Faves & Fades Valspar Championship

2021 Valspar Championship Faves & Fades: The 3 Best Players To Play and Avoid In DFS and Betting Markets

I must once again express how excited I am to get back to the normal stroke play swing. The Zurich Classic was good entertainment, but I had few units on the table and came away empty handed, so I’m looking forward to get that bankroll back up again at the Valspar Championship this week.

In this article, I’ll dive into the three players I think fit the course’s needs best to have success here, as well as three players I’m looking to fade for leverage in DFS, or actively target against in Matchups. Let’s get started!

Faves

2021 Players Championship tee times, pairings: Complete field, round 4  schedule on TPC Sawgrass - SportsBeezer

Justin Thomas (+1000, $11,500)

Nobody’s really talking about Justin Thomas this week, mostly because 10/1 is not a palatable number to bet in golf, but I’m significantly more afraid of the odds-on favorite winning this week than I have been over the last few months of events.

There is one thing Justin Thomas does not do at an elite level, and that’s driving the golf ball off the tee. There is one thing that absolutely does not matter at the Valspar Championship, and that’s driving the golf ball off the tee. With narrow fairways and many forced layups off the tee, this really levels the playing field into a second shot course. Can you think of the last time we played a course that forced shorter clubs off the tee and emphasized Approach + Short Game? Right right, TPC Sawgrass, and we know how that went. I haven’t hit an outright since!

As someone not betting Justin Thomas, I am holding out hope that the Putter just stays average this week because his Irons and Wedges are on a different level right now than the rest of his peers in this field. A cold putter did force a MC in his last appearance in 2017, but prior to that, he’d fired a T17 and T10 in his only other appearances. While I won’t be betting him, there are a number of players in the $7K and $6K ranges who I love this week, which should make it easy to fit JT in DFS lineups this week, despite the hefty $11,500 price tag.

Paul Casey (+2200, $10,000)

It is hard to win the same tournament three consecutive times. That’s the argument against Paul Casey and why many people aren’t betting him at 22/1. I’m taking a different approach this week, especially considering he ranks out #1 in my model this week, a model mind you, which doesn’t factor course history into it at all.

Over the last 3 months, Casey rates out 3rd SG: TOT, 3rd SG: T2G, 3rd SG: APP, and 8th SG: SG. Digging deeper, he’s also 17th Birdies Gained, 7th Bogeys Avoided, 9th GIRs Gained, 1st Prox 200+, 6th P4: 400-450, and 14th Par 5 Scoring. Lots of numbers, but suffice to say, Casey’s recent form is better now than it was in 2018 or 2019 when he won here, and it’s peaking distinctly in the categories that matter most for the Valspar Championship. Subjectively, I think there’s less pressure on a player as a 2-time defending champion than a single title defense, so I expect a sizzling Paul Casey to walk these grounds confidently this week.

Corey Conners (+2200, $9,500)

I clearly have a type this week because Corey Conners’ game is a mirror image of Casey’s. Ball Strikers with precision off the tee and moderate distance, tactical iron players, and historically poor short games that have, for whatever reason, discovered prominence in 2021.

Conners ranks out #1 SG: TOT, T2G, and BS over the last 3 months and is 2nd in SG: APP behind only Charley Hoffman. Many books opened Corey Conners as the third favorite this week sub-20/1, and it’s hard to refute them if you’re just looking at those numbers in a vacuum. Anyone who’s watched Corey Conners prior to March 2021 will tell you he has no business being priced as a favorite, as he’s a known putting liability and not a closer. But the Conners we’ve seen over his last 5 events is a born-again new man. He has gained at least 2 strokes putting in 4 consecutive events now (5 if you’re willing to count The Masters), and has finishes of T4, T8, T14, T7, and T3 over that span. If Conners can continue to sustainably gain 2 strokes putting every week, he is going to win soon, and he is going to win often.

Fades

2019 Military Tribute at the Greenbrier scores: Joaquin Niemann wins by six  shots in West Virginia - CBSSports.com

Viktor Hovland (+2200, $10,500)

I faded Hovland at Torrey Pines a few months ago on the notion that his lacking Short Game would be exposed on a track known to be difficult to hit greens in regulation and penal when you miss. He went on to finish T2, so go figure! But looking closely at his performance at the 2021 Farmers Insurance Open, he contended despite losing strokes around the green, and that’s a credit to him gaining 4 strokes putting, his 4th best putting performance ever in his (young) career.

So despite his success at my #1 comp course this week, I’m fading Hovland on the notion that I expect some regression in his Short Game at Valspar. In his seven 2021 starts, Hovland has gained strokes around the green just once. I’m usually prone to overlook SG: ARG, but this week it correlates as the 14th most important stat category to predict success at Valspar, ahead of SG: OTT, Par 3 Scoring, and SG: P, which all typically rank ahead of ARG. Because of that, I need to knock Vik down just a peg if he’s going to be priced as the 4th favorite on most books this week.

I also don’t love that this will be Hovland’s debut at Innisbrook Resort. It’s a tricky, nuanced track with lots of blind shots and elevation changes, so whenever that’s the case, I tend to gravitate towards veterans who have shown they’ve successfully navigated the grounds before.

Joaquin Niemann (+3500, $9,100)

A lot of people love Joaquin Niemann this week, but I personally struggle to find many parts of his game to highlight as it relates to what this course demands. Niemann is a fine Ball Striker (#34), but that’s inflated primarily by his OTT strengths (#9), and more specifically his Driving Distance (#7). When we peel that back, it masks his short comings in Driving Accuracy (#118) and APP (#65), which are far more important indicators of success at Innisbrook considering the number of forced layups off the tee that neutralize driving distance for the field.

Another concern to me with Niemann is his Around the Green game. He’s always struggled over the course of his career with his short game, so when he began the 2021 year gaining strokes ARG in his first 4 starts, there was reason to coronate him as an elite rising star in the game. Since then however, he’s regressed back to old habits, losing strokes ARG at THE PLAYERS, Honda, and (presumably without ShotLink to confirm) The Masters. Niemann’s debut appearance at the Valspar – T37, +1.2 SG: OTT, +3.5 SG: APP, -0.7 SG: ARG, -1.7 SG: P – is exactly in line what I’d expect from him again this time around. After all, he has yet to register a T20 in his 5 starts in 2021 in the continental United States.

Cameron Tringale (+4500, $8,400)

This fade is primarily rooted in personal spite for what Tringale did over the weekend at the Valero Texas Open after holding a sizeable 36-hole lead. He was on a mission to prove exactly why he’s never won an event on Tour in his long, average career, and I’ve received that message loud and clear. So this write up will serve as a medium for me to vent about how pathetic Cameron Tringale and his stupid trigger fingers looked when given the fleeting opportunity to hold a lead. I’m putting my foot down now and saying I will never bet Cameron Tringale as an outright ever again.

So I’m not going to bet him, and to prove a point, I won’t be playing him in DFS this week either. He has great upside for his price, but with that comes inflated ownership, and he strikes me as the type of player that can tank your lineups if he becomes chalk.

His stats line up well this week, as he’s a good Ball Striker, good Par 5 Scorer, and #1 in Bogey Avoidance. He’s actually #2 in my model this week behind Paul Casey. But unlike Casey, Tringale’s course history at the Valspar is not great, riding three consecutive MCs, so I won’t be jumping to play a 0 win equity player like him at this price and projected ownership.