Event and Course Preview: Fortinet Championship

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Event and Course Preview: Fortinet Championship

Welcome to the 2022-2023 PGA Tour season! After a short two-week offseason, a new year on the PGA Tour is among us, as the FedEx Points standings have been reset and golfers begin their quest for the 2023 Tour Championship. We will see a new collection of PGA Tour players teeing it up this week, as many Korn Ferry Tour graduates will make their debut on Tour. Max Homa will return to Napa Valley this week hoping to repeat his performance from last year. Other key names such as Hideki Matsuyama and Corey Conners will also make their season debut at the Silverado Resort and Spa. Let’s dig into the course!

Course Preview

Silverado Resort and Spa is located in Napa Valley, California. The golf course was designed by Ben Harmon and opened in 1955 and has had a few redesigns since then. Robert Trent Jones redesigned the course in 1966 and Johnny Miller made some changes in 2011 to enhance the course for championship play. Miller lengthened the course by 250 yards, widened the fairways, and updated the bunkers and tee boxes. The course is a “resort course,” so it isn’t necessarily the most difficult course on Tour. The winning score over the last ten years has ranged from -14 to -21, so I expect this week’s winner to finish with a similar score.

The North Course at Silverado is a par 72 that measures a shade over 7100 yards long, making it one of the shortest par 72 courses on Tour. The course features greens with a poa and bentgrass mixture. The GSCA didn’t provide the average green size, but the greens look relatively large when looking at the course from an aerial view. The fairways are narrow compared to the average PGA Tour course, however the rough isn’t as penalizing as the average course. When looking at the scorecard, there are six par 4s that measure 400-450 yards, three par 3s that measure 175-200 yards, and three par 5s that measure 550-600 yards.

Quick Points
  • Course Architect: Ben Harmon (1955), Robert Trent Jones (1966), Johnny Miller (2011)

  • Par: 72 (Four Par 3s, Ten Par 4s, Four Par 5s)

  • Distance: 7,123 Yards

  • Greens Surface: Poa / Bentgrass

  • Rough: Bluegrass / Ryegrass

  • Historic Cutline: Even to -4 since 2015. -3 Last Year

Pivotal Holes

The second hole at Silverado presents a difficult test for players early on in their rounds. The par 3 hole measures 197 yards and features an elevated green, requiring golfers to take an extra club on their tee shot. The green is large and has a slight slope from the back to the front. There are two large bunkers that protect the sides of the green and are tricky to get up and down from. The par 3 sees bogies over 21% of the time, compared to just a 7.5% birdie rate.

The thirteenth hole on the North Course is one of the more challenging holes in the back nine. The green is protected by three large bunkers and is slightly elevated, causing short approach shots to run off the front of the green. Two of the bunkers protect the backside of the green and look like a bogey waiting to happen. The best strategy is to just aim for the center of the green and move on with a par.

Like most par 72 courses, the four par 5s at Silverado will provide some of the best scoring opportunities for the field. All four holes see birdies over 35% of the time and are all bogied less than 10% of the time. The 538 yard 5th hole is eagled over 2% of the time and is the easiest hole on the course. Look for your golfers to excel on these four holes.

Watch the Early-Tee-Time Livestream Monday at 6 PM ET for a hole-by-hole breakdown and a more in-depth look at this week’s course.

Key Stats

  • Driving Accuracy / Fairways Gained

  • SG: Approach

  • Par 5 Efficiency

  • Birdies or Better Gained

  • SG: Putting on Poa

  • SG: Total on Par 72 Courses Less than 7200 Yards

The fairways at Silverado are narrow compared to the average PGA Tour course. While the penalty for missing the fairway here isn’t as brutal as some courses, the winners of this event have been solid in Driving Accuracy on their path to victory. Golfers such as Chez Reavie and Kevin Streelman have had consistent success here by finding the short grass off the tee. Let's look at some of the best Fairway Finders in the field.

Top 5 Players in Fairways Gained
Chez Reavie
Troy Merritt
Ryan Armour
Corey Conners
Ryan Moore
DFS Values: David Lingmerth (6th), Andrew Putnam (7th), Brain Stuard (8th).

Silverado is definitely a second shot golf course. Four of the last five winners have ranked inside the top 15 in SG: Approach at the end of the week.

Top 5 Players in SG: Approach
Brendan Steele
Chez Reavie
Corey Conners
Mark Hubbard
Adam Schenk
DFS Values: Chesson Hadley (6th), Adam Long (7th), Stephan Jaeger (8th).

As with most par 72 courses, golfers will need to take advantage of the four par 5s on the course. All four holes are birdied over 30% of the time, so scoring par can leave your golfers with a disadvantage. Here are a few golfers who excel on Par 5s.

Top 5 Players in SG: Par 5s
Emiliano Grillo
Cameron Davis
Michael Gligic
Nick Hardy
Taylor Pendrith
DFS Values: Patrick Rodgers (6th), Alex Noren (7th), Stephan Jaeger (8th).

With the winning score expected to be in the -15 to -20 range, we need to target players who can rack up birdies in bunches.

