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Fantasy Golf Rankings: Valspar Championship

Fantasy Golf Expert Ryan Baroff ranks the top players teeing off at the Valspar Championship this week!

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Dustin Johnson clearly wasn't fazed by the added pressure of being the top-ranked player in the world, as he went back-to-back to win the WGC-Mexico. We saw this last year when he won the WGC-Bridgestone after his U.S. Open victory. He's dialed in with his irons right now, and was already the best driver of the golf ball in the game. Although he struggled with short putts last week, he made so many 20' putts that the field had so chance. He's off for the next couple of weeks, so we'll get to see some new blood in the winner's circle.

Tournament Stop

The Copperhead Course is one of the hardest tracks the players face each year, headlined by the Snake Pit. Very similarly to PGA National's Bear Trap, the Snake Pit consists of a three hole stretch that often determines the tournament on Sunday afternoon. The course is a par-71, checking in just over 7,300 yards. What's important to note is the course still has four par-5s, so bombers tend to do well. There is an extra par-3 this week, which again emphasizes how important ball-striking and proximity will be this week. Certain bombers who can club down off the tee (Justin Thomas, Gary Woodland, Daniel Berger, and Jason Kokrak) are main targets for me this week.

As usual, we need to look towards Florida and bermuda green specialists during the Florida swing. While the courses are all a little different, accuracy, ball-striking, putting on bermuda surfaces, and handing the wind are all characteristics we need to target. The wind has played a major factor here in the past, so make sure to check the weather reports on Wednesday to see if one wave has an edge over the other.

In terms of stats I feel are important, SG:Approach, SG:Tee-to-Green, par-3 scoring, and scrambling stand out. Correlating courses that I'll take a small look at this week are Colonial, TPC Sawgrass, and Harbour Town, with an added emphasis on bermuda, Pete Dye, and hard course specialists.

This week's field is headlined by Henrik Stenson, Justin Thomas, Bubba Watson, Patrick Reed, Charl Schwartzel, and Daniel Berger. If I had to pick one of these guys to win this week, it would be Henrik Stenson.

What stats are important this week?

Birdie or Better % (BoB%):

There are really not many weeks where we aren't going to target birdie or better percentage, because that's what fantasy golf scoring is all about. Guys like Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger, Robert Garrigus, Gary Woodland, and Luke List come to mind in this week's field when targeting birdie makers. Bombers, you see. It's possible to have a player finish top-10 in fantasy points while not finishing anywhere close to the top-10 in the actual event.

Strokes Gained Approach (SG:APP):

Copperhead is a ball-striker's course, so I'm targeting elite iron players this week. I'm going to target SG:APP because players who find the most greens and give themselves the most birdie opportunities will capitalize most. The thick, bermuda rough is always a challenge, making scrambling very difficult. If you have a player who sticks approach shots inside 10' consistently, he's going to shoot up the leaderboard and contend on Sunday. Some names that stand out in the field are Gary Woodland, Ryan Moore, Byeong-Hun An, Justin Thomas, and Kyle Stanley.

Par 3 Scoring (P3):

Copperhead is a par-71, but is unique because it features five par-3s. This is going to make par-3 scoring a major metric this week, since long irons will come into play more here than at most venues. If you look at par-3 scoring average and long iron play, there are plenty of names on both lists. Some players who popped out to me were Webb Simpson, Martin Laird, Nick Watney, Bill Haas, and Adam Hadwin.

Bogey Avoidance:

Bogey Avoidance can help us predict players who will perform well at Copperhead, but it isn't a great metric when making DraftKings picks. We want birdie makers more than bogey avoiders. But the leaderboards here in the past have been littered with accurate players who keep the big numbers off their scorecards. Names that stood out to me in this field were Bill Haas, Adam Hadwin, Charles Howell III, and Chris Kirk.

1. HENRIK STENSON [YAHOO CLASS C] - WORLD RANKING: #5

I debated where to rank Stenson this week because he burned me so badly with his WD last week in Mexico, but there's no doubt he's the best player in this field. Before last week, Stenson posted six consecutive top-10 finishes, including a 2nd in Dubai. He comes back to a venue where he's posted 4th and 11th place finishes, and fits our mold perfectly. Although he's an elite cash game play this week, I'm likely fading Stenson in GPPs because I don't think he wins. Stenson has only won three stroke play events on U.S. soil, the last of which came at the 2013 Tour Championship (which was a field of only 30 golfers).

2. JUSTIN THOMAS [YAHOO CLASS B] - WORLD RANKING: #8

JT continues to put his name in contention week in and week out. He comes to Copperhead where he's finished 18th and 10th the past two seasons, despite his inaccuracy off the tee. Thomas makes tons of birdies – great for our fantasy formats – and should have no issue making easy work of the four par-5s this week. If he keeps his ball in play, Thomas will be there Sunday afternoon.

3. DANIEL BERGER [YAHOO CLASS C] - WORLD RANKING: #34

Berger burned a lot of us at the Honda Classic, but I'm still buying him this week. He flashed some upside last week in Mexico, and should carry that momentum into this week's event. Berger loves bermuda surfaces, and has no trouble controlling his ball in the wind. He finished 11th here last season, so there's plenty of pointers towards Berger's success at Valspar.

4. MATT KUCHAR [YAHOO CLASS B] - WORLD RANKING: #20

Kuchar has been a top-20 machine at Copperhead, to nobody's surprise. He's also an elite bermuda putter and falls under the category of Pete Dye specialist. He's won at Harbour Town, and should be a lock for a top-15 here this week. The issue – as always – is does Kuchar have the upside to win? It's not the world's strongest field, so I think he has a chance.

5. PATRICK REED [YAHOO CLASS A] - WORLD RANKING: #12

Reed famously lost a playoff here to Jordan Spieth in 2015, and backed it up with a 7th place finish last season. Anytime we're dealing with a difficult venue that doesn't require bombing it off the tee, Reed should come to mind. He's a great iron player when he's on, and he's an elite scrambler. I think those scrambling skills will keep him in contention at Copperhead this week.


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