What a week on the PGA Tour! On Sunday at the WGC Mexico Championship, Phil Mickelson defeated the red-hot Justin Thomas in a playoff to win his first tournament in nearly 5 years. This week, long time rival Tiger Woods will headline a great field at the Valspar Championship in Palm Harbor, Florida. In addition to Woods, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy will round out the top of the field, which also includes Sergio Garcia (#11 in the Official World Gold Rankings), Henrik Stenson (#14), Paul Casey (#17) and Justin Rose (#5). The Copperhead course is home to “The Snake Pit”, which includes two tough par 4s before and after the par-3 17th hole. The course will test tee to green and accuracy statistics, where elite putters will be able to make up ground on the field. Adam Hadwin of Canada won his first tournament at last year’s Valspar Championship with a score of 270 (-14), edging out Patrick Cantlay (-13) and Dominic Bozzelli and Jim Herman (-12).
Top 5 Power Rankings:
#5 Branden Grace
Grace is a dark horse this week, but he’s been quietly having an amazing season dating back to October 18th. The Euro-PGA hybrid player from South Africa is 12/12 with cuts made this year, including a solo 2nd at the BMW SA Open and T15 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in January, and a T20 at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February. He hasn’t finished worse than T37 in a tournament this season. It’ll be interesting to see if he can make a move against a strong field this week, but his above average Driving Accuracy Percentage (24th), Greens in Regulation (35th), & Final Round Scoring (40th) will all make a difference.
#4 Sergio Garcia
Sergio is 8/8 with cuts made this year, including 3 top-10s. He’s consistently been in the middle of the pack for most of February, and broke threw last week in Mexico tying for 7th place at -12, including a sizzling 2nd round 65. However, a big concern is that he has never played in this tournament. While he’s coming in as an expert favorite, be weary of his preparation and if he can adjust to a new course thats tight.
#3 Paul Casey
Casey is continuing his success from last year, finishing in the top 12 in 3 of his last 4 events. More broadly, he’s finished outside the top 19 just once since October 11th. The 40 year old is doing well in T-G and scoring stats, but a concern is that his last start in the event was a missed cut in 2014. Casey is still scoring well and is a legitimate threat on tour from now until the Masters- where he will be a mid-level steal in DFS.
#2 Henrik Stenson
Stenson is the safest pick to win it all this week just based on past performances. His last 3 starts have resulted in a T7 (2017), T11 (2016) and a solo 4 (2015). The Swede now living in Orlando, FL might have some familiarity with the area, but he hasn’t started in a US tournament this season (he did start in the PGA Hero World Challenge hosted by Tiger Woods in the Bahamas though). He also finished T60 in his last event at the Maybank Championship, and hasn’t played since January. Look for Stenson to know his way around the course and put himself in a position to make a run over the weekend.
#1 Jordan Spieth
Spieth is the clear favorite heading into the 2018 Valspar Championship. After missing the cut in the WM Phoenix Open, he rattled off a T20 at AT&T, a T9 at the Genesis Open, and a T14 in Mexico this past week. Not only is he on a good run as of late, but his past 3 starts at this event only make his status better. He won the 2015 event in a sudden death playoff on the par-3 17th with a birdie, defeating friend and President Cup teammate Patrick Reed and Sean O’Hair. He also boasts a T20 in 2014 and a T18 in 2016. Jordan is 6th in T-G and 7th in Sunday scoring this year on tour. As long as Spieth can manage playing in a high profile group with Tiger, which his friend Justin Thomas noted can be difficult at times, expect Spieth to flirt with another W this weekend.
Additionally, The Wrightway Network will be starting a Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) golf column leading up to every PGA Tour/Major Event. This past week, my team in the Draft Kings $2K Chip Shot came in 34th place out of about 1,200 entries. I got lucky with having both golfers in the playoff (Thomas & Mickelson), along with Adam Hadwin (T9), Jhonattan Vegas (T20), Pat Perez (T20) & Charl Schwartzel (T48). At this time of year, to win the money you’ll need all 6 of your players to make the cut to even have a chance.
Here’s my lineup for the DK PGA $10K ($3 entry) for the Valspar Championship:
Paul Casey ($9,800)
Branden Grace ($8,600)
Byeong-hun An ($8,400)
Jason Dufner ($7,800)
Zach Johnson ($7,700)
Chart Schwartzel ($7,500)
Remaining Salary -> $200