Top 5 Players in Birdies or Better %
Taylor Moore
Cameron Davis
Trey Mullinax
Ben Griffin
Emiliano Grillo
DFS Values: Adam Svensson (6th), Nick Hardy (7th), John Huh (8th).

I wouldn’t say putting is the most important stat this week, but I want to target golfers who putt better on poa greens.

Top 5 Players in SG: Putting on Poa Greens
Matt Kuchar
Denny McCarthy
Webb Simpson
Mark Hubbard
Zac Blair
DFS Values: Mackenzie Hughes (6th), Wyndham Clark (7th), Jimmy Walker (8th).

Silverado is a relatively short golf course when compared to other par 72 courses on Tour. Here is a look at who plays well on par 72 courses under 7200 yards.

Top 10 Players in SG: Total on Par 72 Courses Less Than 7200 Yards
Tom Hoge
Webb Simpson
Jason Day
Gary Woodland
Nick Taylor
Matthew NeSmith
Max Homa
Doug Ghim
Brendon Todd
Troy Merritt

Check out Pat James’ Stat Model article for a more in-depth breakdown of the main stats to look at this week.

Tournament History

Max Homa shot a 65 (-7) in the final round of the 2021 Fortinet Championship to jump up the leaderboard and pass Maverick McNealy. This victory was Homa’s third win of his career and the first of two wins on Tour last year. McNealy was leading Homa by three shots with seven holes to play, but a double bogey on the seventeenth hole allowed Homa to take the top spot. Mito Pereira lead the field in SG: T2G but couldn’t sink enough birdies to win the event. Pereira finished 3rd, followed by Talor Gooch and Marc Leishman.

Last Year’s Chalk

The top 5 highest owned golfers from last year include:

  1. Kevin Na - 26% (MC, +2)
  2. Jon Rahm - 25% (MC -1)
  3. Webb Simpson - 23% (T30, -8)
  4. Will Zalatoris - 20% (T11, -12)
  5. Charlie Hoffman - 17% (T22, -10)
The last five winners of this tournament include:
  • 2021 - Max Homa (-19)

  • 2020 - Stewart Cink (-21)

  • 2019 - Cameron Champ (-17)

  • 2018 - Kevin Tway (-14)

  • 2017 - Brendan Steele (-15)

Here is how each player fared from a Strokes Gained perspective:

SG: OTTSG: APPSG: ARGSG: PuttingSG: T2G
Homa (‘21)3.54.32.74.210.5
Cink (‘20)2.15.224.39.1
Champ (‘19)6.72.82211.5
Tway (‘18)2.523.938.5
Steele (‘17)6.26.4-0.32.212.3
Average4.24.12.13.110.4
Takeaways
  • Cameron Champ and Brendan Steele led the field in SG: OTT and Max Homa finished 6th, as the last five winners have gained an average of 4.2 strokes Off-the-Tee in the path to victory.

  • Outside of Kevin Tway, four of the last five winners have ranked inside the top 20 in both SG: OTT and SG: Approach in their respective victories.

  • None of these five winners ranked inside the top-10 in SG: Putting when they won, however, all five had a positive performance on the greens for the week.

  • All five winners ranked inside the top 3 in SG: T2G.

The Field

The 2022 Fortinet field is headlined by Hideki Matsuyama, who is making his fifth appearance in Napa Valley. Hideki will tee it up next week in the President’s Cup, where he will be joined by Taylor Pendrith, Cameron Davis, and Corey Conners on the International Team. Those three also playing in Napa this week. Some of the top players from the Korn Ferry Tour will transition over to the PGA Tour this week, as the top 25 in the final points standings earned their 2022-23 Tour Card a month ago. Justin Suh, Carl Yuan, and Taylor Montgomery are a few names I expect to see near the top of the leaderboard multiple times this year. Stewart Cink, Cameron Champ, and Brendon Steele are a few former winners in the field looking to have success at Silverado again this week. Taylor Pendrith, Sahith Theegala, and Davis Riley are a few of the top rookies from last season looking to start their year off with their first career victory. Finally, fan favorite and California native Rickie Fowler will tee it up in Napa Valley for the first time in his career.

Silverado Resort and Spa Course History

Silverado ranks right in the middle when looking at the relevance of course history, however, there are a few guys that consistently play well here that we can target, especially in cash games.

