2023 Valspar Championship Expert Picks: Back Stephan Jaeger and Zach Johnson

2023 Valspar Championship Expert Picks: Back Stephan Jaeger and Zach Johnson article feature image

Via Meg Oliphant/Getty Images. Pictured: Stephan Jaeger of Germany plays his shot from the third tee during the second round of The American Express at PGA West La Quinta Country Club on January 20, 2023 in La Quinta, California.

We end the Florida Swing this week at the Valspar Championship — a course that feels all the effects of the southeastern region from a weather perspective but plays as if it should be in the middle of North Carolina when we look at the tree-lined essence of the property.

24-yard fairways (on average) and rough that exceeds three inches will condense the grounds into a compact off-the-tee test that will remove the driver from the game plan for every golfer in the field. That is noteworthy since players will be required to work the ball in both directions, and the reduced lay-ups sneakily add hidden distance to the track that we might not see upfront.

If building a model, all of that presents this statistical outline that accentuates complete tee-to-green players who can produce long iron proximity, good drive percentage and quality short games. It obviously is more complicated since the Florida wind and water will add a secondary wrinkle to the equation. Still, it is an excellent place to start your research if you are trying to figure out some answers for the week.

If you haven't already, you can find me on Twitter @TeeOffSports. There, I will provide a link to my pre-tournament model, a powerful and interactive data spreadsheet that allows user inputs to create custom golf rankings. That sheet is released every Monday, so be sure to check it out and construct your own numbers from my database of information.

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Valspar Championship Picks and Strategy

Consider Zach Johnson -115 Over Kevin Kisner In Round 1 (DraftKings)

I talked on yesterday's Links & Locks podcast about there being roughly 10 guys that I wanted to take on in various aspects throughout the week. While books didn't offer most in the capacity I was hoping to see, we did get a tangible spot to attack on Thursday over at DraftKings in Zach Johnson over Kevin Kisner.

Johnson is not a golfer I necessarily trust (ranking 57th for me from an overall perspective and 92nd statistically). However, it is a fun spot to consider against a player getting too much course history boost to an otherwise horrendous profile.

My model ranked Kisner an expected 131st in this field for weighted tee-to-green and 111th for Strokes Gained: Total on this course-specific layout, emphasizing the returns we have gotten this year of him placing inside the top 70 in

only one tournament out of five tries. As everyone knows by now, my model runs a two-year regression that also incorporates some of his better 2022 retrievals, so the fact he isn't being saved by older data is highly alarming for his chances this week.

Let's Party With Some Jaeger Bombs

I like to play some of these deeper long shots of mine from an aggressive (ladder-like) standpoint. Winning a golf tournament is hard, but if we can find the upside options that may have a lower floor but an enhanced ceiling, we can spread out our exposure to that player in a fashion which rewards high-end results.

Stephan Jaeger BetOddsUnits to Risk/Win
Top 5+12000.08/0.96
Top 10+6000.16/0.96
Top 20+2800.35/0.98

I did a similar concept with Taylor Moore and Alex Smalley that I did like from a value perspective, but if you were to tell me one name down this board got himself across the finish line, I would have to give the edge to Stephan Jaeger.

My model believes the German golfer has legitimate top-10 win equity this week at an inflated price tag, and I keep going back to the top-10 projected output my numbers have for him when looking at his projected Strokes Gained: Total for Copperhead. The potential is tantalizing when we add that factor to his top-20 returns for total driving and projected par-three scoring.

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