With the midseason break for the Zurich Classic of New Orleans behind us, PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf resumes with the Valspar Championship. It marks the midpoint of 13 tournaments in Segment 3. Each of the remaining seven events will be lasered by ShotLink, so all shot-level values will be contributing to fantasy scoring.
Segment 3 concludes with the Palmetto Championship at Congaree on June 10-13. The inaugural edition replaces the RBC Canadian Open that was canceled on March 9 for the second consecutive season due to COVID-19.
With the AT&T Byron Nelson (May 13-16) relocating to TPC Craig Ranch and the migratory PGA Championship (May 20-23) at Kiawah Island, the Valspar Championship is one of just four events remaining in Segment 3 in which course history is a usable variable for our purposes. That said, and even though Kiawah Island hosted the PGA Championship in 2012, it’s worth tiptoeing into the likes of Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas at Copperhead. If you navigate to Expert Picks (linked below), you’ll learn that I’m opening with both on my bench. I have two starts remaining for DJ but only one for JT. The broad message is that no matter where the PGA Championship would be contested, both would present as short-listers. That should be obvious.
Now, a bit of awesome news for those of you who look forward to my annual full-membership fantasy ranking.
On March 31, the PGA TOUR announced that the Fortinet Championship will open the 2021-22 season on Sept. 16-19. Silverado will remain the host for the new title sponsor that inked a six-year partnership.
Because the 2020-21 season is scheduled to conclude on Sunday, Sept. 5, there will be enough time to build the entirety of the full-membership fantasy ranking. It requires about six weeks of prep, writing and organization. We were stripped of it last year because the end of the season was shifted a week due to the pandemic. This isn’t to say that my fantasy season preview wasn’t of value, but it lacked the usual breakdown of approximately 240 golfers.
I look forward to putting it together as much as devotees like to dive into it. I hold my breath every year that we’ll have that extra week needed to squeeze it in, so it’s a good day when it’s confirmed.
PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf
My roster for the Valspar Championship (in alphabetical order):
Paul Casey (+2200)
Corey Conners (+1800)
Dustin Johnson (+1100)
Patrick Reed (+1800)
Justin Rose (+3300)
Justin Thomas (+1000)
You’ll find my starters in Expert Picks.
Others to consider for each category (in alphabetical order):
Scoring: Charley Hoffman; Viktor Hovland; Sungjae Im; Jason Kokrak; Joaquin Niemann; Ryan Palmer; Scottie Scheffler; Cameron Tringale; Peter Uihlein; Danny Willett
Driving: Keegan Bradley; Emiliano Grillo; Viktor Hovland; Sungjae Im; Jason Kokrak; Joaquin Niemann; Louis Oosthuizen; Ryan Palmer; Scottie Scheffler; Bubba Watson
POWER RANKINGS WILD CARD
Russell Henley (+3000) … Delivered on his promise at Harbour Town with a T9, but he’s been coming through all season. Currently pacing the PGA TOUR in adjusted scoring and bogey avoidance. He’s also seventh in greens hit, second in proximity and T5 in scrambling. With a T9 at Copperhead in 2017 already in his memory bank, he deserved a spot in the Power Rankings proper.
Joaquin Niemann (+3500) … He’s fallen from the pace that generated motivation to raise money for his infant cousin a few months ago, but he’s perfect in 14 starts this season. He’s T3 on TOUR in total driving, eighth in greens hit, sixth in adjusted scoring and sixth in the all-around. In his debut at Copperhead in 2019, he finished T37. A possible intangible that could increase his relative value is that he intended to attend nearby USF before opting to turn pro when he failed the required English-language test to be accepted into college. Suffice it to say that he’s faring well despite that setback.
Abraham Ancer (+2800) … Built for Copperhead’s tee-to-green exam. He’s third in fairways hit, 13th in greens in regulation and fifth in bogey avoidance. In his only prior trip, he ranked ninth in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green and T4 in par-5 scoring en route to a share of 16th place.
Bubba Watson (+5000) … Continues to piece together enough solid showings not to lose our faith. Also finished T4 at Copperhead in 2019 where he hasn’t been a regular over time, but this is his ninth appearance.
