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2021 Valspar Championship Betting Preview: Kokrak, Rose & Woodland Could Excel at Difficult Copperhead

2021 Valspar Championship Betting Preview: Kokrak, Rose & Woodland Could Excel at Difficult Copperhead article feature image

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images. PIctured: Justin Rose

The PGA TOUR heads back to Florida this week for the 2021 Valspar Championship. This will be the first time the Valspar will be played in over two years as it was one of the events that was cancelled in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Copperhead Course at Innisbrook is a par 71 measuring 7,340 yards and features Bermuda-grass greens. Infamous for its difficulty, the track will be a tough test for golfers as trouble lurks all over the place. Holes 15, 16 and 17 — also known as the “snake pit” — make up one of the toughest three-hole stretches in golf and should lead to a captivating finish on Sunday.

The field is massive this week with 156 golfers teeing it up. Some notable players in the mix are Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Phil Mickelson, Viktor Hovland, Paul Casey, Patrick Reed, Sungjae Im and Tyrrell Hatton.

Past Winners at Valspar Championship

  • 2019: Paul Casey (-8)
  • 2018: Paul Casey (-10)
  • 2017: Adam Hadwin (-14)
  • 2016: Charl Schwartzel (-7)
  • 2015: Jordan Spieth (-10)

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5 Key Stats For Copperhead

1. Strokes Gained: Approach

Strokes gained: Approach grades out as the most important statistic once again this week. Copperhead really can’t be overpowered and is a second-shot golf course. Historically, great iron players have done really well here as evidenced by Paul Casey’s back-to-back wins in 2018 and 2019.

Total SG: Approach Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Justin Thomas (+26.0) (+900)
  2. Charley Hoffman (+23.7) (+4000)
  3. Corey Conners (+21.3) (+1400)
  4. Abraham Ancer (+20.3) (+2800)
  5. Tom Hoge(+19.0) (+12500)

2. Good Drives Gained

The long hitters are a bit limited here due to the tree lined fairways and penal rough. Playing from the fairways will be important but laying back too far will cause some difficult approaches with firm greens that may not hold shots from long irons.

Golfers who have a good balance of distance and accuracy have the best chance this week.

Good Drives Gained Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Cameron Percy (+32.8) (+20000) 
  2. Corey Conners (+27.2) (+1400)
  3. Emiliano Grillo (+27.0) (+4000)
  4. Chris Kirk (+26.3) (+5000)
  5. Sungjae Im (+26.0) (+2500)

3. Strokes Gained: Ball Striking

Adding ball-striking puts even more of a premium on tee-to-green prowess in the statistical model this week. Golfers who rank highly in ball-striking are in total control of the golf ball which is exceedingly important at Copperhead.

Strokes can add up quickly here numbers are a common occurrence. Just ask Keegan Bradley, who was the first-round leader here in 2016 and ended up missing the cut.

SG: Ball Striking over past 24 rounds:

  1. Corey Conners (+37.8) (+1400)
  2. Abraham Ancer (+31.8) (+2800)
  3. Viktor Hovland (+31.5) (+2200)
  4. Charley Hoffman (+30.6) (+4000)
  5. Emiliano Grillo (+27.3) (+4000)
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images. Pictured: Abraham Ancer

4. Bogey Avoidance

With the winner likely to be in the single digits under par, avoiding bogeys will be crucial this week. In a challenging event like the Valspar, often times the golfer who is best at avoiding mistakes ends up on top.

Gritty golfers who can grind out difficult pars have a much better chance in an event like this than low scoring birdie-fest.

Bogey Avoidance Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Jason Kokrak (+20.1) (+3500)
  2. Corey Conners (+19.3) (+1400)
  3. Abraham Ancer (+18.4) (+2800)
  4. Cameron Tringale (+17.3) (+4500)
  5. Andrew Putnam (+17.2) (+20000)

5. Greens in Regulation Gained

I am adding GIR: Gained to the model to further include golfers who can control the golf ball.  Consistently hitting fairways and greens will provide golfers with the best chance of winning this week.

