FANTASY GOLF PICKS: Graham DeLaet & Luke Donald favorites at Valspar Championship
Defending Champ: Kevin Streelman
This is Graham DeLaet’s week. It’s just gotta be.
The breakthrough’s been looming for too long now. With Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed, Jimmy Walker, Harris English, Kevin Stadler, Kevin Streelman, Billy Horschel, Sang-moon Bae, Ken Duke, and Derek Ernst (scared stupid) all hoisting their first career novelty paycheck towards the gods in the past 12-months, DeLaet kinda seems like Goldberg’s next opponent – HE’S NEXT!!! Not to say that he’s “due”, since that’s not a real thing.
No, it’s a confluence of factors that swing the odds towards DeLaet. The field in Tampa is fairly weak; only 10 of world’s Top 30 players are entered. A number that includes No. 30 DeLaet and has an injured Justin Rose holding the highest ranking at No. 7. So, “10 of Top 30” is just putting a positive spin on it; saying “One of the Top 10” is equally precise describing this field. The tournament isn’t devoid of talent, but there are far fewer legitimate players that need to be beaten this week compared to most events. And, Copperhead sort of sets up nicely for the Canuck. Which is strange since it was the hardest (non-major) Par 71 in 2013. But much of its danger can be avoided by those who could fall back on long drive contests as a safety career; making a living, traveling around, hustling to driving ranges. And DeLaet could. He’d make legit scratch, ranking seventh on Tour in driving distance (303.9). It’s why he’s also ninth in GIR% (73%). Accuracy and distance control from the rough tends to be a lot more manageable if you only have to hit a 9-Iron for an approach, not forced into a deep 5-Iron from the second cut. As it turns out, the first cut is never the deepest. Gary Woodland bombed his way over the trouble en route to victory in 2011, and Robert Garrigus and Boo Weekly just about did the did the same the last two years, firing a Sunday 64 and 63, respectively, to finish with silver. A super low round is out there, but it’s only available to longest off the tee. Oh, and don’t forget how well he’s played in 2014: four Top 7s in is past seven starts.
If DeLaet can putt to his rank (82nd) he’ll convert enough of his opportunities to be covered on the birdie front, so he just needs to improve his play from the beach a tad (44%) and avoid those pesky trees in the Snake Pit (Holes 16, 17 & 18), and he’s going to win.
Or, maybe I’m just projecting. You have no idea how badly I'm aching for another good Canadian golfer. It’s been a while since Mike Weir was bestowed golf’s sartorial honor. For reference, it was on my 18th birthday.
HIT THE LINKS
Patrick Reed’s post-Doral comments brought a ruckus to the golf community: “I’m one of the top five players in the world. To come out of a field like this and to hold on wire-to-wire like that, I feel like I’ve proven myself.” Some called it arrogant. However, Jason Sobel is behind Reed. I am too.
Graeme McDowell explains why so many European golfers live in Florida.
Speaking of Canadians, Adam Hadwin won on the Web.com Tour. #HadWINNING
Luke Donald – It wasn’t long ago Donald was entering his 40th consecutive week as the world’s number one player, a feat topped only by Tiger (281 weeks) in the past 15 years. Seriously, it wasn’t. Rory McIlory knocked Donald off his perch just a smidge over two years ago after winning the 2012 Honda Classic. Donald would get it back, eventually losing the title again to Rory at the 2012 PGA Championship. So, with an assist from math, I’ve concluded it’s been about 19 months since the Brit was the best golf had to offer. But 2013 was a disaster. OK, disaster’s a tad strong, but a mere five Top 10s and three missed cuts in 17 events was a precipitous drop-off from the rest of the half-decade. He looks to be snapping out of his funk, though. He closed 2013 with a T5 at the Euro Tour Championship in Dubai and a win on the Japanese Tour. After struggling on his return to the Middle East in January, he’s flashed a few glimpses of his past elite form. Donald followed up a T8 at the Honda with a seemingly unimpressive T25 at Doral. But after a second round 82, 25th is quite an accomplishment. He’s been playing a lot better; he simply hasn’t strung together four consistent rounds That changes now. No matter how Donald’s currently playing, he always dominates at Copperhead: T6 in 2010, 1st in 2012, T4 in 2013. Believe in those results, he’ll be lingering come Sunday.
Graham DeLaet – BECAUSE HE’S CANADIAN DAMMIT!!!
Gary Woodland – Past winner, kills it off the tee and hasn’t missed a cut since last October. What’s not to like?
Jim Furyk & Webb Simpson - At difficult courses you want to take some safety, hedging on experience at the venue. Webb and Furyk have played Copperhead every year this decade: collecting a win, two seconds and five Top 10s between them. Maybe more impressive? Not a single result worse than T17, Simpson last season.
Jordan Spieth & Harris English - All the focus is on Reed and his Doral comments. The pundits began wondering if the 23-year-old Reed had the chops to be considered the best player under 25 the moment he walked off to sign his scorecard. An argument which is: A) ridiculous (Rory is 24), B) completely oblivious to Spieth and English’s ages. So before we anoint Reed “the new Tiger” (He even wears Sunday red!!!), don’t forget Spieth’s just 20, already has a win and enters play with two Top 5s in the past month; while English has a pair of victories and has finished lower than 16th ONCE in his past eight starts. Apparently, no one cares about them anymore since they didn’t win last week. Much like how everyone's already forgotten about Walker’s three wins this season.
Peter Uihlein – Uihlein, the 24-year-old former No. 1 amateur, is currently the best American not playing on the PGA Tour. The world’s No. 73 player has been cutting his chops in Europe, picking up win in Portigal and two runnerups over the past year. He hasn’t played well in the U.S. historically, but he finished in the upper half of the field last week at the Cadillac Championship, and honestly, if Cooperhead plays as difficult as last year, Uihein’s experience on lesser maintained courses worldwide will come into play.
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