Golf Rankings for Valspar Championship
It's time for another Tour stop in Florida as we march slowly toward the Masters in April. This week we have a very thin Group A. It's almost a necessity to roster Jordan Spieth, but then there are a lot unattractive options. Group B has a lot of viable options and I'll probably roster two studs and then try to figure out higher upside plays. Group C will probably look similar for me with one stud and one contrarian play.
The tournament is the Valspar Championship held at the Innisbrook Resort on the Copperhead Course. Copperhead runs 7,340 yard and comes in at a par 71. We have another week of bermudagrass greens as well.
This is a long course, but is more punitive than the last two weeks. Bombers won't be able to overpower the course. The players will need to keep the ball in play and get out of trouble without too much damage when they do find the rough or sand. Copperhead has been one of the 10 hardest course on Tour each of the last three years.
The Valspar has been held only at Copperhead so course history can be relied on this week.
Our statistical focus this week is a bit different than weeks' past.
Par 4 Efficiency (400 – 450 yards): Six of the par 4s at Copperhead fall between 400 and 450 yards and two others are just over 450 yards (452 and 458 yards respectively). So, we're going to need scoring on par 4s this week and 80% of them fall into or come quite close to the 400 – 450 yard range. Bogey Avoidance (BA): It's back again, but holds more importance this week. There were only nine (9!) eagles all of last year at the Valspar. There just isn't a lot of room to make up for mistakes so we'll want to focus on players who can make pars.
Birdie or Better % (Fairway): Almost every golfer who does well here will score on the par 5s, so if you wanted to focus on par 3 and par 4 scoring instead, I'm OK with it. But, I'm going to look at scoring in general and focus on Birdie or Better Percentage. We'll drill down a bit into BOB% and look at BOB% from the fairway as we expect our top players to be in the fairway in order to succeed this week.
Proximity to the Hole (Prox): After getting to the fairway, we want players who can put it close to the hole so we can see them score.
Driving Accuracy: This is a tight course off the tee with danger off the fairway. We'll use this as our tiebreaker this week. In order to be successful, a golfer will need to keep the ball on the course off the tee.
We're still looking at last season's stats to start, but we are using the current season's stats to look at players who have improved over last year and could be hidden gems.
Finally, we examine Strokes Gained: Putting and Strokes Gained: Tee to Green each week.
As always, check back on the weather Wednesday to see the final forecast. This weekend it looks like weather won't be an issue even if there is a slight chance of rain on the weekend. The winds look like they won't be a problem either with nothing worse than the low-teens. Though, the winds can change at any time.
Jordan Spieth [Yahoo Class B] - World Ranking: #6
Spieth finished T17 last week at a course that certainly wasn’t suited to his game. That finish gives us a little hope that Jordan is putting his game back together. The defending champ at the Valspar has the best statistical profile in the field this week (based on last year’s stats). His stats this year don’t quite line up as nicely (he’s actually struggled from the key par 4 distance and his proximity is in the middle of the Tour).
Henrik Stenson [Yahoo Class C] - World Ranking: #7
Group B is deep this week - there are a lot of ways to go. I'd suggest going with a couple of studs and a couple of deeper plays with upside. The Swede debuted at Copperhead last year and finished in solo fourth. It makes sense as his statistical profile fits like a glove. Much like Jordan, Stenson’s finish (T28) last week is too concerning as Doral isn’t the type of course Stenson should succeed at. His upside is nearly as good as Spieth’s.
Patrick Reed [Yahoo Class A] - World Ranking: #17
Unlike last week, this is a course that Reed can succeed at and it showed last year as he finished T2 after losing in a playoff. The mercurial one is great way to differentiate this week as his profile should work even if his current form is a bit off.
Harris English [Yahoo Class B] - World Ranking: #105
English has been playing very well in 2016 with two top 10 finishes in five events. He’s seen the weekend in every one of those five events. The American has made three of four cuts at the Valspar and has two top 10 finishes including last year’s T10.
Ryan Moore [Yahoo Class B] - World Ranking: #45
Moore’s profile works and it showed last year with a solo fifth place finish. It was his first top 20 finish at the Valspar since 2009. The American has two top 15 finishes in three 2016 starts. He’s not a sexy choice, but he should be solid again this week.
Matt Kuchar [Yahoo Class B] - World Ranking: #15
Kuch is almost a must own in cash games this week as he just sets up perfectly for a course like this. That profile hasn’t resulted in good finishes the last two years (T33 and T38). However, his three prior starts at Valspar were all in the top 15. The former Georgia Tech star has made all four cuts in 2016 and hasn’t missed a cut on Tour since the PLAYERS back in mid-2015.
Graeme McDowell [Yahoo Class A] - World Ranking: #92
McDowell makes his debut here, but it’s a course that he should do well at. The Northern Irishman came finished T28 last week at the WGC, but was fifth two weeks prior at the Honda. His seasonal profile fits very nicely this week as his driving accuracy (fourth so far in 2015-2016) should give him a nice advantage.
Webb Simpson [Yahoo Class B] - World Ranking: #62
Watch the news as Simpson withdrew from the Honda Classic a couple of weeks ago. The speculation centers around a back issue and those can be tricky. Simpson has an excellent profile for this course as well as history at the Valspar. If Webb tees it up, he’s an excellent play.
Choi has two top five and three top 20 finishes in his five 2016 events. He’s done a lot of his damage on par 4s and specifically at the distance we are interested in. The South Korean is currently 23rd in par 4 efficiency from 400-450 yards. His recent history here isn’t great, but Choi did win in 2006 and had two other top 10s in the following four years.
Jason Dufner [Yahoo Class C] - World Ranking: #34
Dufner can’t putt. That’s an established fact. But, he’s torn up par 4s this year (34th from the distance we like this week). The Duf-man has made seven straight cuts at the Valspar with four straight top 25 finishes. In fact, Duf hasn’t finished outside of the top 30 since missing that initial cut. He had one bad round last week (Saturday’s 77) and still finished T11 at the Cadillac Championship.
Danny Willett [Yahoo Class B] - World Ranking: #38
I hate to say it, but I’ll be off of Willett for most of my lineups as I don’t see Willett as the third best option this week as the Vegas odds say. The Englishman makes his debut here this year. He’s an excellent golfer, but he’s going to be heavily owned and I'd rather pivot elsewhere in Group C.
Charles Howell III [Yahoo Class B] - World Ranking: #70
CHIII's profile (especially his work so far this year) aligns with Copperhead. He's made nine of 12 cuts at the Valspar with back to back top 15 finishes. The California Clubber is usually forgotten when we move to Florida, but he's shown that you can't ignore him here.