2023 Valspar Championship First Round Leader Picks: Bounce-Back Week for Davis Riley?

The PGA Tour stays in Florida but takes on the more tree-lined, parkland setting of the Copperhead Course. The Valspar Championship is played at the longer par 71 that features five par 3’s, four par 5’s and plenty of long winding holes that make placement important to finding success this week. For first-round leader purposes, there has been a huge variety of leaders after Round 1 the past few seasons, but the main theme is elite ball strikers.

With the weather creating uncertainty, we will again use the OddsShopper’s golf betting tools to look for the best value options for first-round leader selections for the Valspar Championship.

2023 Valspar Championship First Round Leader Bets

The last 12 years have produced six morning solo first-round leaders and just two solo afternoon first-round leaders. The weather on Thursday — and this week in general — is all over the place. Gusts could be more prevalent in the morning than the afternoon, although with how unpredictable wind can be, it’s hardly a guarantee that it will work out like that. Getting some exposure to a longshot bet or two in the afternoon wave might be a solid idea this week just in case the wind does indeed die down later and give the afternoon starters better conditions.

Davis Riley First Round Leader (+5000) at BetMGM

Riley goes out in the early wave on Thursday but should be more than ready for this week after missing the cut last week at THE PLAYERS. There is a pretty solid history of golfers who come to the Valspar and do well after either missing the cut at Sawgrass or simply not playing well there — and Riley will fit that profile well this week. He had been showing some signs of life prior to THE PLAYERS, posting a sixth-place finish at the Arnold Palmer. Much like last year’s winner Sam Burns, Riley can be electric on the greens, and he was certainly in form with the putter at Bay Hill, where he gained 5.1 strokes with the flat stick. He will obviously be eager to take on a course well suited for his skillset once again and should come in with more motivation than usual to get off to a hot start since he lost in a playoff at this event last season.

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Stephan Jaeger First Round Leader (+6500) at DraftKings

Jaeger also tees off early on Thursday, but he still makes sense to include as a first-round target. He should be able to handle the poor weather conditions better than most due to an elite short game and iron play that has looked extremely solid of late. Jaegar has now gained over two strokes on approach in each of his last three starts and ranks sixth in this field in strokes gained around the green.

Jaeger has never really had success at Copperhead in the past, producing just one made cut in three attempts, but there are some good signs with his game right now. Jaeger made the cut for THE PLAYERS for the first time in his career last week and gained strokes in every major category. If it is windy, he also has a short game that should be able to save him strokes against the field and is no stranger to starting fast, as he ranks 21st in Round 1 scoring average this season. Given his positive momentum inability to get deep into contention last week, Jaeger looks like a good source of value on Day 1.

Valspar Championship First Round Leader Longshot Bets

Long-shot bets in the first-round leader market hit all the time on the PGA Tour. You can always use OddsShopper’s tools to check out and compare odds across the major sites.

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Dylan Wu First Round Leader (+8000) at DraftKings

Dylan Wu First Round Top 5 (+1400) at BetMGM

Wu has now made four straight cuts on the PGA Tour and is starting to showcase upper-tier tee-to-green game that can find success at Copperhead. He has a win on the Korn Ferry Tour and already grabbed a top-10 on the Florida swing at the tough PGA National in 2023, an event where he likely would have challenged for the win had he been a little better around the greens. Wu may still be held back somewhat by his short game, but he makes for an excellent longshot target to go low in Round 1.

Betting him as a longshot in this category (as opposed to outright) makes more sense for a couple of reasons, the largest of which is that his around-the-green game does not have to hold up for more than a day. Wu has showcased that he can handle tougher courses and has an afternoon tee time that could prove fruitful if the current forecast holds. He is a solid longshot bet for Thursday and makes sense as a top-5 target at +1400 on BetMGM.

Trey Mullinax First Round Leader (+8000) at DraftKings

Trey Mullinax First Round Top 5 (+1400) at BetMGM

Mullinax had a brutal end to his PLAYERS week, shooting 85 in Round 2. It looks bad on paper, but he just showed his upside two weeks ago at Bay Hill. He got himself in contention at the Arnold Palmer with elite tee-to-green play that saw him gain over five strokes ball striking. Mullinax has finished top 10 at Copperhead before and has a solid short game that has gained him strokes in five of his last six starts. He also rates as one of the best long-iron players in the field, and Copperhead requires an abnormal number of mid- to long-iron approaches. Mullinax has an early-afternoon tee time and is available at some longer odds as well, making him a nice buy-low investment. If the wind stays down in the afternoon, he can go low on a tough course.

Geoff Ulrich

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