2022 Valspar Championship Betting Preview


A largely rain-soaked and wind-battered PGA field will make its way across the state of Florida to take on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort for the Valspar Championship this week. Known for its tree-lined fairways and narrow landing spaces, Copperhead is also home to a famed three-hole stretch known as the “Snake Pit.” Like the Bear trap three weeks ago, this formidable set of holes (16-17-18) historically plays to an average of 0.55 strokes above par, with #16 being the hardest hole on the course. 


We have seen two of the four previous winners lose strokes off the tee, and while success can come from gaining OTT, the major influence this week will be placement over distance. Copperhead annually has one of the lowest average driving distances across all par 4s and 5s on the schedule; leaving little doubt that the approach shot will be of utmost importance. While this is often the case every week, the advantage is elevated at Copperhead and due to the nature of limiting driving distance, the field will be faced with more long irons shots than usual, and thus more difficult approaches to the green. 

Innisbrook Resort (Copperhead)

Par 71 | 7,340 yards
Driving Distance | 277 yards
Driving Accuracy |57%
Greens in Regulation |56.5%
Green Type | Bermuda

Above are correlations of strokes gained (sg) categories to sg total over the last five tournaments. These are used to tell of a story of how golfers scores were comprised more so than predicting a true course fit. Now that isn’t to see it’s not indicative of how the course will play again but it’s not purely a predictive exercise. As you can see, Copperhead is similar to the average course on the PGA Tour, with less emphasis on strokes gained OTT and ARG. I touched on how OTT will be less important than usual due to distance being negated (and distance making up a larger part of most strokes gained off the tee) so it’s not a surprise to see it correlate below average. SG ARG is slightly below tour averages, and this matches up with other data I looked into from the course regarding missing greens in regulation. The penalty, relative to par, for missing a green here is one of the smallest on tour and perhaps this is partly due to the low percentage of greens hit in general, meaning much of the field will be scrambling more than usual so missing a green doesn’t set a golfer back as much. It could also be due to Copperhead producing one of the higher proximity numbers on approaches so even when hitting a GIR, much of the field will not be looking at easy birdie putts. 

Overall, it will be important not to be wild OTT to have good looks into the difficult-to-hit greens. A steady approach will go a long way this week, where avoiding bogeys will be as important as taking advantage of the limited birdie opportunities. 


Outright Selections

I cannot begin to guess who may withdraw due to the circumstances at The Players Championship, but as of now, Justin Thomas leads the market at 9/1, followed closely by Collin Morikawa (11/1) and Viktor Hovland (14/1). What this course demands seems to suit the market leaders, especially Morikawa and Hovland but I can’t get down to the number on either, or on Thomas. Dustin Johnson is coming off a back-nine 29 at The Players, and two-time champion Paul Casey will make an appearance, but my interest is first drawn to the Irishman Shane Lowry (30/1)

Only a single visit for to Innisbrook for Lowry back in 2018, he returns in superb form, and I expect a better result than his previous T49. Lowry has a knack for appearing on leaderboards when the course is demanding, and we have seen that come to fruition in his last two tournaments, The Honda Classic and The Players Championship. The elements got the best of him at PGA National, but he rebounded nicely last week finishing T13. He was on the good side of the draw but still dealt with less-than-ideal conditions and proceeded to strike well once again, leading with his irons (including a hole in one on #17). As taxing at the five-day tournament may have been, it’s a relatively quick trip across the state of Florida from Ponte Vedra to Tampa Bay, and a majority of the field will be making the same trek and I don’t think it will be that large of a disadvantage. Again, when it’s hard to quantify, my avenue of attack is to not look into the narrative much. The key here is Lowry’s ball-striking and tidy short game is a great match for what he is going to face at Copperhead, and I believe he should be closer to 17/1. 

I will be passing on last year’s winner, Sam Burns, as well as Brooks Koepka, and instead back a golfer who didn’t have a great Players Championship, Matthew Fitzpatrick (34/1). Fitzpatrick was part of the dreaded p.m./a.m. wave that played most of its golf in the toughest conditions on the weekend. He fired off back-to-back 74’s and although he missed the cut, it was his putting that let him down, losing close to 1.5 strokes per round. I’m inclined to look past the short comings of many golfers at The Players due to the wild splits and delays, and for somebody who is one of the best putters in the world, I’m not going to be doing mental gymnastics over his result. Before those two rounds he was playing some of the best golf in the world this year and now he’s coming to another course in which his skill set fits. He missed the cut in his only appearance here in 2018, let down by that aforementioned short game, but that shouldn’t worry you. He might be in the best form of his career and we’re getting a discount due to the deeper field and his results from last week. 


If you’re deep into the bowels of PGA Twitter memes, we’re back at the scene of the creation — “going full Keegan.” I’m hoping we do not get a repeat performance of Keegan Bradley finishing as first-round leader only to miss the cut because I will be backing him at 55/1. Bradley is as predictable as they come – solid ball striking, horrendous putting (although if you only ever saw him in The Players final round you may think he’s elite with the flat-stick). He’s had limited success at Copperhead, and he’s coming into this tournament in top form, ranking 3rd in the field in SG tee-to-green (T2G) in 2022. The expectations are low, and it’s no surprise Bradley has struggled to win on Tour with how poor his putting typically is, but I can’t ignore how he’s playing and how Copperhead suits what he does well. I make him closer to 35/1, and while that may be ambitious, my number does include a large injection of his horrible putting and I still think he’s undervalued. 

Not far from Bradley is Alex Noren (70/1), and I was quite surprised to see his number open this high. Normally there is a small window for catching in-form golfers before the market tends to overreact, but it appears Noren’s 6th-48th-5th-26th run of finishes wasn’t enough to push him down. He made his debut at this event last season, finishing 21st, a finish that was carried by his short game. Noren’s short game has always been his best feature so that’s not surprising but now he’s coming into this event striking the ball about as well as he ever has. His approach play has improved every tournament in 2022, and his driving has been serviceable and should not be a hinderance this week as long as he stays out of the penalty areas. While the iron play may regress, the same can be said for his short game, which has been mundane during this same stretch. I love to back golfers with better than average short games and Cam Smith showed you why in the final round of The Players. In that same vein, even if Noren isn’t striking the ball as purely as the last few weeks, he’s more than capable of making up for that on the greens, but hopefully we don’t need to rely on that. 

I’ve skipped a section of the board in which golfers like Gary Woodland and Kevin Kisner may draw interest, or perhaps some will be tempted to keep chasing the ghost of Francesco Molinari. I have instead decided to end my selections with Patton Kizzire 130/1. He is not in stellar form but he’s also 130/1 so that is to be expected however he has been consistent this year, only missing one cut, and his approach play has been above average. Another strong putter, the concern here will be his driver. He has played this event four times, never finishing higher than 33rd, largely due to poor driving. Putting yourself in bad positions OTT here will make an already difficult course feel impossible. We will see if he’s learned to perhaps take a more conservative approach and play it safer to allow his solid short game to be his advantage. Either way, the 130/1 is a bit high, and although I do not believe he is the best value of the bunch it’s worth firing on. 

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