Out of the Rough: Fortinet Championship (2023)
After a brief two week hiatus, the PGA Tour is back as it begins the new Fall series.
Players who were ranked 70th or worse in the FedEx Cup Standings after the Wyndham Championship will now compete across seven events this fall in an attempt to keep their PGA TOUR card.
The first of those seven events takes place this week in the 2023 edition and the 17th playing of the Fortinet Championship at Silverado Resort in Napa, California.
Formerly the Safeway Open and the Frys.com Open, the Fortinet Championship is a fairly-new event to the PGA TOUR, being played since 2007.
The event found its home at the Silverado Resort in 2014, making this year’s installment the tenth consecutive year.
This week’s field is headlined by Ryder Cup participants Max Homa and Justin Thomas.
Homa is the two time defending champion of this event and will look to make it three straight this week.
Justin Thomas received a controversial captain’s pick on behalf of Zach Johnson to join Team USA in Rome later this month. He’ll continue to seek form after failing to crack the top 70 of the season long FedEx Cup Standings this past season.
Other notable names teeing it up this week include Sahith Theegala, Webb Simpson, Cameron Davis, Matt Kuchar and Stephan Jaeger.
Joining Homa as former winners of this event at Silverado Resort and playing this week are Cameron Champ (2019,) Kevin Tway (2018) and Brendan Steele (2017 and 2016.)
As previously mentioned, there is a lot to play for for a lot of players in this week’s field as those who placed outside of the top 70 of last season’s FedEx Cup Standings are playing to keep their PGA TOUR cards.
The North Course at Silverado Resort plays as a Par 72 at 7,123 yards.
It was originally a Robert Trent Jones Jr. design that opened in 1957. In recent years, under the guidance of new co-owner and PGA TOUR veteran Johnny Miller, the course has undergone a substantial reworking.
Among the renovations, Miller lengthed the track to just over 7,200 yards. He also widened the narrow corridors.
Miller was known for his aggressiveness off the tee when he was on TOUR so it is only fitting that he adjusted his golf course to allow for driver as much as possible off the tee.
The fairways featured this week still run on the narrower side when it comes to PGA TOUR tracks, but many of the holes do feature straight-away tee-to-green layouts where golfers can rip it off the tee.
Miller also did significant work re-configuring the fairways and greenside bunkers since his acquiring of the course.
The fairways this week are tree lined and there are some water hazards in play. As previously mentioned, these fairways are a bit narrower than most courses, but they are rather generous.
Going along with the generous fairways, the rough is hardly a problem as well. It is grown out to just 2.5 inches so there isn’t much of a penalty for missing the fairway this week, again, playing to the likes of those who are long off the tee.
The greens are majority poa annua and are small in comparison to the PGA Tour scheduled courses. They do run on the slower sider of the Stimpeter but being a grass not seen often, those who are versed in such greens will see an advantage this week.
The slower greens also allow for a higher-than-average greens in regulation percentage here at the the Silverado Resort.
This course is also rather short, playing at just over 7,100 yards. On top of that, just one par-four measures over 450 yards. This adds an emphasis to short irons, specifically from 75-150 yards when it comes to approach play.
Three of the four par fives features this week are also reachable off the tee.
The par threes are the main line of defense at the North Course at Silverado Resort however. Each of the four par-threes play over 180 yards. Three of the four par threes rank within the top four of the most difficult holes relative to par at this golf course.
The course also underwent a “reimagination” from the 2022 playing. This simply means that the course was rerouted. The only difference between last year and this year is the order of the holes that the course will be played at.
The average winning score of the Fortinet Championship at the North Course at Silverado Resort has been just under -15.
As of the time of writing this, the weather looks ideal for this week. There is a little-to-no-chance of precipitation across all four days. Highs will peak at 83-degrees on Thursday before slowly falling to 79-degrees come Sunday. Winds will range from 10 miles-per-hour to 12 miles-per-hour across all four days as well.
Strokes Gained: Approach (SG: APP)
Strokes Gained: Off the Tee (SG: OTT) / Average Driving Distance
Strokes Gained: Around the Green (SG: ATG) / Scrambling
Proximity to the Hole from 75-150 Yards
Par Five Average Scoring
Par Three Average Scoring
Birdie or Better Percentage
It should be of no surprise that the two time defending champion Max Homa ($11,000) tops this price range and tops my model. He finished the 2022-2023 PGA TOUR season first in par three average scoring, sixth in SG: PUTT Poa, eighth in birdie or better percentage, 11th in scrambling, 23rd in SG: APP, 26th in proximity to the hole from 75-150 yards, 32nd in SG: ATG, 40th in par five average scoring, 49th in SG: OTT and 55th in average driving distance. In other words, he’s top 55 in each of the ten statistical categories I took into consideration this week. He finished last season on a great run of form as well. He placed T12th at the Genesis Scottish Open, T10th at The Open Championship, T6th at the FedEx St. Jude Championship, T5th at the BMW Championship and T9th at the Tour Championship. His odds are a bit slim at +750 for me to back this week but he’s the heavy favorite for a reason. Also consider Stephan Jaeger ($10,200.) Jaeger comes second in my model this week to just Homa. Jaeger finished the season seventh in SG: ATG, 29th in par three average scoring, 34th in par five average scoring, 36th in both scrambling and birdie or better percentage, 39th in SG: OTT, 47th in average driving distance, 57th in SG: APP and 83rd in proximity to the hole from 75-150 yards. His downfall comes on the greens where he ranks 142nd on TOUR in SG: PUTT Poa. In a weaker field, he won’t have to putt lights out to win, but he’ll have to be competent. Like Homa, Jaeger had a strong finish to the 2022-2023 season. He placed T9th at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, T13th at the John Deere Classic, T34th at the Barracuda Championship, T30th at the 3M Open, T14th at the Wyndham Championship and T20th at the FedEx St. Jude Championship. He’s topping my card this week at +2500 for two units.
