PGA Tour golf best bets: Valspar Championship


Coming off last week’s team event in Louisiana, the PGA Tour returns to traditional play this week for the Valspar Championship.

Paul Casey won the last two times the event was played, in 2018 and 2019, at Innisbrook in Palm Harbor Florida.

Which players are the favorites this time around, who offers good odds and what props are worthwhile?

Sports betting deputy editor David Bearman and fantasy analyst Anita Marks offer their best bets.

Odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill unless otherwise noted.

Bets to win

Corey Conners 20-1 to win; top-10 finish (+200); top 5 (+400)

Bearman: A regular, weekly reader of this column is not going to be surprised to see me running it back with my “human ATM” in Conners. He has become one of my favorite golf plays week in and week out and, yet, this course might be the best fit of all of them. Copperhead has tight fairways and challenging greens, which necessitates a strong tee-to-green hitter. Conners is accurate off the tee and is a good ball-striker that hits greens. He checks every single box — he is sixth on tour in hitting greens, ninth in tee to green and off the tee, 10th in driving accuracy and is 11th in approach and total shots gained.

He held a piece of the lead in each of the first three rounds in his only appearance at Innisbrook in 2018 before a final-round 77 knocked him out. So, we’ve checked the boxes on course history and course metrics… what about recent form? Dating back to the API in early March, his results in stroke-play events are: 3, 7, T-14, T-8, T-4. The Conners express is locked and loaded.

Casey 22-1; top-10 finish (+275)

Bearman: If you are going to give me 22-to-1 odds on a guy who has won here the last two times it was played, I am going to jump all over it. And that’s before looking at how well he has played this season. Over Casey’s two-year run at Innisbrook, he has shot par or better in seven of the eight rounds and led the field in total strokes gained, tee to green and around the green, while being second in ball striking and approach.

The Copperhead course is tight with challenging greens, so good ball-striking is paramount, and Casey is among the best. He is currently 24th in tee to green this season and 14th on approach. Even though he missed the cut at RBC two weeks ago, he had five straight top 10s, including a win, from the Amex through The Players, all vs. top fields. Sometimes, you just don’t have to overthink it and go with the guy who has owned this course and is getting good odds. The last to win an event three straight years? Steve Stricker in 2009-11 at the John Deere.

Jason Kokrak 33-1; top-10 finish (+450)

Marks: I’m not going chalk this week, and I’m taking a chance on long shot Kokrak. His game has been on point as of late, and he finished in the top 10 in all three Florida swing tournaments this season. Kokrak has success on this track, finishing second here in 2019 and eighth in 2018.

Bearman: Kokrak supports one of the best records at this course of the last few years, finishing runner-up the last time it was played in 2019 and T-8 the year before. He also added another top 10 in 2015. He has also quietly put together some impressive finishes in top field this year, with top 10s at the WGC-Concession, the Arnold Palmer and The Players.

Kokrak is 24th in hitting greens this season, 24th in total strokes gained and 18th off the tee. The only thing holding me back from being higher on this pick is that he ranks 171st on tour in work around the green. If Kokrak can hit the greens and not have to save holes, he should be in contention for a top 10, with a chance to cash the 33-to-1 winning ticket.

Justin Rose 45-1; top-10 finish (+350)

Bearman: Welcome back, Mr. Rose. After having one top 20 in nine appearances from last year’s August PGA Championship to this year’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, Rose stormed out to the first-round lead at the Masters, finished seventh and followed it up with a T-11 last week with partner Henrik Stenson at the Zurich Classic.

Hehas played well at Copperhead, with a T-5 in his last appearance in 2018, as well as a T-5 in 2011 and T-8 in 2014. I don’t ignore the metrics often, but Rose, battling a bad back, was not himself for the eight months leading into the Masters. When on, Rose is one of the premier ball-strikers in the game, as we all saw at Augusta last month. At 45-1, he is worth a flier to continue his recent good form at a tough track.


Justin Thomas top-5 finish (+200); Thomas/Casey finish 1-2 (250-1 at DraftKings); Thomas (-125) over Dustin Johnson

Marks: JT’s metric screams he should win this event, being one of the best tee-to-green players on tour (fourth) and second this season on approach. If not for a rain relay at the Masters, JT would possibly be coming in with two major wins on his bag in 2021.

Conners top-10 finish (+175)

Fallica: About the only thing to nit-pick about Conners’ game is his current struggles around the green. Everything else — off the tee, approach, tee-to-green, total strokes gained — you’ll be hard pressed to find a player who checks all these boxes with elite ranks. He never seems to get priced as such though, and close to 2-to-1 on a top 10 seems good to me.

