scoring, and 20th in Bogey Avoidance. When he gets on the greens, Kuch doesn’t slow down either. In 103 starts on Bermuda greens, the Georgia Tech product has made 80.6% of his cuts which is a truly startling number. Always known as an incredible putter, Kuchar has a +1.186 SGP rating on Bermuda greens. Get this man into your lineups this week.
• Harris English
English has been in great form throughout this entire season and I feel good about the prospect of that continuing. Fresh off a 10th place finish at the Cadillac last week, English comes to the Copperhead Course with a good bit of history on his side. The Georgia Bulldog finished T10 at this event last year which was a nice improvement on his T38 finish the year prior. Ranking 80th in GIR, 81st in Par 3 Scoring, and 33rd in Bogey Avoidance, I feel English will be able to draw on his course knowledge and recent form to set himself up for a nice finish. In 62 starts on Bermuda greens, young Harris has made 80.6% of his cuts with 40.3% culminating in a Top 25 finish. His SGP mark is very nice at +1.020 and that can be directly correlated to his 31.4% make rate from 10′-15′. I must admit, I do think English is a tad overpriced even if his salary versus odds delta is bang on but that’s just a personal feel and something I can understand due to his recent string of success.
• Jason Dufner
If you can’t stomach paying $9.6k for Harris English, may I interest you in some Dufner? Dufner is a big reason why I feel English is overpriced this week as I feel he’s several classes above English as a player. Duf on the other hand is actually underpriced this week as he’s being given the sixth best odds to win and is slated as just the eleventh most expensive player on the slate. The Auburn University graduate has enjoyed some great success at this venue as well as hes finished T24 and T14 the last two years. Duf’s stats aren’t the most impressive in terms of what we’re looking for as he ranks 39th in GIR, 124th in Par 3 Scoring, and 118th in Bogey Avoidance but his solid play here cannot be ignored. Jason has made 77.4% of his cuts in 106 starts on Bermuda with 39.6% of them turning into Top 25 finishes. As is the story with Dufner every week, his SGP mark is a little hard to look at as he gives back -0.398 strokes to the field. However, as we saw last week, if he can get his putter on the right track, he’s almost a shoo-in for a high finish.
• Kevin Na
Kevy Kev. This man is so steady but also such an anomaly week to week. I don’t think I’d ever bet him as an outright winner as he simply doesn’t have the mental game to consistently win which is a shame because hes put himself in contention countless times. However, in the DFS landscape, Top 10s and 5s are gold and that’s the reason I like Na this week. He finished solo 2nd here in 2014 and followed that up with a strong T10 last year. He’s pretty killer in all the key areas we’re looking for this week as he ranks 57th in GIR, 8th in Par 3 Scoring, and 26th in Bogey Avoidance. His putting splits are off the charts good as well. In 12 less starts, Na has managed to accumulate $3.6M more on Bermuda than he has on Bentgrass. That’s a massive chunk of change. Hes made 75% of his cuts on Bermuda, 46.3% of which has resulted in Top 25 finishes and a large reason for that would be his 10′-15′ putt make percentage of 34.4%. Na is gaining +1.707 strokes against the field on Bermuda greens which is astronomically high. Do yourself a favor and grab some exposure to him this week.
Mid Range Targets ($8,900 – $7,000)
• Bill Haas
The 2011 FedEx Cup Champion had a pleasant showing here in 2014 in which he finished in a tie for 14th place. Haas has a well rounded game for this track as he ranks 48th in GIR, 40th in Par 3 Scoring, and 20th in Bogey Avoidance. He seems to favor Bermuda surfaces as almost all of his putting statistics take a positive hike on this grass type. In 125 starts on Bermuda, Haas has made 68.8% of his cuts, rolls in 28.6% of his 10′-15′ putts, and gains +0.140 strokes putting. Of the 68.8% of his made cuts, 44% of them have resulted in Top 25 finishes which is a wicked vote of confidence.
• Russell Knox
I’m incredibly high on Mr. Knox this week as he’s simply far too cheap for a guy who matches up so well and just two weeks ago costed $9,700 at the Honda Classic. Russell is a superb ball-striker and that’s something I want to see a lot of this week. The Jacksonville University product has “go low” potential and I don’t want to miss out on it. Russell finished T33 here last year and T25 in 2014 so we can safely assume he’s comfortable at this track. The Scotsman’s statistical rankings are through the roof for what we’re looking for this week and I believe he’s going to deliver for us in a big way. Knox comes into the Valspar Championship ranked numero uno on TOUR in GIR, numero uno in Bogey Avoidance, and 24th in Par 3 Scoring. Those are scorching numbers. Although he’s not the strongest putter on TOUR, Knox can still work his way around the greens in a very respectable fashion. In 56 starts on Bermuda surfaces hes made 73.2% of his cuts, 30.4% of which have resulted in Top 25 finishes. He does miss a slight step as he’s relenting -0.069 strokes to the field on these greens but that number is so marginal we can easily give him a pass. He bounces back in a big way however as his 10′-15′ make percentage is 31.4% and we know that’s considered the “money” range.
