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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: 2018 Valspar Championship

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After a thrilling four days in Mexico, it’s back to the United States this week for the Valspar Championship. This year’s edition will play host to its strongest field yet, with Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcilroy, Tiger Woods, and Sergio Garcia just some of the big names who are ready to tackle the tricky test that Innisbrook Resort (Copperhead) always provides.

Copperhead is a Par 71 that plays over 7,300 yards, with tight tree lined fairways and greens that are difficult to hit. Despite its length, it’s a second shot golf course, so strong iron play is imperative this week. Short game skills are always important around here too, as is par 3 and par-5 performance. There are five long par 3s on this course which always play extremely difficult, and four par 5s which should offer players some respite. Last year, Adam Hadwin claimed his maiden win on the PGA Tour here, posting 14-under par to defeat Patrick Cantlay by one stroke.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Jordan Spieth 17/2
  • Rory Mcilroy 14/1
  • Sergio Garcia 16/1
  • Justin Rose 18/1
  • Henrik Stenson 18/1
  • Paul Casey 25/1
  • Tony Finau 28/1

To qualify my statement that this is a second shot golf course, Frank Nobilo of Golf Channel has stated that he would be shocked if Tiger Woods hit driver more than twice each day this week. At Copperhead, getting the ball in play in the correct part of the fairway in order to attack the pins will be the strategy players have in mind. This will encourage any Tiger backers too, as the driver has been the one club stifling him this year. But with Bay Hill and Augusta to come next for Woods, I’m going to sit tight this week and see if he can build on what was a very encouraging display at the Honda Classic.

Instead, I’m happy to take a piece of Henrik Stenson (18/1, DK Price $10,200) who is making his first start of 2018 on the PGA Tour. But rust shouldn’t be a problem for the Swede, who has played three events so far on the European Tour, where he recorded two Top-10 finishes. With solid showings there, he now arrives at a course that he loves. In his last three visits to Copperhead, his worst finish is 11th. In these three visits he has a Strokes Gained Total of plus 28.67, and the only real surprise is that he hasn’t won here yet.

Stenson matches up well to all the necessary categories this week. In this field over his last 24 rounds he sits fifth in Strokes Gained Approaching the Green, fourth in Strokes Gained Putting, 13th in Strokes Gained Short Game and third in Strokes Gained Total.  Henrik’s Par-3 performance is also very impressive. Over his last 24 rounds, the Swede ranks eighth in Strokes Gained Total on Par 3s, and 13th in Strokes Gained on Par 3s in the 200-225 yard range.  As well as this, he is also number one for Strokes Gained on Par 5s at Copperhead.

Stenson has four Top 10 finishes in his last seven starts worldwide, including a win at the Wyndham Championship. With his game in good form, and coming to a track that he has played so well in the past it’s certainly a surprise to me that he is a top price of 22/1 here this week and one that I’m more than happy to take.

Looking a little down the board, it’s difficult to ignore the course form of both Ryan Moore and Kevin Na (45/1, DK Price $8,000). With both players around the same price it’s surprising that their DraftKings number is so different, and I feel the latter offers better value. Prior to last years missed cut here, Kevin had finishes of 22-10-2 at Copperhead. Last years missed cut doesn’t overly concern me either, as 2017 was a poor year by his standards and his second-place finish at the Genesis Open on his last start shows he’s back to playing some of his best golf again.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that Na has enjoyed success at Copperhead. His lack of length off the tee isn’t a major issue here, and his accurate iron play combined with his world class short game have made it a happy hunting ground for the Las Vegas resident. The short game skills of Na seem to be in top form currently too. Over his past 12 rounds, Na sits 3rd in Strokes Gained Around the Green, 2nd in Strokes Gained Short Game and 10th in Strokes Gained Putting. Along with his brilliant touch around the greens, Na’s iron play is often overlooked. In this field he ranks 10th for Strokes Gained Approaching the Green over his last 24 rounds. At 45/1 and a DraftKings salary of $8,000 in particular, I feel he is being undervalued this week.

Where I feel Na is being undervalued in terms of his DraftKings price, Matt Kuchar (60/1, DK Price $8,200) is being overpriced in his betting odds. This maybe down to his performance last week in Mexico, where he performed poorly. But taking a closer look at his performance his demise last week can be put down to a shocking four days on the inconsistent Poa greens where Kuchar lost a whopping 7.4 strokes to the field. Coming back to a track he enjoys I certainly don’t expect to see a repeat of that this week.

