2023 Valspar Championship PGA DFS Preview: Tommy Fleetwood Due

The PGA Tour finishes off the Florida swing this week with the Valspar Championship. Played at the Copperhead Course, just outside of Tampa Bay, this event has been a regular on the PGA schedule for quite some time. It remains a “non-elevated event” and due to its position on the schedule, there will be quite a few big names taking the week off. As of now, Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth are the two biggest names in the field. However, there is a solid group of middle-tier pros who will be looking to make a splash and keep this event interesting.

Nine of the world’s top 50 players in the OWGR will be in the 144-man field. With an extended field list and fewer elite players at the top make sure you keep an eye on some young players who are getting starts this week, including Ludvig Aberg, Cole Hammer and Akshay Bhatia.

Like all of the Florida stops, Copperhead plays tough and winning scores at this venue usually don’t venture much past 10 under par. With that in mind, expect to see plenty of movement at the top of the board with bogies or worse in play on nearly every hole.

It is a good week to take a look at the Stokastic ownership projections this week prior to building lineups.

Do not forget to check out the Stokastic PGA DFS projections, which has both scoring data and PGA DFS ownership projections. Stokastic PGA DFS projections come out on Monday and will be updated throughout the week.

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PGA DFS Picks: 2023 Valspar Championship Preview

The Valspar Championship is one of the most underrated events on the PGA Tour. Much like the Honda Classic, its venue rates out as one of the fairest and tougher challenges on the entire rotation. While it does not have the same kind of stadium-like environment the PGA National does, the Copperhead Course has plenty of water — which comes into play on nine holes — and some long winding dogleg setups that force players into layups off the tee. The course plays as a par 71, but it has a quirky design with five par 3’s and four par 5’s that feature tough driving chutes. Players need to place the ball well at Copperhead but this course does play long at over 7,300 yards for a par 71 and longer hitters (Burns, Casey, and last year’s playoff loser Davis Riley) are all fairly strong off-the-tee players, from a distance perspective.

Since this event comes after THE PLAYERS Championship, there’s also a lot of difficulty in picking out who may or may not be motivated after last week. Some players will be coming in with huge paychecks banked from THE PLAYERS, and their focus may be elsewhere as a result. Others may have looked to be in poor form on the weekend at Sawgrass, but likely will be more motivated to make up for their errors. Sam Burns won this event in each of the past two seasons (once when it was played in May), and only managed a 26th at Sawgrass the week before his win last season.

When Paul Casey won this event in 2019, he missed the cut the week prior. With TPC Sawgrass being such a high-variance course, it is likely not a bad idea to semi-disregard a poor week for a player there, especially if the player you are looking at had been in solid form over their other few starts. Since Copperhead is a taxing course, looking at some players who weren’t in the thick of things on Sunday, and perhaps even those who missed the weekend at Sawgrass will also be a good way to look for value in the betting market.

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Valspar Championship Betting Trends

  • Each of the past seven winners of the Valspar Championship had recorded at least one top-10 on the season (in the same calendar year) before their victory here.
  • The last three winners of the Valspar all finished 26th or worse at the THE PLAYERS.

Below are some of the top players in the field to watch this week given their recent form and course history:

  1. Jordan Spieth: Spieth looked like he might get in contention at various points last week, but ultimately settled for a non-descript 19th place at Sawgrass. He has two top-10s over his last four starts and is certainly playing solid golf at the moment.
  2. Justin Suh: Suh will be a very popular name for betting and DFS this week. He has an extremely solid long game and has made 10 cuts in a row now on the PGA Tour.
  3. Akshay Bhatia: Bhatia finished runner-up in Puerto Rico and gained over five strokes on his approaches at the Honda in his second-to-last start. He’s an elite young talent who should have tons of confidence after gaining special temporary membership — with his finish in Puerto Rico.
  4. Ben Griffin: Griffin has had a great start to the season. Since the beginning of the fall, he has played in 14 events and has made the cut in 12 of them. He has also gained strokes on approach in all but one of his last 10 starts.
  5. Wyndham Clark: Clark made the cut last week at THE PLAYERS and ranks fourth in strokes gained total stats over the last six weeks. Much like Burns, he’s strong off the tee and on the greens and could certainly make some noise in this watered-down field.

Field Notes: Top amateur player, Ludvig Aberg, will be in the field after finishing 24th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He’s a player to watch out for going forward. 2017 Valspar winner Adam Hadwin is also coming in off a great week at THE PLAYERS, where he finished 13th. Hadwin gained 6.8 strokes ball striking at Sawgrass and has three top-15 finishes now over his last seven starts.

2023 Valspar Championship Past Winners and Winners Stats

2022: Sam Burns

  • Lead-in: 26/9/MC (26th week prior at THE PLAYERS, top 10 at Arnold Palmer Invitational)
  • Stats for week of win: SG:OTT -1.0/SG:APP 7.0/SG:ATG 2.9/SG:PUTT 5.2/SG:TTG 8.8
  • Burns followed up his win from 2021 with another monster effort that was less putter-based and more of an all-around effort
  • He was massively positive on approach but also gained over five strokes putting for the week

2021: Sam Burns

  • Lead in: MC/MC/39 (event played in May – Burns had a top-5 finish at Genesis in FEB)
  • Stats for week of win: SG:OTT 3.7/SG:APP 2.3/SG:ATG 1.6/SG:PUTT 9.1/SG:TTG 7.6
  • In his first win, Burns capitalized on the greens, gaining over nine strokes putting
  • This is slightly more of an anomaly, as winners at Copperhead usually gain more tee to green than on the greens, but Burns was solid in all aspects