The first name in this price range is Eric Cole ($9,500.) Cole became a bit of a darling last season after he fell to Chris Kirk in a playoff at the Honda Classic. He ended the season by making ten consecutive cuts and placed T31st at the FedEx St. Jude Championship and T25th at the BMW Championship. He also went T14th at the Wyndham Championship. Cole finished the season third on TOUR in par three average scoring, 18th in birdie or better percentage, 22nd in scrambling, 24th par five average scoring, 34th in SG: APP, 44th in SG: ATG and 58th in proximity to the hole from 75-150 yards. He finished 113th in average driving distance, 122nd in SG: PUTT Poa and 150th in SG: OTT. We’ll see if a strong finish and then a few weeks to reset can help him off the tee. He’s on the books at +3500 and I’m playing a unit there. Also consider Brendon Todd ($9,400.) The trend continues. Todd had a strong finish to the season, making six consecutive cuts, highlighted by a T2nd at the John Deere Classic and T7th at the Wyndham Championship. Todd finished the season first on TOUR when it came to SG: PUTT Poa which will give him a massive advantage this week. He also finished third in SG: ATG, ninth in scrambling, 35th in proximity to the hole from 75-150 yards, 42nd in par three average scoring, 60th in birdie or better percentage, 69th in SG: APP and 74th in par five average scoring. His disadvantages come off the tee as he finished 169th in SG: OTT and 178th in average driving distance. The rest of his game, especially being elite on Poa should help carry him. He’s on my betting card for a unit at +4000.
As is the usual for these weaker fields, this is a price range I tend to steer away from. However, there is still some value to be had. First off, we have Doug Ghim ($8,000.) Ghim finished last season seventh in par three average scoring, 34th in scrambling, 49th in par five average scoring, 64th in SG: APP, 69th in SG: OTT, 77th in both SG: PUTT Poa and proximity to the hole from 75-150 yards, 78th in SG: ATG, 93rd in birdie or better percentage and 119th in average driving distance. Ghim finished the season making eight-of-nine cuts. He had a stretch of events where he went T19th at the AT&T Byron Nelson, T12th at the RBC Canadian Open and T15th at the Travelers Championship from May through June. He’s making an appearance on my betting card at +6000 for one unit. Also consider Mark Hubbard ($8,300.) Hubbard finished the previous season 13th in SG: APP, 18th in par three average scoring, 31st in SG: PUTT Poa, 41st in SG: ATG, 69th in scrambling, 90th in birdie or better percentage and 108th in proximity to the hole from 75-150 yards. His downfalls come in the form of a 137th placement in SG: OTT, 150th in par five average scoring and 157th in average driving distance. However, he is still elite when it comes to approach and we can hope that can carry him in his weaker field.
It may be a different season, but I’m back to the Kevin Yu ($7,400) well. Yu had a mix of success since his return to the TOUR after recovering from a knee injury last season. He placed T6th at the John Deere Classic back in July. He finished the season third on TOUR in SG: OTT, sixth in birdie or better percentage, tenth in par five average scoring, 18th in par three average scoring, 27th in average driving distance, 53rd in SG: ATG, 62nd in SG: APP and 110th in proximity to the hole from 75-150 yards. We know where his downfalls are and that comes on the greens. He finished the season T146th in SG: PUTT Poa. I’m hanging my hat on him improving his god awful putting from the last time we saw him. He also finished 131st in scrambling. I will be playing a unit on Yu at +9000. Also consider Nate Lashley ($7,400.) Lashley finished the season making nine-of-11 cuts, including making the cut in four straight to finish the season. Lashley finished the season 20th in par five average scoring, 26th in SG: PUTT Poa, 29th in par three average scoring, 34th in birdie or better percentage, 53rd in SG: APP, 69th in proximity to the hole rom 75-150 yards, 90th in SG: ATG and 98th in scrambling. His downfalls come off the tee where he finished 122nd in SG: OTT and 126th in average driving distance.
Finding value in this price range in a field of this caliber is difficult. However, the two suggestions I have this week I feel strong with. First off we have Ryan Moore ($6,800.) Moore finished the season 11th in SG: PUTT Poa, 22nd in proximity to the hole from 75-150 yards, 26th in SG: APP, 49th in par five average scoring, 55th in scrambling and 73rd in par three average scoring. His downfalls came in the form of 142nd placements in SG: OTT and birdie or better percentage and 171st in average driving distance. He finished the season with three consecutive missed cuts but did place T14th at the Barbasol Championship prior to that run. We’ll hope the experience and strong iron play pushes him over the cut line this week. Also consider Tano Goya ($6,700.) Goya finished the season 28th in SG: ATG, 29th in scrambling, 47th in birdie or better percentage, 61st in par five average scoring, 75th in SG: OTT, 78th in average driving distance and 90th in par three average scoring. His downfalls came in the form of 127th placement in SG: PUTT Poa, 136th in proximity to the hole from 75-150 yards and 166th in SG: APP. Goya had a stretch mid-season where he made the cut in 11-of-14 tournaments. He did finish the season by missing back-to-back cuts.
Stephan Jaeger (+2500) - 2u
Eric Cole (+3500) - 1u
Brendon Todd (+4000) - 1u
Doug Ghim (+6000) - 1u
Kevin Yu (+9000) - 1u