Kuchar will be glad to be returning to Copperhead, where he has had four Top 15 finishes in his last seven starts. Over the past three years, Kuchar has lead the field in Strokes Gained Short Game and sits fifth for Strokes Gained Total. For his high standards he’ll be a little disappointed with his recent form, but he does have a top-five finish to his name this year at Phoenix and he has not missed a cut in almost 12 months. Returning to a course where he regularly plays well at, I feel his number this week is a little too high.

Finally, I couldn’t resist taking a punt on Si-Woo Kim (200/1, DK Price $7,200). The Korean is one of the most unpredictable players on Tour. But with two wins and one playoff loss on the PGA Tour over the last two years, he’s one that I am never afraid to back at a massive price. He has no form to speak of at Copperhead, with one missed cut from one start. But just like at TPC Sawgrass, the tight, tactical test could be one that suits the Korean’s game.

Kim has a Top 10 finish to his name this season that came at the Tournament of Champions, and for his last five events he has a positive strokes gained statistic in every main category except putting. He’s dropped over 12.5 strokes on the greens over his last six rounds, which is about as bad as it gets. But he’s the type of player who can pop at anytime, and at 200/1 it’s no harm in hoping it’s this week.If he does find his way into contention, at least we know that he’s not afraid to win.

Recommended Plays:

  • Henrik Stenson 18/1, DK Price $10,200
  • Kevin Na 45/1, DK Price $8,000
  • Matt Kuchar 60/1, DK Price $8,200
  • Si-Woo Kim 200/1, DK Price $7,200
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Gianni is a freelance writer. He holds a Bachelor of Arts as well as a Diploma in Sports Journalism. He can be contacted at gmagliocco@outlook.com. Follow him on Twitter @giancarlomag

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Opinion & Analysis

Out of Bounds with Amanda Rose: “If Phil were to make a classic rock album, what should it be called?”

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In this episode of “Out of Bounds,” Amanda Rose (@AmandaGolf59 on Twitter and Instagram) recaps the Evian Championship, Padraig Harrington doing weird stuff (again), Phil Mickelson’s new Twitter persona, and Thomas Pieters’ temper. Enjoy the video below!

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Courses

Hidden Gem of the Day: “Sweetens Cove Golf Club” in South Pittsburg, Tennessee

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These aren’t the traditional “top-100” golf courses in America, or the ultra-private golf clubs you can’t get onto. These are the hidden gems; they’re accessible to the public, they cost less than $50, but they’re unique, beautiful and fun to play in their own right. We recently asked our GolfWRX Members to help us find these “hidden gems.” We’re treating this as a bucket list of golf courses to play across the country, and the world. If you have a personal favorite hidden gem, submit it here! 

Today’s Hidden Gem is our first ever double submission! That’s right, two GolfWRX members have now submitted Sweetens Cove Golf Club in South Pittsburg, Tennessee as their favorite Hidden Gem golf course. Here’s what they both had to say below.

bogey pro

“It’s a 9 hole course that is all about the golf.  It doesn’t have a fancy club house.  It’s minimalist and pure golf.  It’s always in excellent shape and very fun.  It is a real treat to play and people come from all over to play it.  I’ve never heard a bad word about it.  Its very similar to a links style course with rolling fairways, waste bunkers, large fast undulating greens.  From the website, it is ranked 50th in Modern Course and ranked #1 course in Tennessee for the last 3 years.”

FairwayFred

“While starting to get too much publicity to be considered a hidden gem it’s hard to argue that Sweetens Cove isn’t one of the best golf values in the country.  For $40 peak season you can play 18 at the #1 ranked course you can play in TN and Golf Weeks 50th ranked modern course.  What Sweetens lack in holes (its a 9 hole course) it more than makes up for with amazing variety, incredible green complexes, firm and fast turf and in my opinion the best set of artistic bunkers I’ve ever seen anywhere.  Rob Collins the principal architect (and now the head of the management team) built the course by hand with his partner Tad King.  Rob has OVER 700 days on site working on the build.  That is almost unheard of in golf course architecture and construction and is the main reason why all the little details at Sweetens are so good.  The main thing at Sweetens is playing golf there is about FUN which is not always the case.  Definitely one to seek out regardless of budget.”

According to the Sweetens Cove website, course rates range from $25 to $65 depending on the day of the week, time of the year and time of day. Also, they have a $100 play-all-day rate (with a cart) and a $60 walk all day rate. Sweetens Cove is located approximately 25 minutes from downtown Chattanooga.

Know a local course that you can play for under $50 that deserves recognition? Submit your hidden gem here

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Podcasts

The Cart Barn (Ep. 2): “How many hours does a club pro really work per week?”

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Do club pros really work as much as they say? Assistant pro Steve Westphal and GolfWRX Editor Andrew Tursky discuss how many hours go into working in the industry. They also discuss course architecture, course architects and their favorite golf courses.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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