Brendan Steele

Brendan Steele won this tournament in back-to-back years, as two of his three wins on the PGA Tour have come at Silverado. He’s never missed a cut in Napa, however, Steele hasn’t finished better than T29 here since his victory in 2017. He finished 59th in the final FedEx standings list last year and will look to carry that momentum into his thirteenth season on Tour. Made Cuts: 8/8. Best Finishes: Winner (2016, 2017), T17, T22

Chez Reavie

Chez Reavie has also never missed a cut at Silverado, making the weekend in all seven starts here. He finished T3 in 2021 and has a few top 25 finishes as well. Reavie won the Barracuda Championship earlier this year, which is also played in California. Reavie certainly isn’t known as a great putter, but poa is his best putting surface. I would expect to see him play the weekend for the eighth straight year.Made Cuts: 10/10. Best Finishes: T3, T13, T17

Hideki Matsuyama

Matsuyama doesn’t necessarily have the largest resume at Silverado, but he could’ve won this tournament last year if he would’ve had a positive putting performance. He ranked 3rd in SG: T2G last year but was near the bottom of the field in putting. Hideki finished T3 here in 2015 in addition to his T6 finish last year. Made Cuts: /. Best Finishes: T3, T6, T17

Other Course History Options to Consider
  • Kevin Streelman: Made Cuts: 4/7. Best Finishes: T3, T13, T25

  • Patrick Rodgers: Made Cuts: 6/8. Best Finishes: T6, T6

  • Chesson Hadley: Made Cuts: 4/7. Best Finishes: T3, T14, T23

  • Brandt Snedeker: Made Cuts: 4/6. Best Finishes: T2, T17, T17

Essential Questions

Should we be concerned about rostering players who are playing in the Presidents Cup next week?

If you remember from last year, Jon Rahm was the clear favorite in the betting market and was one of the highest-owned players in DFS. He ended up missing the cut and was off to Whistling Straits to prepare for the Ryder Cup. Rahm certainly didn’t play like he was motivated to stay in Napa Valley for all four days. Do we need to have the same concerns about Hideki Matsuyama, Max Homa, Corey Conners, Cameron Davis, and Taylor Pendrith this week? All five golfers will head to Quail Hollow next week to compete in the Presidents Cup and may be treating this tournament as a warm-up event. I can’t imagine all five of them pulling a Rahm this week and missing the cut, however, there is a large leverage opportunity here if this narrative actually impacts their performance.

Who are some Korn Ferry Tour Grads that we can target?

I expect many of the new golfers on Tour to come in at low ownership this week as many of them are new faces to the casual DFS player. Who are a few that have high upside this week? Carl Yuan finished 2nd in the Korn Ferry Tour points standings thanks to seven top 5 finishes and a victory at the Louisiana Open. Yuan ranked 7th in Driving Distance and 15th in ball-striking on the KFT. MJ Daffue caught many golf fans’ attention with his T31 finish at the US Open. Daffue finished 7th in the finals points standings thanks to five top 5 finishes and a couple of runner-ups. Daffue is a bomber, ranking 2nd in Driving Distance on the KFT. He also ranked 10th in Par 5 efficiency, which will be key this week. Finally, I want to mention Vincent Norman, who may likely be the new Luke List of the PGA Tour. Norman ranked 1st in ball-striking, 2nd in GIRs, and 7th in Scrambling in the KFT. However, Norman was one of the worst putters on Tour. Taylor Montgomery and Justin Suh will likely garner some attention this week and deservedly so, but these three golfers have similar upside to contend this week.

Early Betting and DFS Picks

Hideki Matsuyama and Max Homa are the favorites early in the week, as they should be. Let’s take a look at some longer shots and DFS value plays.

Sahith Theegala

I really like Theegala’s chances to win this week. The California native has had his best putting performances on poa, most of which came during the California-swing in January. He led all golfers in rounds in the 60s last year and was top 5 in rounds 65 or lower, so he has the scoring potential to rise to the top this week. I’ll certainly have an outright bet on Theegala this week in hopes he claims his first PGA Tour victory.

Justin Suh

Be ready for the Justin Suh hype train this week. Suh is fresh off of winning the Korn Ferry Tour Championship, wrapping up an incredible season. Suh was extremely consistent this year, finishing inside the top-20 sixteen times. He was also great in all aspects of the game. Last season, Suh ranked 4th in Ball-Striking, 7th in GIRs, 16th in Driving Accuracy, 1st in Par 5 Scoring, 19th in Scrambling, and was a top 10 putter on the Korn Ferry Tour. DraftKings sees the same potential in the young golfer, pricing him at $8,200 this week. I am curious to see what the field does with Suh this week and his $8.2K price tag.

Patrick Rodgers

Patrick Rodgers heads back to California, where he played golf for three years at Stanford College. Rodgers won 11 times while in college, tying Tiger Woods' record at the school. He has been incredibly consistent at Silverado, making the cut in six out of eight starts and has two T6s on his resume here. Rodgers made the weekend in five of his last seven starts from last season and will look to have success in a familiar location this week. At only $7,300 on DraftKings, Rodgers seems like a great value play this week.

Early Tee Time Livestream - Monday @ 6 ET

Well, that does it for this week’s Event and Course Preview. For a more in-depth breakdown of the course, the field, DFS strategy, and my favorite picks this week be sure to check out the Early Tee Time livestream this Monday at 6 PM Eastern. Good luck everyone!

*All stats used are from FantasyNational and DataGolf

Hunter Vanness started his golf content by posting a player pool each week on Twitter, which eventually turned into a DFS cheatsheet, in addition to a weekly event preview. He is fascinated by the game theory part of PGA DFS and is continuing to dive into the data side of the game.

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