2019 (no event in 2020): Paul Casey

  • Lead-in: MC/3/25, (Missed cut at THE PLAYERS but top 10 two starts prior at WGC Mexico)
  • Stats for week of win: SG:OTT 3.4/SG:APP 4.6/SG:ATG 3.2/SG:PUTT 0.4/SG:TTG 11.2
  • Casey had an elite week off the tee and on approach, keeping himself away from carding any terrible scores
  • It was his second year winning this event in a row and he gained over three strokes around the green in both of those wins

Want to see who is trending as a strong play early? Check out Stokastic’s PGA DFS projections, which will be updated on Monday and throughout the week.

2023 Valspar Championship Course Preview

Copperhead: Par 71, 7,340 yards

Greens: Bermuda (Poa overseed)

Designer: Larry Packard (1971)

Similar Courses: Colonial, TPC Southwind, Quail Hollow

Copperhead is a long-winding par 71 that forces players to club down a ton off the tee. Distance does not matter (off the tee) much at Copperhead, but bigger hitters still have an advantage thanks to the tough approaches that await players on nearly every hole. Thanks to several longer par 5’s and par 3’s, players will see lots of approaches from 175 yards and out, meaning the ability to get long irons nice and high will be key. Supreme ball strikers like Viktor Hovland and Paul Casey have found success around Copperhead easier to come by, but so have solid putters/scramblers like Sam Burns and Jordan Spieth — mostly thanks to how hard it is for the field to hit greens.

Missed greens are plentiful at Copperhead and typically the green in regulation rate runs about 5% lower than a regular Tour stop. There are also four par 3’s that will have tee shots of well over 200 yards for the players to navigate, and these holes always play as some of the toughest on the course. Good approach proximity from 175 yards and out is of utmost importance but solid tee-to-green games as a whole are a must. Players don’t need to be elite off the tee but bleeding too many strokes in any area tee to green will put added pressure on the putter.

It’s truly a time to emphasize supreme ball striking when possible, and also give lots of credit to players who have already flashed with a top finish or two on this tough Florida stretch.

Key Stats: Proximity from 175-200 yards / Strokes Gained Approach / Strokes Gained Around the Greens

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2023 Valspar Championship Recent Form Watch

Top Approach Proximity 175-200 yards (Last 50 Rounds)

  • Justin Rose
  • Ryan Moore
  • Erik Van Rooyen
  • Jordan Spieth
  • Mark Hubbard

Strokes Gained Approach (Last 50 Rounds)

  • Mark Hubbard
  • Tommy Fleetwood
  • Russell Knox
  • Chesson Hadley
  • Luke List

Top Strokes Gained Around the Greens (Last 50 Rounds)

  • Justin Thomas
  • Robby Shelton
  • Jordan Spieth
  • Bill Haas
  • Stephan Jaeger

2023 Valspar Championship Weather Forecast

Thursday morning: 60-65 F, winds 12-15 mph/0% chance of precipitation

Thursday afternoon: 70-75 F, winds 8-9 mph/0% chance of precipitation

Friday morning: 68-70 F, winds 16-20 mph/0% chance of precipitation

Friday afternoon: 75 F, winds 20-25 mph/0% chance of precipitation

Day 1 of the event does not have a ton to discuss, but Day 2 could get interesting. Winds are expected to be above 15 mph the entire day with them really picking up in the afternoon. Depending on when the wind comes, there could be a bit of a wave split (in terms of scoring) with the Thursday afternoon/Friday morning in the better position as of writing.

2023 Valspar Championship DFS Picks and Early Betting Targets

Tommy Fleetwood | BetMGM Outright

There are few players more overdue for a PGA Tour win than Tommy Fleetwood. He has proven himself time and time again against elite fields, reeling off five top-five finishes in major championships throughout his career to date. Fleetwood certainly will be disappointed at how poor a job he did “chasing” Scottie Scheffler on Sunday at Sawgrass, but his final round flub-up could easily end up helping him this week. Fleetwood was never really in contention for anything after hole one last Sunday but he did have another solid week striking the ball gaining over five strokes alone on his approaches at Sawgrass. That’s a good omen for this week where last year’s winner Sam Burns gained over seven strokes in that category alone, on his way to his second win. Fleetwood is playing better of late and has a solid Florida record having finished top 5 at both Sawgrass and PGA National in past seasons. He is a good player to get on early in the outright market this Monday.

Trey Mullinax | BetMGM Outright

Mullinax missed the cut in brutal fashion last week so he’ll automatically not be a popular early-week bet among the public. That also means it’s likely he’ll open at a big number on many sportsbooks and potentially at 100-1 or better. Mullinax won his first-ever PGA Tour event last August and has compiled four other top-15 finishes since finding the winner’s circle. He finished eighth at this event back in 2018 and has also had good results on the very comparable TPC Southwind — another winding, technical venue with small greens, and lots of water. He finished fifth at Southwind against a tough field in the summer of 2022. Mullinax gained 5.8 strokes ball striking at Bay Hill two weeks ago and will certainly be better rested for this week after getting last weekend off. With solid odds likely on open, he is a great ladder bet candidate in the placing department (top 40/20/10) and a solid long-shot target in the outright market as well.

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Geoff Ulrich

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