Sungjae Im (+2800) … I’m always willing (and advising) to ignore results of the Match Play (T42), majors (MC, Masters) and team events (MC, Zurich) because of the formats and heightened variables. That he failed to deliver in each isn’t so much a reflection of his form as it is a coincidence in a condensed period of time. Expect the flood gates to reopen for the 23-year-old who finished T4 in his Copperhead debut in 2019.
Cameron Tringale (+4000) … Ignore his three consecutive missed cuts at Copperhead from 2016-2019. Each occurred during his extended lull. In fact, he’s a terrific fit right now, and he proved it before with a solo third in 2013, a T25 in 2014 and a T17 in 2015.
Henrik Stenson (+12500) … Consider this a promotion for the 45-year-old. He and Justin Rose teamed for a T11 last week. While it doesn’t help Stenson’s Official World Golf Ranking (116th), he was lifted to 161st in the FedExCup standings. Now comes Copperhead where the Swede is 4-for-5 since 2015 with a trio of top-11 finishes and a T24 (2019). Probably still overpriced in DFS but that’s where he can do the most damage.
Peter Uihlein (+15000) … He’s cobbled together a win, a second and a third on two tours in two different formats over the last six weeks. It’s a great position to be in as he chases his first top-55 finish at Copperhead in his fifth appearance, but because he’s 25th in Korn Ferry Tour points, unless he booms for another podium finish or something near it, he could be persuaded to return to the KFT regularly to fortify that position for a 2021-22 PGA TOUR card. Currently 149th in the FedExCup, he has options, but his play could dictate where he goes next if he’s exempt into next week’s Wells Fargo Championship on merit alone. (Reminder: PGA TOUR members with conditional status are not required to play the PGA TOUR if exempt on their number.)
Sam Horsfield (+10000) … A DFS special. If I went deeper in Sleepers, the 24-year-old Brit would have been the sixth man. In his only four starts anywhere all year – all on the European Tour – he’s finished a respective T8, T3, T15 and fourth. Currently 79th in the OWGR thanks most recently to a pair of victories just after his home circuit resumed last summer.
Charles Howell III
Odds sourced on Tuesday, April 27 at 5 a.m. ET. For live odds visit betmgm.
Gary Woodland (+8000) … The 2011 champ recently picked off a T6 at TPC San Antonio, but the positive results are far and few between as he continues to lumber forward in the wake of his hip and back ailments last fall. Quite simply, we can’t trust him, and it doesn’t help that he’s just 2-for-5 without a top 40 at Copperhead since 2015.
Kevin Kisner (+8000) … Another full-season cornerstone in whom we can’t trust right now. No matter how you slice it and spin it, he should be rising to the occasion more often. He finished T24 here in 2019, but even if he was the defending champion, he’d land in this section.
Richy Werenski (+15000) … Fulfilled the elevated expectations with Peter Uihlein for a solo third in New Orleans, but Werenski is 0-for-3 with a scoring average of 74 at Copperhead.
Zach Johnson (+12500) … He’s a strong fit but the form has been off for most of 2021. Despite its challenge, Copperhead is the kind of backdrop on which he could find his game again, but there’s enough depth for more reliable value. Still, keep a close eye on him for the potential turnaround that we can exploit later.
Ryan Moore (+10000) … Still scuffling in his return to competition after an apparent back injury sidelined him for five months into January. He wouldn’t have warranted this mention unless for a pair of top fives (2015, 2016) and a T18 (2017) in recent editions of the Valspar Championship.
Alex Noren (+10000) … He’s the reverse split of what Copperhead rewards, and he’s a first-timer. His ball-striking metrics defy his decent season, but even a deft touch around and on greens doesn’t improve his rank of T152 in bogey avoidance.
Rasmus Højgaard (+15000) … Still worthy only of a curiosity as he learns from his opportunities on the PGA TOUR. He’s still well off the pace as it concerns other non-members this season, but his position just inside the top 100 of the OWGR has piqued our interest for a few months. The Dane just turned 20 in March, so we can sit back and envy his swing without investing in where the ball comes to rest.
