Valspar Championship Round 3: Finding Value with Tiger on Top

Valspar Championship Round 3: Finding Value with Tiger on Top article feature image
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© Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

He’s probably not winning the tournament, but some guy named Tiger Woods is the betting favorite heading into the weekend at the Valspar Championship.

Woods, who’s in a five-way tie for second place, is listed at +350. Tiger trails only Corey Conners, a relatively unknown golfer from Canada who has a career-best finish of 29th in 20 starts. Conners leads the field by two strokes at 6-under par.

It’s hard to envision Conners, who is at +800, stringing two more strong rounds together, so I’m going to focus on that large group of players within a few strokes of Woods.

Removing Conners from the equation for now, 28 golfers are within three shots of Woods, so this tournament is still wide open.

I can’t advise taking Woods at such a low number with so many players still in this tournament. That said, the value is never going to be there with Woods given his immense popularity, so if you feel like he’s winning this week, then I won’t try to talk you out of it.

(When we made the Woods season prop at the start of the year, it was specifically for these moments. We figured at some point Tiger would be in contention, and as a golf fan, it’s fun to have a stake in the Woods revival.)

Though Tiger is obviously the story after two days, there are a lot of big names near the top of the board.

Paul Casey and Justin Rose are next behind Woods in the odds at +700. Casey is tied with Woods at 4-under, but I’m looking to fade him Saturday. Casey was basically field average off the tee and with his approach, but gained nearly four strokes with the short game to vault up the leaderboard. Putting and scrambling really aren’t Casey’s strong suits, so if he doesn’t turn around his ball striking, he’s likely to slide. Rose is in a similar boat, but he’s driving the ball a little better. He’s been doing a lot of the work with his short game.

Brandt Snedeker (+1000) and one of our pre-tournament mid-tier plays, Webb Simpson (+1800), are the only other guys under +2000. It’s worth tracking both over the weekend. They consistently gained strokes across the board rather than relying too heavily on any one facet of their game.

Outside of the favorites, Patrick Reed is a guy I’d look to target at +2800. Reed is two shots back of that five-way tie for second, so he’s right in this tournament. Copperhead is a course that puts a premium on the iron game, so that’s the primary spot where I want to see a player make up ground on the field. With that in mind, it was encouraging to see Reed gain four strokes with the approach Friday to work his way into contention. He has also had success here in the past, reaching a playoff in 2015 before losing to Jordan Spieth.

Matchups

I’ll be playing three matchups Saturday.

First is Keegan Bradley (-180) over Bob Estes. This course suits Bradley from tee to green, and we’ve seen that so far this week, as he’s gained a little over 5.5 shots on the field. Bradley is never going to putt well, but he’s been field average there through two rounds. Estes has been losing strokes with his approach, but he’s gained nearly two strokes per round with the putter so far. It’s a lot of juice to lay, but Bradley should be fine in this matchup.

Next is Nick Watney (+105) over Steve Stricker. Watney is third this week in strokes gained: tee to green, but his putting has been the second-worst of anyone to make the cut. I love the ball striking for Watney on a course where bogeys will pop up if players get off line. Stricker has had a solid week, picking up strokes in every area, but I just think Watney has a better chance at a low round, so I’ll take the plus number.

The final play is Brice Garnett (+135) over Lucas Glover. This is really a fade of Glover, who ranks 173rd on tour in strokes gained: putting. This week, he’s 16th among players who made the cut. He’s also losing strokes with his approach game. Garnett is picking up a little ground on the field in every area, and I expect him to shoot around the field average Saturday. If Glover’s putter falls back to its regular position, the field average is all Garnett will need to shoot for us to cash.


Top Photo: Tiger Woods via Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports