Welcome to our weekly PGA Tour gambling-tips column, featuring picks from GOLF.com’s expert prognosticator, Brady Kannon. You can follow Kannon on Twitter at @LasVegasGolfer and you can read below to see his favorite plays for the Valspar Championship, which kicks off Thursday at the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort, in Palm Harbor, Fla. Keep scrolling past Kannon’s picks, and you’ll also see data from Chirp, a free-to-play mobile platform — and GOLF.com affiliate — that features a range of games with enticing prizes, giving fans all kinds of ways to engage in the action without risking any money.
A four-week Florida stretch comes to an end this week at the Copperhead Golf Course at Innisbrook Resort, home of the Valspar Championship since 2000.
Though the Masters is less than a month away, the Copperhead is more of a U.S. Open-type tune up than it is a prep for Augusta National. It is a narrow and challenging par-71 track that stretches more than 7,300 yards. In contrast to what we’ve seen the past three weeks, it is also tree-lined and heavily undulated, with far fewer water hazards than what the pros encountered at their other Florida stops. Like TPC Sawgrass, though, the Copperhead Course favors proper positioning off the tee more than it does distance. Scrambling and putting will be important, too.
This is a grinder’s course. Backing up the U.S. Open reference, we’ve seen two-time U.S. Open Champion, Retief Goosen, win the Valspar twice. Gary Woodland and Jordan Spieth are both past winners here, and last year’s U.S. Open Champion, Matt Fitzpatrick, took 5th at the Valspar in 2022.
The specific skill sets I looked at this week were Strokes Gained Approach, Strokes Gained Around the Green, Scrambling, and Strokes Gained Putting (Bermuda Grass). Off the tee, I looked at Good Drives Gained, Fairways Gained, and Total Driving. The Copperhead Course has nine par-4s, four par-5s, and five par-3s — averaging over 200 yards in length — so I considered performance on par-3s of 200-225 yards. I also leaned heavily on Par-5 Scoring as these four holes are the easiest on the golf course. Players will need to take advantage of them. Note that the wind is supposed to be up this week too, into the 15-20 mph range Friday through Sunday.
The correlated courses I used this week were Sea Island, host site of the RSM Classic, TPC Twin Cities, home to the 3M Open, and Muirfield Village, where they play the Memorial. It is also worth noting that the Valspar has strong course history, meaning players that fare well here typically do so repeatedly. I mentioned Goosen has won here twice. Sam Burns is the two-time defending champion and before Burns, Paul Casey won this tournament two years in a row. Players who have multiple Top 20 finishes at this championship are ball strikers who excel on approach shots and are responsible off the tee.
To Win the Valspar Championship (and finish Top 20)
Note that if you followed along last week at The Players Championship, five of our six selections cashed Top 20 finishes.
Justin Rose (22-1)
Rose is having quite the season. He won at Pebble Beach in February and finished 6th last week at Sawgrass. He was also 29th at the RSM in November. There was talk prior to Pebble that Rose is on a mission to make the 2023 Ryder Cup team. So far, so good. He has ascended to 7th on the World Points list for Team Europe. In his career, Rose has finished Top 10 at the Valspar three times, twice Top 15, and twice Top 25. He also has seven Top 10 finishes at the Memorial, including a win. Over the last 36 rounds, Rose ranks 20th in this field for SG Approach, 4th in Hole Proximity from 175-200 yards out, 10th for Good Drives Gained, and 26th for SG Par 5’s. I’ve seen his odds as low as 18-1. I’m okay with 22-1 or better. Oh, and did I mention? He’s also a past U.S. Open champ.
Adam Hadwin (26-1)
Hadwin comes off a 13th-place finish at The Players and is a past winner at the Valspar. He has a 4th and a 6th place finish at the 3M Open and an 18th and an 11th at the Memorial. He is very accurate off the tee and has a great short game. Over the last 36 rounds, Hadwin ranks 6th in this field for SG Approach, 10th in SG Par 5’s, and 36th in SG Around the Green. If we are looking for that grinding, efficient, accurate, plodding type of player, Hadwin fits the bill.
Wyndham Clark (41-1)
Clark is a bomber with a deft touch around the greens, a combination we don’t always see. Over his last 36 rounds, he is No. 1 in this field for SG Par 5’s, 19th in Scrambling, and 11th in SG Around the Green. Clark hasn’t missed a cut since October — a stretch that includes a 10th place finish at the RSM Classic. He comes off a respectable finish at The Players (27th) where he was 10th in the field for Scrambling and 4th for SG Off the Tee. Against a substantially weaker field than last week, he could rise all the way to the top.
Denny McCarthy (41-1)
Like Hadwin, McCarthy comes off a 13th place finish last week and also owns one of the best short games on the circuit. He’s 3rd on Tour in Putting from Inside 10-feet, 1st in Scrambling from the rough, 12th in Scrambling overall, and 25th in SG Putting. He has finished as high as 9th at the Valspar, has two Top 10 finishes at the RSM, and a 5th place finish at the Memorial. His ball striking can be iffy, but last week at The Players, McCarthy ranked 13th in the field for SG Off the Tee and 24th in Greens in Regulation.
Taylor Moore (60-1)
Moore is yet another player who we are on who had a solid performance last week, tying for 35th at The Players. Both of his starts during the Florida Swing, at Bay Hill and at Sawgrass, have produced Top 40 finishes. Now, we go from an “elevated” field to one that is much more watered-down: a good opportunity to move up the leaderboard. Moore can be a little erratic off the tee, but he did rank 44th in the field for Driving Accuracy last week. He’s 17th on Tour in Scrambling, 41st in SG Putting, and over his last 36 rounds, ranks second in this field for Hole Proximity from 175-200 yards.
Robby Shelton (90-1)
Shelton is the only player that we are on this week, who missed the cut last week, but it is interesting to note that of the top 11 finishers at the Valspar last year, five missed the cut the week prior. As much as I look for good form coming in, it seems that one recent missed cut is not always a spoiler. Shelton was 39th at Bay Hill two weeks ago and 21st at the Honda Classic to kick off the Florida Swing. He’s also been very good at two of the comp courses, with a 10th place finish at the RSM Classic and a 3rd place finish at the 3M Open. Over the last 36 rounds, Shelton is 7th in this field for SG Approach and 3rd for SG Around the Green.
Alex Smalley (100-1)
Smalley did a lot very well last week at TPC Sawgrass, but the putter let him down; he lost more than 2.5 strokes to the field with the flat stick. He was 9th in SG Off the Tee, ranking 31st in Driving Accuracy and 13th in Driving Distance, and was 28th in the field for Scrambling. Smalley also finished 5th four months ago at the RSM. He’s very steady across the stats we looked at this week, ranking Top 35 to Top 55 in the field over the last 36 rounds in the relevant categories. Over the last eight rounds, across both the PGA and DP World Tours, Smalley ranks Top 25 in this field for SG Tee to Green and SG Off the Tee. If the short game shows up this week, 100-1 is going to look awfully inflated.
Full Tournament Head-to-Head Matchups (season record: 13-7-1 )
Robby Shelton (+100) over Tyler Duncan
Taylor Moore (-120) over Ben Griffin
Lee Hodges (-110) over Webb Simpson
Who Chirp users think will win
Justin Thomas – 33.35%
Jordan Spieth – 28.50 %
Matt Fitzpatrick – 10.01 %
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