Gdula's Golf Simulations: Valspar Championship

Volatility is the name of the game in golf, and picking winners isn't easy. With fields of 150-plus golfers sometimes being separated by how a putt or two falls each week, predicting golf can be absurdly tough.

We'll never be able to capture everything that goes into a golfer's expectations for a week, but we can try to account for that by simulating out the weekend and seeing what happens.

The Process

Over the years, I have made plenty of tweaks to my original golf model, which uses a combination of the OWGR's field strength numbers and datagolf's field strength numbers to adjust each golfer's score relative to the field (on the PGA Tour, the European Tour, and the Korn Ferry Tour).

The ultimate goal is to place a score from the Waste Management Open, the BMW International Open, and the Knoxville Open on level playing fields. This adjusted strokes metric lets me see how golfers are performing across all tours. From there, a golfer's adjusted stroke data is combined with their round-to-round variance to see how the field is likely to perform when playing out the event thousands of times.

In addition to that long-term adjusted form, I factor in course-level adjustments for course fit.

I run a second model that uses more granular strokes gained data, which allows me to very easily adjust for course fit. The results are averaged out.

I let the data do the talking and don't make many tweaks -- if any. Golfers with a small sample get regressed to a low-end PGA Tour player to round out their samples. Data points are weighted more heavily toward recent performance.

Here are the most likely winners for the Valspar Championship, according to the models.

Golfer Simulated
Made Cut%
Win Odds
Justin Thomas6.8%36.5%82.7%+850
Dustin Johnson6.4%34.6%81.6%+1000
Viktor Hovland4.5%29.1%78.1%+2000
Corey Conners4.2%28.3%78.5%+2000
Patrick Reed3.9%27.6%77.9%+2000
Tyrrell Hatton3.8%27.2%77.4%+2500
Russell Henley3.5%25.3%76.2%+3100
Scottie Scheffler3.0%22.8%74.2%+2800
Abraham Ancer2.9%23.1%74.2%+3300
Paul Casey2.9%21.7%72.9%+2000
Louis Oosthuizen2.4%19.4%70.9%+3100
Joaquin Niemann2.4%19.6%71.6%+3300
Sungjae Im2.2%18.7%71.3%+3100
Cameron Tringale1.9%16.7%68.9%+3700
Jason Kokrak1.8%16.0%67.7%+3100
Ryan Palmer1.7%16.2%67.8%+5500
Kevin Streelman1.7%15.5%66.9%+6500
Chris Kirk1.6%14.8%66.1%+4500
Justin Rose1.5%13.6%64.4%+3700
Charley Hoffman1.4%14.0%65.9%+4500
Kevin Na1.4%14.1%64.8%+5000
Emiliano Grillo1.4%14.1%65.3%+5000
Kevin Kisner1.1%12.9%63.6%+6000
Max Homa1.1%11.4%61.6%+6500
Bubba Watson1.0%11.0%61.6%+3700
Keegan Bradley1.0%10.8%61.3%+7000
Lucas Glover1.0%11.6%62.2%+7000
Talor Gooch1.0%11.0%61.4%+7000
Charles Howell III0.9%10.4%59.7%+9000
Doug Ghim0.9%11.0%61.6%+9000
John Huh0.9%10.4%60.8%+10000
Lanto Griffin0.8%10.2%60.5%+10000
Zach Johnson0.8%10.1%60.2%+13000
Adam Hadwin0.8%9.4%58.5%+9000
Mackenzie Hughes0.7%9.1%58.6%+9000
Ian Poulter0.7%8.9%57.6%+9000
Denny McCarthy0.7%9.0%58.4%+9000
Cameron Davis0.7%8.9%57.3%+8000
Sam Burns0.7%8.6%56.7%+7000
Tom Hoge0.6%8.5%57.8%+13000
Gary Woodland0.6%7.8%55.5%+6000
Ryan Moore0.6%7.5%53.8%+13000

The two betting favorites, Justin Thomas (+850) and Dustin Johnson (+1000), are the two favorites in the model, but they also are overvalued on FanDuel Sportsbook with how their win odds rate out over 10,000 simulations. It's a pretty strong and deep field, and the course at Copperhead is tough, historically.

I usually like targeting the best golfers at tougher courses because it takes more skill to birdie a hole that's difficult to birdie than it is to birdie a hole when it's super easy and everyone can birdie it. (I don't have data to back that up, but it makes sense.) However, Copperhead rewards driving accuracy rather than distance, so Thomas and Johnson lose some of their distance-derived edge on the field. Again, they're still rightfully favored, but they aren't necessarily elite bets at their numbers.

So, instead, I'm taking the value and looking to some high-end ball-strikers who are usually accurate off the tee with Viktor Hovland (+2000) and Corey Conners (+2000), who are available at double the odds or more of JT and DJ.

Another bet the model likes is on Russell Henley (+3100), which is typical based on his stats profile. There was obviously more value on him when he opened at +3700, but he's an accurate driver who stripes the irons as well as anyone other than Justin Thomas over the past year.

Abraham Ancer (+3300) should fit the accuracy-centric course and rates out as a fair value in his own right.

Some golfers with longer odds who look appealing include Ryan Palmer (+5500), Kevin Streelman (+6500), Charles Howell (+9000), and John Huh (+10000).

I've got outrights on on Hovland, Henley, and Palmer and top-10s on Streelman, Huh, Lanto Griffin to start the week.