Valspar Championship 3-Ball Picks and Predictions: Who Should You Be Backing To Start Hot?

Valspar Championship Round 1 matchups, 3-Ball picks, and analysis from Andy Lack. Find out who to target in the matchup markets this Thursday. Andy Lack is here to kick off the tournament with some early winners.
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Valspar Championship 3-Ball Picks and Predictions: Who Should You Be Backing To Start Hot?

After a long, rainy, and cold week at the PLAYERS Championship, I am completely ready to turn the page and head to what I believe is one of the most underrated tournaments on the PGA Tour schedule. I am talking about the Valspar Championship, which despite being in a tough scheduling spot this year, was still able to attract a solid field headlined by the likes of Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa, Xander Schauffele, and Viktor Hovland.

The reason I am such a fan of this tournament has everything to do with the golf course. The Copperhead Course at the Innisbrook Resort is Par 71, measuring 7,340 yards on the scorecard. The Larry Packard design is one of the only courses on the PGA Tour schedule to feature five Par 3s, and all of them measure between 195 and 235 yards. While just outside Tampa, Innisbrook is only a Florida course in geography. With elevation changes and tree-lined fairways, the Packard design far more resembles a Carolina course than the flat and water-filled PGA National, Bay Hill, and TPC Sawgrass that we have already seen on the Florida swing.

While those courses have trouble lurking at every turn, Innisbrook is a far more subtle test. It still features nine water hazards, but the true test lies in its brutally difficult Par 3s, and its tight, dogleg Par 4s. Innisbrook features the fifth most narrow fairways, and the ninth most difficult greens to hit on the PGA Tour. For this reason, I will be looking heavily at players who can keep the ball in play off the the tee and thrive with their long irons.

Let's dig into my round 1 3-balls!

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Round 1 3-Ball: Mito Pereira (+165) vs. Martin Kaymer (+175) vs. Pat Perez (+175)

Selection: Mito Pereira (+175) (Bet $100 to Win $175)

Mito Pereira is a player I am extremely high on in all markets this week, and while he will be making his first appearance at Innisbrook, his game should fit here perfectly. The Chilean is one of the best players in this entire field in driving accuracy and on approaches from 175 yards plus. At an extremely elementary level, that is the winning formula at Innisbrook. He's coming off a missed cut at the Players, but his ball-striking remained intact and he simply struggled once again with the flat-stick. Pereira has shown upside with his putter in recent weeks, and I'm not asking for much with that club on a course that already accentuates his strongest skillsets.

While there are certainly some positives we can draw from Pat Perez and Martin Kaymer, both enter ripe with concerns. I simply don't trust Perez off the tee right now on this golf course, as he's lost in that category in four straight starts. He is completely relying on his flat-stick right now just to make cuts, and I believe his poor mid to long iron play will be exposed here. Kaymer just isn't playable right now. The Honda Classic has been his only worldwide start this year and he didn't even sniff the cut. I will gladly let the former World No. 1 beat me here.

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Round 1 3-Ball: Webb Simpson (+150) vs. Francesco Molinari (+195) vs. Martin Laird (+200)

Selection: Martin Laird (+200) (Bet $100 to Win $200)

Every single week, I play Martin Laird, and the PLAYERS was the first time all season where it really burned me. Last week was a strange golf tournament, and I'm certainly willing to forgive and forget. Besides, the four-time winner still hit the ball well, and only missed the cut because he lost six strokes putting. Laird fits the profile I am looking for as an extremely accurate driver of the ball and a well above average mid to long iron player. The only reason he is priced this high is based on name value alone of his competitors.

Similar to Kaymer, I'm just comfortable letting Webb Simpson beat me at this point. I have no interest in speculating on his health, but I do know he was pretty awful at the Players, losing 3.5 strokes ball-striking despite catching the right side of the draw. In full disclosure, Francesco Molinari actually scares me far more than Webb right now. Despite fading on Sunday, the former Open Championship winner looked solid at the PLAYERS and continues to make cuts this season. With that being said, I still have my concerns about his ability to keep the ball in play off the tee right now. This has been the weakest part of his game this season, and it might really bite him on this course.

Martin Laird is a long shot at next month's Masters Tournament at Augusta at +32000. Last year he finished tied for 38th.

Round 1 3-Ball: Branden Grace (+135) vs. Tyler Duncan (+175) vs. Luke Donald (+220)

Selection: Luke Donald (+220) (Bet $100 to Win $220)

I had to go dumpster diving for this one, but I actually think Luke Donald is really playable this week. The former World No. 1 has played here 12 times, with just one missed cut, seven top 25s, five top 10s, 3 top 5s, and a win in 2012. He also boasts a superb track record on corollary courses such as Harbour Town, TPC Sawgrass, and TPC Southwind. His incoming form certainly leaves a lot to be desired, but in his last recorded start, he gained four strokes on approach. On a course that obviously fits his eye, I'll gladly take my chances with the underdog.

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Tyler Duncan does fit Luke Donald's mold, yet without the pedigree or the results to back it up. Innisbrook should be an okay case for him on paper, but he's gone MC-MC-39th in three appearances here. It's been over two years since Tyler Duncan has recorded a Top-10 on the PGA Tour. When factoring in Donald's track record here, I'm not convinced Duncan should carry a lower price. Branden Grace is definitely the best player of the bunch, but he's struggled just as much as his competitors lately, failing to finish inside the Top-30 in his last eight starts. Iron play is incredibly important here, and Grace has strokes on approach in four consecutive starts, and it appears to be getting worse before it gets better. The former Valspar champion presents far and away the best value.

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Andy Lack is a PGA Tour writer and podcaster from Manhattan, New York. Andy came to OddsChecker in January 2022 after previously writing for Golf Digest, GolfWRX, Rotoballer, and the Score. Andy is also the host of a golf betting and daily fantasy podcast, Inside Golf Podcast, as well as "The Scramble” with Rick Gehman, and a recurring guest on the Pat Mayo Experience. In his free time, Andy is still grinding away at his lifelong dream of qualifying for the U.S. Amateur, and if not writing, can likely be found somewhere on a golf course.

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