Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead course is one of the toughest courses on the PGA Tour, perhaps not intuitive for a resort course. In six of the past seven times the Valspar Championship was played (it was canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19), it has played as one of the top 10 toughest courses on tour, including majors.
As with most difficult courses, there will be an emphasis on around-the-green play—since golfers are bound to miss fairways and greens. In fact, my RickRunGood.com course model stresses strokes gained/around the green as one of the more important stats to success at the Copperhead Course.
This field is one of the best in Valspar Championship history, with 10 of the top 30 players teeing it up, including Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson and Viktor Hovland. The big story will be Paul Casey, who won this event in both 2019 and 2018. If he were able to win this year, he would be added to a short list of golfers to win the same event three times in a row.
Here are my favorite plays (and fades) in each price range for the 2021 Valspar Championship.
Price range: $9,000 and above
High Upside: Sungjae Im ($9,200 DraftKings | $10,900 FanDuel)
When in Florida, play Sungjae! Per the RickRunGood.com golf database, there’s no golfer who has gained more strokes per round than him in Florida dating back to 2015. He has gained 1.89 strokes per round on average in 39 rounds—the most of any golfer in this field with at least 12 rounds played. After going through a stretch of poor play with his irons, Im is starting to turn the corner. That’s the last piece of the puzzle he needs to put together before getting back in the winner’s circle.
Safest Option: Corey Conners ($9,600 DraftKings | $11,300 FanDuel)
Conners is shaping up to be one of the most popular golfers on the slate and for good reason. Many sportsbooks are listing Conners with the third-shortest odds to win the Valspar Championship. However, DraftKings has six other golfers that are more expensive, meaning there is “built-in value” in Conners. He’s built from the same mold of two-time champion Paul Casey, and he has five consecutive top 15s in stroke-play events.
Most Likely To Disappoint: Paul Casey ($10,000 DraftKings | $11,400 FanDuel)
Let’s talk about the word “disappointment” from a DFS angle. It’s very clear that Paul Casey has been playing incredibly well, and it’s noteworthy that he has won this event each of the past two years. Knowing those facts, his popularity this week will be enormous. With a high price tag and exorbitant ownership, he’s going to need to likely finish inside the top five to be “worth it.” By that definition, any other result would be a disappointment. Remember, golf is weird and volatile—sometimes we have to draw lines in the sand, even on golfers that we like.
Pick To Win: Patrick Reed ($10,300 DraftKings | $11,600 FanDuel)
When conditions get difficult, it seems to bring out the best in Reed. He was victorious earlier this year at Torrey Pines, where he relied on his short game to get the job done. That’s likely a similar blueprint for how this week’s champion will find success. Reed has had a few close calls at Innisbrook, earning two runner-up finishes—including the playoff loss to Jordan Spieth—and a T-7 in his last five trips.
$8,000 to $9,000
High Upside: Cameron Tringale ($8,400 DraftKings | $10,200 FanDuel)
No matter how you slice it, Tringale has been a top-30 player on the PGA Tour this season. He’s ranked 14th in scoring average and 27th in SG/total. He’s having the best driving season of his career and the best putting season of his career. That’s a scary combination and it’s helped earn him six top-20 finishes in his past 10 stroke-play starts.
Safest Option: Charley Hoffman ($8,600 DraftKings | $10,100 FanDuel)
Hoffman might be flying under the radar to the general public, but he's the best golfer in this field since the start of 2021. Per the RickRunGood.com golf database, Hoffman has gained 1.76 strokes per round to the field this year, the best mark of anyone teeing it up this week. That play has resulted in a runner-up finish at the Valero Texas Open and five more top-20 finishes along the way. It seems like a matter of time before things fall his way and he hoists a trophy.
Most Likely To Disappoint: Emiliano Grillo ($8,300 DraftKings |$9,800 FanDuel)
Grillo is coming off a runner-up finish at the RBC Heritage, which means that expectations will be high when he tees it up this week. My concern with Grillo isn’t his form but his style. He’s a fairly volatile golfer that allows things to go sideways in a hurry. That style doesn’t normally fit “Florida Golf,” and his results show it. He doesn’t have a top-20 finish in any of his last eight starts in the Sunshine State, and he’s missed the cut in half of those events.
