Fantasy golf power rankings: 2018 Valspar Championship

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Fantasy golf power rankings: 2018 Valspar Championship

PGA Tour

Fantasy golf power rankings: 2018 Valspar Championship

The Florida Swing resumes this week at the Valspar Championship, which arguably has its strongest field since debuting as a regular PGA Tour stop in 2000.

Tiger Woods will play the event for the first time, joining Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia in the field. McIlroy also is making his debut in Palm Harbor, Fla., while Garcia is playing for the first time since 2013. Spieth won here in 2015, but didn’t tee it up last year.

Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead Course has several unique qualities. It is a 7,340-yard, par-71 test with five par-3s and four par-5s. Also, it’s not your typical Florida course, as it features several elevation changes throughout its rolling, tree-line layout. Two years ago, the course underwent an extension renovation in which the fairways were changed to Celebration Bermudagrass and the greens were switched to TifEagle Bermuda.

The Copperhead typically is one of the toughest courses on Tour and includes one of the most difficult three-hole stretches, too. “The Snake Pit” is a pair of demanding par-4s (Nos. 16 and 18) and the tough par-3 17th.

Last year’s winner Adam Hadwin ranked second in strokes gained: approach-the-green (SGATG), fifth in strokes gained: tee-to-green (SGTTG) and fourth in strokes gained: putting (SGP), while also ranking T-5 in greens in regulation (GIR) and fifth in proximity to hole. Statistically, iron play (GIR, SGATG, proximity) is big this week, as is positioning off the tee, par-5 scoring and par-3 scoring.

There is a 40-percent chance of rain on Wednesday, 60-percent chance on Saturday and 80-percent chance (with thunderstorms) on Sunday. Wind should be a factor, too, as three of the four competition days call for 11-plus mph winds with Sunday projected at 17 mph.

Here are my top 25 fantasy-golf options for this week’s Valspar Championship:

1. Jordan Spieth: 2015 Valspar champ hasn’t finished worse than T-20 in four starts here. Has been T-20 or better in three starts since MC in Phoenix, including T-14 last week at WGC-Mexico Championship. Top 25 on Tour in GIR, SGATG, proximity and par-5 scoring. Still outside top 160 in SGP.

2. Sergio Garcia: Hasn’t played here since 2013, when he was T-7, but also hasn’t missed a cut in five Valspar starts. Rebounded from two straight finishes in the 30s with T-7 in Mexico.

3. Henrik Stenson: His three-start record at Innisbrook looks like this – T-7, T-11, fourth. Cracked top 8 in first two starts of new year before T-60 at Maybank Championship, his last start, in early February.

4. Tony Finau: MC in first two trips here, in 2015 and ’16, before solo fifth last year. Was T-27 in Mexico and has two runner-up finishes this season, including at Riviera. Ranks 14th in SGATG and is in the top 25 in both par-5 and par-3 scoring.

5. Paul Casey: Nothing better than T-37 in four starts with MCs in his last two, 2012 and ’14. T-12 at WGC-Mexico was his seventh top-20 finish in eight starts. Ranks T-3 in par-3 scoring, 10th in GIR and 17th in SGATG.

6. Adam Hadwin: Finished 71st and MC here before winning last year’s Valspar. Enters this year’s event riding two straight top-10s and has three top-10s already this year. Ranks 104th in SGP, but he’s a much better putter than that. Also is 30th in SGATG.

7. Justin Rose: MC in last Valspar start, in 2015, but perfect in previous eight trips with six top-25s. Hasn’t been as sharp of late but still has top-25s in 12 of last 13 worldwide starts. The only outlier is his T-37 last week in Mexico. Ranked outside top 160 in par-5 and par-3 scoring, proximity and SGATG, but it’s a small sample size (12 rounds).

8. Tiger Woods: Making Valspar debut, but has looked good in his latest return, especially in his last start as he finished solo 12th in windy conditions at Honda. Driver will be key, but Woods has excelled in other areas, especially around the greens.

9. Webb Simpson: Had success early at Valspar with four top-17s in five starts from 2009 to ‘13. Two MCs and a T-41 in last three trips, though. Four top-20s this season include T-5 at Honda. Ranks sixth in SGP and T-7 in par-5 scoring.

