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Handicapping

Valspar Picks

Valspar Championship Preview and Picks
Date: March 9-12, 2017
Course: The Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort Ė Palm Harbor, FL
TV: The Golf Channel/NBC
by Evergreen, PGA Golf Handicapper, Predictem.com

The golf season is fully up and running at this point. A truly star-studded event just took place in Mexico and now the Tour heads back to the states to resume the old Florida Swing. Iím sure there is a border crossing joke to be told but I will leave that to someone else, I guess. With just a month to prepare for the Masters, it is time to get serious for every PGA Tour player, especially if the year hasnít gone quite as well as some would have hoped. There is fresh hope this week at the Valspar Championship and this event is going to be good prep work as the Copperhead Course is not among the easier courses in the rotation. Charl Schwartzel was able to best the field last season, winning the event in a one-hole playoff with Bill Haas. Tour stalwarts like Jim Furyk and K.J. Choi have also won here with Retief Goosen joining Choi as the only two time winners of this event. The Valspar has only been around since 2000 but the field strength is quite strong considering it follows a WGC event and this field features Justin Thomas, Bubba Watson and Henrik Stenson. Much is on the line as we head down the road to Augusta, letís take a look at Copperhead.

The Copperhead Course at Innisbrook is an all-around test of golf. There are essentially no holes on this 7,340 yard, par-71 course that play straight away so a versatile and accurate driver is necessary from the get-go. The Florida staples of sand and water are prominent here so that accuracy is required again on the approach shots. This is probably the least accommodating course that the players have faced this season so a more simple approach often pays off. The winners list includes Luke Donald and Jordan Spieth alongside Choi, Furyk and Goosen. Guys like Justin Leonard and Steve Stricker did well here last year so you start to see just how much more important control is here versus raw power. The final three holes are known affectionately as the Snake Pit and that closing stretch routinely plays as one of the toughest three-hole finishes on Tour. The field often averages a half stroke over par per day over that stretch so anyone that can go through there even for the week will have gained a significant advantage. The winning score has been as low as 18-under since the event began but it has not been better than 10-under in any of the last four years with 7-under good enough to get in the playoff last season. With that little room for error, look to the guys that can save strokes, not just the players with big birdie averages.

Each week, we take a look at the bet offerings at Bovada Sportsbook and highlight who we think are the best bets. We make some picks to win and breakdown a couple of head-to-head matches that are most commonly listed at the various PGA betting sites. Here are our picks to win the 2017 Valspar Championship.

Matt Kuchar (28 to 1 odds to win)
There isnít a lot to like about Kuchar missing three cuts already but he has managed a T22 and T20 in the last two weeks so maybe that bad start was just him knocking the rust off. In his Valspar career, Kuch has missed just one cut in nine starts with two top-10 finishes. There are few with a better record in terms of seeing the weekend here and Matt fits well with the mold of previous winners. Even during a relatively quiet stretch of late, Kuchar is 55th†in fairways, 52nd†in strokes gained-putting and 35th†in scrambling. Modest improvements in scoring should see him trending from the T20 range onto the front page of the leaderboard soon. Copperhead is a place where he could and should do well.

Patrick Reed (30 to 1)
Like Kuchar, Reed is having a rather ho-hum start to this season. It is understandable given the Olympics and Ryder Cup schedules that forced many top pros to miss some down time and the good part for Reed is that he has not missed a cut in any of his eight starts despite not being in top form. He was T7 here last season and has two top-10 finishes in just three career starts at Copperhead. More experience should lead to better results through the next few years and Reedís best portable stat is his 8th†ranked putter. He doesnít have the upper end ballstriking numbers that would make him a contender this week but that putter has been saving his bacon all year and could very well propel him to a finish like he had last year. I think his other-worldly determination will start to show as we get closer to the Masters and should have him contend at least once over the next month. I donít usually blind bet players but Reed is one that I would commit bets to over the next couple months no matter what as I think a statistical regression is coming for him and that should mean a win.

Jason Dufner (40 to 1)
As you look further and further down the betting board, you really need to find a nugget to back your longshot bet or it is just a shot in the dark. Dufner is a legitimate contender this week based on his record at this event which includes eight made cuts in nine appearances. Making the weekend on a regular basis show comfort and that is a great first step to serious contention. Dufner has long been one of the most consistent ball strikers on Tour and he enters the week 14th†in fairways hit while finding the green in regulation over 70% of the time. He putts well enough to make a win a possibility and is performing well right now with a top-30 rank in one-putt percentage. He tends to be a fast starter so look for him to be a good bet in day one or two matches as well.

Head-to-Head Matches
Picks to win based on predicted score after all four rounds. Check with 5Dimes Sportsbook for the best/widest selection of single round matches and a variety of prop bets.

Gary Woodland v. Daniel Berger (pick to win: Woodland)
Woodland is a bomber an therefore a little bit of a misfit for Copperhead but I am sticking with him this week because Berger isnít looking much better from a style perspective. Woodland is currently 122nd†in fairways hit, which is not great for this course but Berger is just 115th†so if both guys are crooked off the tee, Iíd rather go with the guy that hits it further and that is Woodland. Gary is about 75 spots better in greens hit and owns a solid advantage in overall tee to green play. Berger is the slightly better putter but it is Woodland who is actually scoring better despite a few less birdies per week. In this match, it is Woodland who is somewhat oddly the better control player so stick with that model.

Justin Thomas v. Henrik Stenson (pick to win: Thomas)
By most metrics, this should be a Stenson pick given the accuracy challenges at Innisbrook. Henrik led the Tour in greens hit in 2015 and has been one of the more superb iron players of his generation but it is really hard to get away from JT based on his latest run of hot play. Thomas was T5 last week in Mexico and has T18 and T10 finishes here in his two Valspar starts. Stenson has played well in limited action with a runner-up at the HSBC but was forced to withdraw from the WGC event last week with a stomach virus. I would guess that the illness has passed but it does take a few days to get back to normal and Henrik will be short a few days of regular practice and prep. Stenson is getting even billing in this match so there is no favorite which gives immediate value to Thomas as the player with the most recent success.

Good luck and good golf!

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