Pick To Win: Bubba Watson ($8,900 DraftKings | $10,300 FanDuel)
There’s something about Watson that has me intrigued this week. He’s certainly a volatile player and relies on his tee-to-green game, which Paul Casey proved can be the recipe for success at Innisbrook. He played well with Scottie Scheffler last week and finished T-4 at this event in 2019. If he can find an average putter this week, he can make noise!
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$7,000 to $8,000
High Upside: Phil Mickelson ($7,200 DraftKings | $8,600 FanDuel)
This was a surprise commitment from Mickelson who hasn’t played this event since 2004, but with the way he’s playing it shouldn’t be a surprise that Mickelson is adding things to his schedule. The last time we saw him, he was finishing T-21 at the Masters, which marked the fourth consecutive event that he gained strokes on approach. Statistically, he’s plugging the leaks in his game that have hampered him for the past two years. He’s headed in the right direction and I’m a buyer until that changes.
Safest Option: Keegan Bradley ($7,900 DraftKings | $9,700 FanDuel)
You certainly wouldn’t think of Bradley as being “safe,” but his style of play tends to be. He continues to be one the best tee-to-green players on tour, currently ranked 10th. He partnered with Brendan Steele last week and earned a T-4 at the Zurich Classic. He hasn’t missed a cut since January and is seemingly in the mix on a weekly basis.
Most Likely To Disappoint: Adam Hadwin ($7,600 DraftKings | $9,300 FanDuel)
The public tends to favor golfers who have won at this course before which means Hadwin, as the 2017 champion, will get a bump. I’m concerned that Hadwin has now lost strokes on approach in 14 of his past 17 measured events. When you do that, you have to rely on the other areas of your game that are much more volatile.
Pick To Win: Peter Uihlein ($7,300 DraftKings | $8,600 FanDuel)
Uihelin is splitting time between the Korn Ferry Tour and the PGA Tour, but wherever he’s playing, he’s playing well. In his last five starts across both tours, he has a win, a runner-up, a third and a T-22. He was excellent with his partner Richy Werenski last week, and he has more motivation than most. A top-10 finish would allow him to continue to make starts on the PGA Tour and get closer to earning his card back.
$6,900 and below
High Upside: Brandon Hagy ($6,500 DraftKings | $8,000 FanDuel)
Hagy is certainly not for the faint of heart as he mixes great finishes with missed cuts. In his last five PGA Tour starts, he has a runner-up (Honda Classic), T-17 (Valero Texas Open) and a 28th at the Zurich Classic last week. He offers little security but off-sets that with high upside.
Safest Option: Tom Lewis ($6,900 DraftKings | $8,400 FanDuel)
Lewis has made the weekend in five consecutive PGA Tour starts, capping that run with a T-8 at the Zurich Classic last week. He’s won twice on the European Tour and once on the Korn Ferry Tour, so he’s certainly no stranger to being in contention.
RELATED: Valspar Championship 2021 picks: See who our data scientists and anonymous tour caddie are betting on this week
Most Likely To Disappoint: Martin Laird ($6,800 DraftKings |$8,200 FanDuel)
Laird is an interesting case study. He does well in models and looks good on paper until you realize that a huge chunk of his success comes from one event, his win at the Shriners earlier this year. Since then, he has one top-25 finish in 11 starts and has failed to make the weekend in five of those.
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Pick To Win: Richy Werenski ($6,900 DraftKings | $8,400 FanDuel)
Werenski and Uihlein teamed up to do something special last week. They were 8-under in alternate shot at the Zurich Classic, which is the third-best performance since that event switched to a team format. When you go that low, both golfers have to be in control of the ball. If Werenski can keep those vibes going this week, he would make for an interesting longshot.
Rick Gehman, founder of RickRunGood.com and the RickRunGood YouTube Channel, is one of the industry’s leading experts on golf DFS and gambling. Gehman is co-host of the First Cut Podcast and appears regularly on the Pat Mayo Experience golf podcasts. Follow him on Twitter: @RickRunGood.