• Kevin Streelman
Streelman could be an extremely cheeky play this week. The former Duke Blue Devil has enjoyed decent tournaments in his last two trips here as he finished T40 last year and T38 in 2014. His ball striking is superb as he ranks 2nd in GIR behind only Russell Knox. Streelman is prolific on Par 3s ranking 13th and he has a very respectable Bogey Avoidance ranking of 46th. What really makes Streelman appealing is his Bermuda putting splits. He’s amassed $1.3M more in 24 less starts on Bermuda. His cuts made percentage goes up 8.1% to an overall total of 74% through 100 starts. Most importantly, Streelman gains +0.490 strokes against the field which is a +0.645 improvement over his Bentgrass statistics.
• Charles Howell III
‘ol Chucky 3 Sticks is also in a great spot this week and I’m hopeful to take advantage of it. CH3 has performed admirably in his last two trips here as he finished T10 last year and T14 in 2014. The smooth swinging American ranks 55th on TOUR in GIR, 40th in Par 3 Scoring, and 18th in Bogey Avoidance. Aside from his missed cut at the Honda Classic a few weeks back, CH3 has been in excellent form for the last several months and this week I think he gets right back on track. In 156 starts on Bermuda surfaces, Chucky has been making the cut at a 77.6% clip with 41% of those resulting in Top 25 finishes. Although he’s a strong putter on both Bentgrass and Bermuda, he seems to perform a little better against the field on Bermuda as his SGP mark is +0.601 (a +0.281 improvement over Bentgrass).
• Jason Kokrak
A few weeks ago we saw Jason Kokrak in superb form at Riviera CC as he finished T2 at the Northern Trust Open. The only thing that concerns me with Kokrak is his seemingly “1-shot” style of game. What I mean by this is that Kokrak basically hits nothing but a sort of hook/draw on every single shot. So, imagine you’re the same type of player and you’re on the range prior to your round and your draw is turning into a massive hook. You’re screwed. You can’t resort to a straight ball or a baby fade as you simply do not have those shots in your bag. I really dislike taking players who fall into this category as it’s so much safer to arm yourself with a player who can rely on several other shots when his go-to isn’t working. Having said that, I do like the way Jason matches up this week and I will be grabbing some exposure to him in my GPP lineups. Having finished T7 here last year and T14 the year prior, it’s no secret that this course fits his eye and shot. Although his GIR rank isn’t as sound as we’d like it to be at 96th, Kokrak comes back with a solid 50th in Par 3 Scoring, and 33rd in Bogey Avoidance. On Bermuda greens he’s making 30.9% of his 10′-15′ putts and gaining +0.103 strokes against the field. These numbers are good enough for me to take a few shots on Kokrak this week.
Low End Targets (<$7,000)
• Lucas Glover
Now we’re getting down to the true grinders of the week. Glover comes out as a player who touches on a fair bit of the things we’re looking for this week. He’s 6th in GIR, 98th in Par 3 Scoring, and 11th in Bogey Avoidance. After missing the cut in 2014, Glover bounced back last year to finish T24 at this event. The last time I wrote up Glover he managed to wind up with a T11 at Pebble Beach. If he can find his putting stroke, he should be able to hang around for the weekend and give your teams a nice boost. With a 29.9% make rate from 10′-15′, I like the Clemson Tiger as one of my scrubs this week.
• Vaughn Taylor
Although Taylor hasn’t played here in the last 2 years, I’m including him as I feel his stats correlate very well to this course setup. Coming in at 9th overall in GIR, 71st in Par 3 Scoring, and 44th in Bogey Avoidance, Taylor could be sneaky this week. The last time Taylor was a sneaky play he actually managed to win the tournament when Phil missed his 6 footer in the 18th green to force a playoff. Taylor is a strong putter and his combination of GIR plus putting could very well have him in contention this week (that’s a big dream). In 111 starts on Bermuda hes made 64.9% of his cuts and has made 31.5% of his 10′-15′ putts. With a +0.395 SGP mark, Vaughn Taylor is a very viable scrub.
• David Hearn
There’s something fishy about Hearn’s price this week. Possibly the fact that he has missed three of his last four cuts on TOUR but that shouldn’t drive this talented Canadian’s price all the way down to $6,100. Hearn has enjoyed some success at this event as he finished T8 in 2014 and followed it up with a T53 showing last year. Unsurprisingly to some, he matches up very well for this track. 59th in GIR, 13th in Par 3 scoring, and 76th in Bogey Avoidance. Hes made the cut 65.8% of the time in his 79 career starts on Bermuda greens. An SGP of +0.993 which is very good and a 29.7% make rate on putts of 10′-15′. You can do far worse than Hearn as a scrub this week.
All ranked stats in this article are a product of the PGA TOUR and can be found here:
While all putting stats are a product of FGM and can be found here: