The PGA Breakdown offers data-driven analysis for each week’s slate, using the FantasyLabs Tools and metrics to highlight notable golfers.
The TOUR finally concludes its Florida swing this week as the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Golf Resort hosts the Valspar Championship. The course is a tough par-71, measuring at 7,320 yards with Bermuda grass greens.
I’ll be highlighting the best cash game/single-entry plays on the DraftKings main slate, but these players are often great options in any contest.
My analysis will frequently reference Strokes Gained, a set of proprietary metrics generated by the PGA TOUR using millions of data points to calculate how many shots on average it takes a player to get the ball in the hole from every distance and situation.
Strokes Gained is now available in the FantasyLabs PGA Models.
There are a variety of Strokes Gained-related metrics, but the six main categories you need to know include:
- Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee (SG: Off-the-Tee)
- Strokes Gained: Approach (SG: Approach)
- Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green (SG: Around-the-Green)
- Strokes Gained: Putting (SG: Putting)
- Strokes Gained: Ball-Striking (SG: Ball-Striking), which is SG: Off-the-Tee + SG: Approach
- Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green (SG: Tee-to-Green), which is SG: Ball-Striking + SG: Around-the-Green
Also, our new Perfect% metric is a great data point to use with your roster construction.
If you missed it, we added two new metrics in our models — Perfect% and SimLeverage. You can find an explainer on those metrics here.
The cliff notes version is that you can use SimLeverage to quickly find leverage plays in tournaments, while Perfect% is great for finding the best price-considered plays for cash games.
The following players listed are based on DraftKings scoring and pricing.
Viktor Hovland ($10,800 DraftKings)
Viktor Hovland is coming off a ball-striking masterclass last week at TPC Sawgrass, gaining a whopping 14.1 strokes combined off-the-tee and on approach. That signals that somebody is absolutely ready to win. As per usual, it was his around-the-green play that kept him from truly contending at THE PLAYERS, especially on Sunday as he lost 1.83 strokes to the field in that department. We know Hovland has a brutal short game, but we also know that’s incredibly volatile week to week.
If we take a broader view, we will see just how dominant Hovland has been. He ranks No. 1 in this field across his past 48 rounds in both SG: Off-the-Tee and Approach. There’s a chance he’s the best ball-striker on the planet at just 24-years old.
Hovland’s results dating back to Mayakoba in November read: 1st,1st, T-30, T-4,1st, MC, T4, T2, T9. Hovland has the same amount of PGA TOUR victories over the past four months (two) as Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, Xander Schauffele, Collin Morikawa, Brooks Koepka, Louis Oosthuizen, Tyrrell Hatton and Shane Lowry have combined over the past calendar year. (We’re counting the Hero World Challenge.) That is not a typo.
The Norwegian was T3 last year in his debut at Valspar, and everything is pointing to this golf prodigy improving on that this time around.
Matt Fitzpatrick ($9,000 DraftKings)
Fitz caught the raw end of the weather draw last week, starting his tournament in the afternoon on Thursday, which meant he had to play in the hurricane force winds that ensued on Saturday. Despite the wind, he still struck the ball very well, gaining strokes both off-the-tee and tee-to-green. It was actually his putter that let him down both days at Sawgrass, losing over 2.8 strokes on the greens to the field in his two rounds.
We know the putter is the best club in the Englishman’s bag and that he putts his best on Bermuda greens, so we should fully expect a bounce back performance this week. Prior to last week’s variance fest at THE PLAYERS, Fitz was coming off three consecutive top-10’s at the Arnold Palmer, Waste Management and Pebble Beach. He should not be priced below guys like Abe Ancer or Jason Kokrak, and his Vegas odds reflect that sentiment. He’s a rock solid cash game option at just $9,000.
Alex Noren ($8,700 DraftKings)
Alex Noren has very quietly been playing some great golf of late. He finished T-26 last week at TPC Sawgrass and gained over five strokes on approach for the tournament despite the tricky conditions. Much like Fitz, it was his putter that prevented him from contending as he lost strokes with the flat stick in three of his four rounds. Thankfully, he found his stroke on Sunday, gaining 2.2 strokes on the field which led to a final round 69.
Prior to last week, Noren had posted two top-six finishes across his past three events. Over that stretch he ranks sixth in this field in SG: Tee-to-Green and No. 2 on approach. After a strong showing in his debut here last year (T-21,) I really like the Swede to continue his strong play this week.
Russell Knox ($8,100 DraftKings)
Russell Knox has been locked in with his ball-striking for quite a while now, ranking fifth in this field in SG: Approach across his past 48 rounds. If you take an even shorter-term view (L24,) the Scotsman ranks second in this field in that department, while sitting No. 3 in SG: Tee-to-Green and 11th in total strokes gained as well.
He finished T-6 last week at THE PLAYERS, which was his second top-seven finish across his past seven starts. Knox has made seven of his past eight cuts as well and has been one of the more consistent golfers in the field since 2022 began. He’s most certainly too cheap at just $8,100 this week, so we need to take full advantage of that in cash games.
Christiaan Bezuidenhout ($7,900 DraftKings)
Bez was not in the field last week at TPC Sawgrass but before that had been crushing the Florida swing, having posted a pair of top-25 finishes at Honda and Arnold Palmer. The South African has one of the more well rounded games in this field at the moment, ranking among the top 33 in both ball-striking categories and with his short game.
Bez has become one of the game’s most prolific cut-makers, and when we are in Florida and on Bermuda, we absolutely have to put him in cash game consideration. DraftKings did us another favor this week, pricing him at just $7,900, making him one of the best values on the week.
Matthias Schwab ($7,300 DraftKings)
Matthias Schwab is not a household name, spending the majority of his time on the European Tour. However, when he does tee it up stateside, he usually plays pretty well. The Austrian has now made each of his past seven cuts on the PGA TOUR and is coming off back to back T-7s at the Honda and the Puerto Rico Open.
Schwab ranks seventh in this field in total strokes gained across his past 16 rounds and has gotten it done in a bevy of ways in the process. Over that stretch, he ranks 30th on approach, 16th around-the-green, and ninth putting. Speaking of putting, Schwab is over a half stroke better per round on Bermuda grass than other surfaces. That differential ranks him fourth in this field among players with more than 20 measured rounds. No one will be on Schwab this week I can assure you, so while he makes for a good cash play, he makes for an even better GPP option.
Mito Pereira ($7,200 DraftKings)
I will never quit Mito. He missed the cut at THE PLAYERS last week thanks to his putter, losing a combined 4.4 strokes in his two rounds on the green. Every other part of his game was fine, as he gained strokes tee-to-green despite missing the weekend. That tells me he is ready for a bounce back this week at Copperhead. Long term, the Chilean has been one of the best ball-strikers in this field, sitting 14th off-the-tee and 11th on approach over his past 48 rounds.
He’s also become a very strong putter on Bermuda greens, so we should throw last week’s results in the trash. Prior to his MC at Sawgrass, Pereira finished T-15 at Riviera and T-30 at PGA National, two extremely difficult tracks. He has teed it up at Innisbrook before, but I fully expect him to make the weekend with massive upside beyond. You cant ask for much more at just $7,200 on DraftKings. He will be a lock for me.