2023 Valspar Championship Golf DFS Fades & Pivots: Is Sam Burns’ Course History Too Strong?

The PGA Tour ends its Florida swing with a visit to the Tampa Bay area and the Valspar Championship. The Valspar is hosted by the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook, a resort just outside of Tampa. The venue has become known as one of the best tests of golf on the regular PGA rotation and looks set to test the players in numerous ways this week. Let’s take a look at the top PGA DFS fades and pivots for the 2023 Valspar Championship.

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PGA DFS Golf Fades & Pivots | Valspar Championship

Copperhead is a par 71 but features five demanding par 3’s and four par 5’s, none of which are easy birdie holes. The finishing stretch (the Snake Pit) may be the toughest finishing chute in golf as well. The course has water on as many as 10 holes, but it is more tree-lined than traditional Florida stadium courses and has quite a few doglegs. Good placement and solid tee-to-green play are key here. Expect to see players missing a lot of greens and fairways this week (especially with poor weather expected), making around-the-green games perhaps even more important than normal.

The course has reportedly grown out the rough and thinned out the fairways for this year after the scoring got to 17 under par the last two seasons. Add in some unseasonable wind and lower temperatures, and scores may not exceed 10 under in 2023.

Copperhead Stats and Info

  • Driving distance tends to be around 10 yards under the tour average. Doglegs and thick rough mean that players often chose accuracy over power on many holes from the tee box.
  • Greens-in-regulation percentages are also low, as the greens tend to play quite firm and players have a lot of longer approaches thanks to the winding layout. This also makes short games important, and winners here tend to gain multiple strokes in that department.
  • Approaches from 175 to 200 and over 200 yards make up over 47% of the approaches here, so long iron play is extremely crucial.

2023 Valspar Championship DFS Golf Fades and Pivots

High-End Fade: Sam Burns

Projected DFS Golf Ownership: DraftKings: 18.7% | FanDuel: 24.6%

Burns has absolutely dominated Copperhead since he began playing on the PGA five years ago. He has won this event twice in a row and has finished inside the top 12 on three of four occasions. His play in 2023 has been spotty at best and certainly not up to the regular standard he set between 2021 and 2022. Burns is leaking oil where it matters the most on his approaches, and that’s an area where golfers cannot be struggling when coming to a demanding course like Copperhead. Burns has lost strokes on approach in three straight starts and hasn’t gained more than two strokes in a tournament since mid-August of last season. Projection-wise, it also does not look great for Burns this week, as Stokastic gives him the lowest top-6 probability of the four players over $10,000. With his ownership still pushing well over 15% due to insane course history, he sets up as a solid fade candidate for this year’s version.

High-End Pivot: Matthew Fitzpatrick

Projected DFS Golf Ownership: DraftKings: 21.4% | FanDuel: 25.5%

While it is usually prudent to pivot to players with lower PGA DFS ownership projections than the fades, there are only four players in the field over $10,000 on DraftKings — and few elite options to choose from. Matthew Fitzpatrick may be projecting for slightly larger ownership than Burns, but the gap is not big enough to be of huge concern. Fitzpatrick is also projecting better where it counts — scoring projections — where he has a 21.7% top-6 probability, which is essentially 2% higher than Burns’. He has had his own struggles to overcome in 2023 and did miss the cut last week at Sawgrass, but Fitzpatrick also had a great start at Bay Hill just two weeks ago, where he gained 6.9 strokes ball striking alone. It is a tricky game choosing which top-flight golfer will rise out of their slump first, but Fitzpatrick looks closer than Burns at the moment and had a solid fifth-place showing at Copperhead last season. Rolling with the projections and pivoting to the slightly more popular Fitzpatrick looks like the move.

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High-End Fade: Robby Shelton

Projected DFS Golf Ownership: DraftKings: 11.3% | FanDuel: 7.3%

Lower down in the salary structure, Robby Shelton is projecting to have solid ownership on him again. Shelton has been fairly consistent this season, making the cut in four of his last five starts. There are certainly some consistency issues, however, as he is consistently bled strokes off the tee most of the season. A lack of length off the tee and a putter that has rarely gained him strokes isn’t a great combo on Copperhead, where players need to be semi-competent in all areas to avoid the bigger numbers. Shelton is also outside of the top 10 in PGA DFS projections for players in the $7,000 range on DraftKings. He is an easy fade if his 10%-plus projected ownership number holds later into the week.

High-End Pivot: Will Gordon

Projected DFS Golf Ownership: DraftKings: 9.2% | FanDuel: 6.4%

It is surprising that Gordon is trending lower than Shelton at the moment in terms of popularity, as Gordon has made three cuts in a row and has gained strokes on approach in five straight starts. He has certain weaknesses that he needs to iron out long term as well, but he has putted better than Shelton of late and is generally more solid off the tee. His top-6 probability rating is also nearly 1 percentage point higher than Shelton’s, making him an easy pivot option at what will likely be sub-10% ownership.

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Mid-Range Fade: Joel Dahmen

Projected DFS Golf Ownership: DraftKings: 16.8% | FanDuel: 8.7%

Dahmen is currently projected to be the highest-owned golfer in the $7,000 range on DraftKings. Despite a great fall, he has not finished better than 41st in five 2023 starts and struggled to a 60th-place finish last week. Dahmen’s cheaper price tag has obviously attracted some interest, as he is projected to rostered at nearly the same rate in PGA DFS as two-time defending champion Sam Burns is. Dahmen is not a terrible play according to Stokastic’s PGA DFS projections, and he is just $7,500 on DraftKings, but his recent form and the abundance of pivot options (with far lower ownership) sitting near him in salary make him avoidable.

Mid-Range Pivot: Stephan Jaeger 

Projected DFS Golf Ownership: DraftKings: 6.4% | FanDuel: 4.6%

If this tournament turns into a true suffer-fest, then it could be a breakout week from Jaeger. He ranks in the top 10 in strokes gained around the green and has also seen his approach game take form of late. Jaeger has gained multiple strokes on approach in three straight tournaments and posted a 14th-place finish at the Honda in a week where he gained nine strokes off the tee and on approach combined. Jaeger has turned into a more consistent DFS performer this season, and his suitability for a tough course and conditions makes him a great pivot option, especially with the PGA DFS world sleeping on him. He is projecting for nearly the same top-6 probability as Dahmen but will likely be rostered in far fewer lineups.

Geoff Ulrich

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