10. Adam Scott: Has made just half of his cuts in six Valspar starts with no finish better than T-28. T-13 finish at Honda was promising after a rough start to the season. Ranks third in SGATG and is T-26 or better in proximity and GIR. Just needs to putt better to score better.

11. Ben An: T-49 in Valspar debut last year and is riding streak of three straight top-25 finishes, including T-6 in Dubai and T-5 at Honda. Top 15 in par-5 scoring and SGATG.

12. Matthew Fitzpatrick: Making first trip to Innisbrook. MC, T-30 in two starts since snapping his top-20 streak at 10. Has similar game to past Valspar winners like Luke Donald, Jim Furyk and Kevin Streelman.

13. Chez Reavie: Solid Valspar record includes four finishes of T-27 or better and just two MCs in eight starts. Hasn’t cracked top 50 in two starts since back-to-back runner-up finishes in Phoenix, Pebble Beach. Understandably doesn’t play par-5s well but is top 20 in SGATG, GIR, proximity and par-3 scoring.

Feb 15, 2018; Pacific Palisades, CA, USA; Rory McIlroy reacts after teeing off the 12th hole during the first round of the Genesis Open golf tournament at Riviera Country Club. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Rory McIlroy (Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports)

14. Rory McIlroy: Making first start at Valspar and has been underwhelming since he posted back-to-back top-3s in the Middle East to start the year. Putting has started to put more pressure on iron game, which has been disappointing this season.

15. Kevin Streelman: Won here in 2013 and was T-18 last year. Followed sixth at Pebble Beach with T-41 at Riviera. Leads Tour in GIR and is 21st in SGATG.

16. Gary Woodland: Notched his first Tour victory here in 2011, but just one top-10 and two MCs in six starts since, including T-58 last year. Nothing better than T-49 in three starts since winning Phoenix Open. Has slipped to 24th in SGP and 35th in SGATG, but is T-2 in GIR.

17. Kevin Na: In 13 starts at Innisbrook, he has missed four weekends and posted four top-13 finishes, including a runner-up in 2014. T-2 in last Tour start, at Genesis Open.

18. Ryan Moore: Two of his three top-10s in 11 starts here have come in his last three starts – fifth in 2015 and third in ’16. T-18 last year. T-9 or better twice in last four Tour starts. Iron play hasn’t been great this season, but he’s 33rd in both SGP and par-5 scoring.

19. Branden Grace: MC, T-37 in two starts here. Steady but not spectacular since he began new year with runner-up at BMW SA Open. Top 50 in GIR, SGP and par-3 scoring.

20. Cameron Smith: T-42, T-49 in two Valspar starts. T-6 at Riviera in last start was his third top-6 finish of the season and sixth top-20 showing on Tour this season. Ranks T-22 in par-5 scoring and ranks solidly in ballstriking and putting categories.

21. Zach Johnson: Just two top-20s in eight Valspar trips with three MCs, including in 2013, which was his last start here. Hasn’t played since T-57 in Phoenix, but cracked top 25 in five straight starts to begin this season. Ranks T-6 in par-3 scoring, T-8 in proximity and top 20 in GIR, SGATG and par-5 scoring.

22. Louis Oosthuizen: Mixed bag here with three MCs in five starts but also a T-20 in 2012 and T-7 two years ago. Started strong at Honda and WGC-Mexico before fading to T-24, T-30 finishes, respectively.

23. Jason Dufner: Nine straight Valspar starts and nothing worse than T-28. Has three top-20s this season, including a T-17 at Honda. Bad putting week in Mexico dropped him from 15th to 58th in SGP, and ballstriking stats aren’t at his usual levels.

24. Matt Kuchar: Has missed just one cut in 10 trips to Innisbrook with seven top-25s. Outside top 50 twice in three starts since T-5 in Phoenix.

25. Brandt Snedeker: Just one MC in eight starts here, but aside from T-8 in 2008 and fourth in ’11, he has no other top-25s. Looked to be gaining momentum with two straight top-25s before MC at Honda. Struggling with his ballstriking, but ranking 12th in SGP will help.

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