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Valspar Championship DFS

First Tee to Last Call: Drive Me Crazy

by Conor Coughlin

I’ve been golfing most of my life. It’s the only hobby that has really stuck. You would assume that having played for over 30 years that I would be good. You would be incorrect. 

When I say I’m not good, what I mean is my level is not reflective of the time I’ve spent playing. I shoot consistently in the low-to-mid 80s. Occasionally over the years, I’ve shot in the 70s. Those rounds are few and far between and require the planets to align. 

The main crux of my game has always been my driver. It’s truly the only club in my bag that consistently gives me fits. The off-the-tee game is commonly a challenge for people so I’m definitely not unique. I can legitimately say I have no worldly idea where the ball is going off the tee. I have a concept or a vision of where it’s going but that rarely aligns with reality. 

Over the years, I have tried every trick in the book. I’ve tried to aim for my hook or slice (that has also fluctuated over the years). I’ve tried teeing the ball high, tried teeing it low. I’ve given every brand of equipment you can name at least a season’s worth of effort. I’ve tried countless brands of balls to complement my game. Nothing works. 

Golf is a mental game they say. At this point in my life, I’m starting to believe it’s at least 50 percent mental. You obviously have to have some physical competence to play the game. You have to have some idea of the appropriate way to swing and some knowledge of how far each swing can take the ball.

Equipment does play a role in performance. I have seen god-awful golf swings that produce decent results thanks to equipment compensating for physical inadequacies. However, nothing can compensate for the mental block I have imposed on myself when it comes to driving a golf ball. 

What I’ve found is that when I hit a solid drive with the shot shape that I intend, my result is typically about 300 yards down the fairway. Sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less, but 300 is about my average. If I drive the ball 10 times in a round I most likely hit a desirable drive four or five times. Not exactly the consistency I would like. 

These results are what have prompted me to lean on clubs that I am consistent with. Specifically my 3 wood and my 3 crossover iron. I hit my 3-wood about 270 yards and with the exact shot shape I want nearly every time. I hit my 3-crossover-iron about 250 yards and similar accuracy to my 3-wood. 

So why hit my driver at all!? Well, everybody wants to crush the ball a million yards down the fairway and be able to be the big man in the foursome. I love the feeling that I get from out driving everyone I’m playing with. Turns out I like the feeling of winning and shooting a low score a lot more. I’ve turned golf into a strategic game instead of a physical game. I’m playing a chess match nowadays and that’s exactly what I believe golf was intended to be. A game that creates a level playing field between all walks of life. All types of builds. All types of people. Anyone can compete.

I mention my driver frustrations this week for a few reasons. First off, to remind me that we are playing a game. Daily fantasy sports is a game. It requires discipline, strategy, game theory and the ability to think outside of your ego. To take analytics and apply them rather than trying to outsmart them.

Also, the players I’m looking at this week are not egomaniacs out bombing and gouging their way around the course. They are accurate, plotting and consistent (as consistent as this field can produce at least). This 100 percent may backfire on me but I have been treating my lineups this way for a couple of weeks now and it is proving to yield a better outcome. 

The thing I love about the golfers I’ve been playing is that they are GOOD players. They may not always have huge name equity but they can and will win. Best of all, they are not long-ball hitters. They are all outside of the top 25 for driving distance but inside of the top 50 for accuracy. Also, they are all in the top 50 in the field for greens in regulation. See where I’m going with this? 

This week we are at the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, Florida for the Valspar Championship. The course plays at 7,300 yards and is a par 71. Bermuda grass tee to green and deeper-than-tour-average rough. The fairways are tight and tree-lined with lots of elevation change throughout the course.

This place is riddled with bunkers and water, having the ability to ruin a good round with one misstep. Paul Casey is the back-to-back champion and will be looking for his third win in a row. 

Some Metrics I’m Looking at this Week:

  • Shots gained approach
  • Fairways gained
  • Proximity from 150-175
  • Greens in regulation 

Valspar Championship Picks

Abraham Ancer ($9,300)

I play Abraham Ancer a lot  most weeks as a matter of fact. I’m a huge fan of his consistency and accuracy. He’s a good ball-striker and I like his approach game. He is No. 116 in this field for driving distance, but No. 5 in fairways gained and No. 16 for greens in regulation. Sticking with my theme of short knockers with good accuracy, I will be rolling Ancer out this week.

His ownership is tracking at about 14 percent and is a nice pivot from Corey Conners who is looking to be the chalk of the week. Not a knock on Conners as he rates out third in my model just behind Ancer. 

Chris Kirk ($8,200)

I’ve been on Chris Kirk for quite a while and I’m not jumping off now. He’s No. 15 overall in my model and has been solid in his iron play this year. He’s No. 103 for driving distance, No. 50 for fairways gained and No. 18 for greens in regulation gained. I’d like to see him roll in a few more putts this week, but overall his around the green game is strong. He has four top 10s in his last nine starts, he’s close! This could be the week. 

Tom Hoge ($7,000) 

Tom Hoge has been striking the ball very well over the last few tournaments. That’s what we’re looking for. He is No. 124 in the field for driving distance, No. 41 in fairways gained and No. 49 for greens in regulation gained. While those stats are just slightly better than average, what stands out to me is his shots-gained approach where he is No. 5 in the field. No surprise, he’s No. 6 in proximity for the key approach ranges as well. Those two stats together lead me to believe he will be pin-seeking this week and will have many birdie opportunities.

Other Golfers I Like this Week

Justin Thomas ($11,500)

Viktor Hovland ($10,500)

Corey Conners ($9,600)

Jason Kokrak ($8,700)

Cameron Tringale ($8,400)

Longer Shots

Kevin Na ($8,000)

Kyle Stanley ($6,800)

Henrik Norlander ($6,600)

Thanks for reading, and good luck this week!

I use Fantasynational.com for analytics and statistical modeling. If you’re looking for an edge check them out!

Conor Coughlin @Cough_DFS

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