Paulie’s Picks: 2018 Valspar Championship

The Tour heads to one of the toughest tests, Innisbrook, where ball-striking will be a premium


This week, the PGA Tour heads to Florida for the Valspar Championship. The Copperhead course at Innisbrook is one of the more demanding tests on Tour. A premium is going to be placed on ball striking and patience. It is very difficult to overpower this course. The winner this week will play conservatively off the tee and rely on a hot iron game to succeed. I expect a condensed leaderboard where the difference between winning and 20th could be only four or five shots.


For DraftKings tournament plays this week, it is best if we pivot off of some of the chalkier consistent players. Instead, we should play some of the more volatile low-owned players in hopes of finding that magical lineup that can win a tournament.

Top Tier: Sit Jordan Spieth $11,800 and Start Rory McIlroy $11,300

I think Spieth will play well this week, but for the purposes of DraftKings, I am not going to roster him since I believe he will be highly owned. Instead, I will take my chances on Rory McIlroy, who I think will be under 10% owned this week. If people don’t roster Spieth, they will most likely pay down for players like Rose, Garcia or Stenson. Anytime we can get one of the best players in the world at low ownership, we have to take advantage.

Middle Tier: Sit Jason Dufner $7,800 and Start Matthew Fitzpatrick $8,300

Dufner has provided very consistent results at Innisbrook, finishing in the top 30 in his last nine starts. However, he lacks upside as he has never finished better than 10th and doesn’t make a lot of birdies. I think he will be 15-20% owned this week, and I would rather take my chances with lower-owned players who have more upside. My top choice in this range is Matt Fitzpatrick. He is one of the best iron players on the European Tour. He will fly a bit under the radar as he is not known well by the common golf fan. He has finished in the top 20 in 10 of his last 12 starts worldwide.

Bottom Tier: Sit Charles Howell $7,400 and Start Chesson Hadley $7,400

People will see that Howell finished in the top 15 in three of the last four years of this event.  However, he has only averaged 3 birdies per round over that timeframe. With DraftKings scoring being so dependent on birdies, I will not be rostering Howell. I would rather play Chesson Hadley who has been striking the ball well and racking up a lot of birdies. Over his last 30 rounds, Hadley has gained over 30 strokes on approach. If he brings that iron game this week, he will be four shots ahead of field average already.


Adam Hadwin

Hadwin will be one of the more popular choices this week. He is the defending champion and comes into this event after recording back-to-back top-10 finishes.

Henrik Stenson

This is one of the events this year where I would consider playing Stenson (Bay Hill and Open Championship being the other two). He has an affinity for this course since he is able to showcase his solid mid-iron game. He has finished in the top 11 in all three appearances.

Paul Casey

Casey is a viable option as his game should suit this course well. His premier iron play should allow him to rack up another top-20 finish. However, I’m not sure he has the upside to win.

Longshots to Win:

Harris English 100-1 to win

English has some good memories at this course. He won the Southern Amateur at this track back in 2011. Since then, he has built even more confidence at Innisbrook by recording two top-10 finishes at the ValSpar. His game has shown some flashes this year with top-11 finishes at Torrey Pines and the Career Builder.

Si Woo Kim 150-1 to win

Kim is one of the more volatile players on Tour. I will be backing him in almost any event when he is 100-1 or higher. He has won multiple times on Tour, including the 2017 Players Championship which requires a similar skillset to Innisbrook.