Greens in Regulation: Gained over past 24 rounds

  1. Corey Conners (+38.7) (+1400)
  2. Roger Sloan (+34.5) (+20000)
  3. Cameron Percy (+31.8) (+20000)
  4. Emiliano Grillo (+31.6) (+4000)
  5. Matthew NeSmith (+31.5) (+15000)

The Valspar Championship Model Rankings

Below, I’ve compiled overall model rankings using a combination of the five key statistical categories previously discussed — SG: Approach (24%), Good Drives Gained (20%), SG: BS (18.7%), Bogeys Avoided (18.7%) and GIR Gained (18.7%).

  1. Corey Conners (+1400)
  2. Abraham Ancer (+2800)
  3. Paul Casey (+2200)
  4. Russell Henley (+2800)
  5. Doug Ghim (+9000)
  6. Chris Kirk (+5000)
  7. Cameron Percy (+20000)
  8. Cameron Tringale (+4500)
  9. Emiliano Grillo (+4500)
  10. Joaquin Niemann (+3500)
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images. Pictured: Gary Woodland

2021 Valspar Championship Best Bets

Update: Tyrrell Hatton has withdrawn from the Valspar Championship after testing positive for Covid-19.

Tyrrell Hatton (+2800): Tyrrell Hatton is a winner who is starting to show signs of rounding back into form. In his past 24 rounds, Hatton ranks 9th in Strokes Gained: ball-striking and 13th in Strokes Gained: Approach.

With that being said, the main reason I am backing Hatton this week has nothing to do with statistics. The Englishman is one of the best five players in the field and I see a lot of value in his price tag. At an event that could have a winner at -10 or worse, I love his ability to grind out pars and compete in difficult conditions.

With one Florida victory under his belt already, I like Hatton’s chances of getting a second at Copperhead this week.

Jason Kokrak (+3500): Jason Kokrak’s recent form is impossible to ignore. The big man was excellent at the TOUR’s Florida swing in March finishing 9th at WGC Concession, 8th at The Arnold Palmer Invitational and 9th at The PLAYERS Championship. He also has incredible course history with an 8th in 2018 and a 2nd in 2019.

One of the most important statistics this week will be bogey avoidance where Kokrak ranks 1st in this field in his past 24 rounds. The 35-year-old checks all the boxes for me this week at Copperhead.

Emiliano Grillo (+4500): I am probably a massive sucker for this, but I have a feeling on Grillo this week. While the stats are always impressive for Grillo, the finishes don’t always pair with those stats accordingly. This week however, the Argentine is coming off two straight excellent finishes. Grillo backed up a sixth-place finish at Corales with a runner-up at the RBC Heritage, where he gained a whopping 7.1 strokes on approach.

The putter has obviously held him back in his career, but I don’t think that is as much of a problem at Copperhead than it is at other courses. He doesn’t have to make an exorbitant amount of birdies to win this week. If he can produce his typical tee-to-green excellence and just putt to field average, he has a real shot at winning this week.

Justin Rose (+4500): I am not 100% sold on Justin Rose being back, but at this price it is well worth the gamble. He is showing some signs of life with good finishes at The Masters and again last week playing with Henrik Stenson at The Zurich.

Copperhead is a great fit for Rose’s game as he excels with long irons and is great at grinding out difficult pars. In 2019, he finished in fifth-place and got himself into the final group for his Sunday round.

With 10 PGA TOUR wins on his resume, Rose has the win equity I look for when making bets in the mid-tier.

Gary Woodland (+8000): Another golfer who has flashed some recent signs of life after a difficult stretch, Gary Woodland has shown a propensity to play well in events where less than driver can be taken off the tee, and Copperhead is one of those courses. As we saw at the 2019 U.S. Open, Gary is extremely effective when he can take a 3 wood out of the bag and put the ball in the fairway.

Woodland showed some flashes of form at Valero where he gained 9.6 strokes from tee to green on his way to a 6th place finish. If something clicked in Texas that week, this number has extraordinary value.

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