Casey top-10 finish (+188)

Marks: I’m getting the two-time defending champion to finish in the top 10 at plus money!. Casey’s iron game is one of the best on tour, and he is among the best at avoiding bogeys.

Patrick Reed top-10 finish (+225)

Bearman: I was very tempted to make this a Reed week and pick him to win. After all, he finished runner-up in 2018 and also was T-2 in 2015, with a T-7 in between. However, there are a few things that bother me about his current game that are holding me back. For one, he is 137th in hitting greens. That is not a recipe for success at this course. He is also middle of the pack in strokes gained tee to green, which I consider the most important metric this week. And although he has two runner-up finishes here, he also missed the cut last time it was played, in 2019. That being said, his putting his fantastic (second in shots gained), which will keep him hanging around. His putting and success at this course points to a top 10 at +225, but I am not ready to pull the win trigger at only 18-1.

Abraham Ancer top-10 finish (+250)

Fallica: Ancer has just one top 10 since mid-October, but most of his performances have been very respectable — eight top-20 finishes, with just two missed cuts. He has struggled some around the greens this year, but he posted a top 20 in his only go-around here. I’ll look for him to improved on that.

Louis Oosthuizen top-10 finish (+275)

Fallica: Louis has gone T-2, T-16 and T-7 in his last three trips here and will probably be itching to get after it following the runner-up finish in New Orleans last weekend. He has one one of the best short games around, and that will be key to his success this week.

Kokrak top-10 finish (+300)

Fallica: Kokrak has enjoyed one heck of a year so far. He is top 20 in strokes off the tee and top 15 in total strokes gained. He won back in October and has three top 10s in his last four individual stroke play events — and it could have been potentially better if not for a Sunday 77 at Augusta. He has been a runner-up here, as well as finishing in the top 10 a couple other times. His game has never been in better form, and he should be in the mix this weekend.

Sungjae Im Top-10 finish (+300)

Marks: Im had an impressive Florida swing a few weeks back, and I expect him to pick up where he left off. His iron play was dialed in, and he ranked in the top 10i n strokes gained tee to green on the sunny swing as well. Im had a T-4 here in 2019 and putts very well on Bermuda greens.

Reed top-20 finish (-110)

Marks: Reed has a tendency to be the bridesmaid — here, two times to be exact (2015, 2018). This is a course that sits Reed’s game to a tee, considering he eats up tough courses.

Charley Hoffman top 20-finish (+188); First-round leader (45-1)

Bearman: I was looking for one more flier to take this week and was pleasantly surprised with how well Hoffman was been playing. Flying under the radar, Hoffman has gone 2, T-11, T-18 in the last three events and went T-10, T-17 at the API and The Players in March. He is 16th on tour in strokes gained tee to green, 15th on approach and 17th overall. Add the fact that he has five top 25s here and he’s a good guy to have on your board

Rose top-30 finish (+100 at DK)

Marks: Rose is another golfer who checks a lot of boxes you want this week; he usually plays well in Florida, putts well on fast Bermuda greens and has three top 10s in his last five appearances.

Lucas Glover top-30 finish (+150 at DK); Glover (-120) over Kevin Streelman

Marks: Innisbrook is a track Glover excels on; he has sported six top-25 finishes here (T-13 in 2019). He is another golfer that shines on the Florida Swing, and his putter has been hot as we. He is fourth in strokes gained putting on Bermuda greens while down south.

Ancer top-30 finish (-134 at DK)

Marks: Ancer’s iron play and putting will help him finish in the top 20 this week. He was T-16 here in 2018 and won’t allow the “Snake Pit” to intimidate him.

Emiliano Grillo top-40 finish (-134at DK)

Marks: Grillo comes in hot; his last tournament he gained seven strokes on approach. He is one of the top iron players and is among the best ball-strikers on the tour. If his putter makes a solid appearance this weekend, he could finish in the top 20.

Hoffman top-40 finish (-125 at DK); Hoffman (-125 at DK) over Bubba Watson

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Marks: Hoffman is dialed in, sporting three top-10 finishes in his last seven events. He ranks in the top five in strokes gained on approach in his last 24 rounds. I’m feeling this is the year he finishes in the top 40, if not better.

Gary Woodland over Sam Burns (-125 at DK)

Marks: Woodland had been dealing with a hip issue and COVID, buthe has been feeling and playing great as of late. This course is a great fit for his game, and he has excelled on Florida courses in the past.

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