RETURNING TO COMPETITION
Jonas Blixt … For the record, this marks his return to the PGA TOUR specifically because the 37-year-old, three-time winner has exhausted his allotted five rehab starts on the Korn Ferry Tour since October. He sat out all of the truncated 2019-20 season with a back injury, so he has 23 starts on a Major Medical Extension. He made only one of the five cuts in the rehab stint, so he’s left best for observation only at the Valspar. However, for the riskiest of fractional considerations, sprinkle him in because most won’t. He lives in Florida and he’s 4-for-6 with a pair of T22s at Copperhead.
Carlos Ortiz … He’s slipped into a slump that’s lasted four starts, so remain patient. It’s also worth a brief breakdown. His starts at the Match Play (T24) and the Masters (MC) were as a result of his win in Houston in November. The 30-year-old has elevated into the higher tier of events, so the plateauing of his curve is understandable.
Cameron Champ … Setting aside the T17 with Tony Finau at the Zurich, Champ hasn’t had a top 25 in individual competition since the 2020 Masters. He’s 122nd in the FedExCup and 213th in Strokes Gained: Putting.
Nate Lashley … His tournament debut is on ice for at least another year, and that’s fine because he doesn’t have an inspiring record in Florida. Currently 85th in the FedExCup.
Brice Garnett and Will Gordon … Both tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday.
Sepp Straka … Also tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday.
Tyrrell Hatton … The fourth to test positive for COVID-19 in advance of the Valspar Championship.
Anirban Lahiri … He’s connected for only three top 30s in 13 starts this season, but they were a T6 (2020 Corales), a T11 (Bermuda) and a solo fifth (Valero), so he’s 102nd in the FedExCup. If you limped in in a full-season format, you’re not complaining, but that’s his only usage as he attempts to climb back out of the graduate reshuffle category. It’s also worth the reminder of how his extended quarantine in India last year presented the opportunity to work on components of his game that needed it the most. If he breaks through for victory on the PGA TOUR, count on those five months as part of the foundation for that achievement.
Steve Stricker … He’d have been a tasty option fresh off victory at the Chubb Classic. He’s iterated that his goal is to qualify for the FedExCup Playoffs, so it’s disappointing not to see him take on Copperhead where he has three top 10s and another pair of top 15s. Currently 128th in points, he’s on the cusp, but this would’ve been a great place to pile on.
POWER RANKINGS RECAP – Zurich Classic of New Orleans
Power Ranking Golfer Result
1 Jon Rahm & Ryan Palmer 7th
2 Xander Schauffele & Patrick Cantlay T11
3 Bubba Watson & Scottie Scheffler T8
4 Marc Leishman & Cameron Smith Win
5 Brendon Todd & Chris Kirk 27th
6 Billy Horschel & Sam Burns T4
7 Danny Willett & Tyrrell Hatton T8
8 Collin Morikawa & Matthew Wolff MC
9 Cameron Champ & Tony Finau T17
10 David Hearn & Zack Sucher (replacement for Seamus Power) 32nd
Wild Card Viktor Hovland & Kris Ventura T25
OTHERS TO CONSIDER RECAP – Zurich Classic of New Orleans
Joel Dahmen & Lanto Griffin MC
Max Homa & Talor Gooch T17
Richy Werenski & Peter Uihlein 3rd
Louis Oosthuizen & Charl Schwartzel P2
Alex Noren & Henrik Norlander T21
SLEEPERS RECAP – Zurich Classic of New Orleans
Cameron Tringale & Roberto Castro MC
Thomas Pieters & Tom Lewis T8
Roger Sloan & Aaron Baddeley MC
BIRTHDAYS AMONG ACTIVE GOLFERS ON THE PGA TOUR
April 27 … none
April 28 … none
April 29 … Justin Thomas (28)
April 30 … none
May 1 … Stuart Appleby (50); Chris Couch (48); Sepp Straka (28)
May 2 … none
May 3 … Brooks Koepka (31)
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