The final wraparound PGA Tour season begins this week in Napa Valley for the Fortinet Championship.
Rory McIlroy won the FedEx Cup three weeks ago to conclude the 2021-2022 season. This week, McIlroy, off a runner-up last week in Wentworth to Shane Lowry for the BMW PGA Championship, is sticking around for another week on the DP World Tour to play the Italian Open at Marco Simone, next year's Ryder Cup venue, along with fellow team members Matt Fitzpatrick, Tyrrell Hatton and Viktor Hovland. Many of the top American players are also not in this week's field with the Presidents Cup taking place next week at Quail Hollow in Charlotte.
One member of Team USA's Presidents Cup team is here, defending Fortinet champion Max Homa (15-1). The International Presidents Cup team is a little better represented with Hideki Matsuyama (16-1), Corey Conners (18-1), Taylor Pendrith (30-1) and Cam Davis (33-1).
Tom Hoge (50-1) and Harris English (150-1), who missed most of 2022 recovering from hip surgery, are both ranked in the OWGR Top 50.
Maverick McNealy (30-1) was the runner-up here last year to Homa. Sahith Theegala (33-1) also had a couple of close calls for his first PGA TOUR victory last season in Phoenix and at the Travelers, as did Davis Riley (35-1) at the Valspar and the Charles Schwab.
Emiliano Grillo (40-1) and Brendan Steele (50-1) are both former Fortinet champions.
The Fortinet Championship marks the first PGA TOUR Event for the 2022-2023 season, which is intended to be the last wraparound PGA TOUR season as they look to return to a calendar year schedule in 2024. This event began in 2007 and moved to its current location in Napa for the 2014 tournament. While the field quality is down due to a variety of potential schedule conflicts, including having a tough date on the schedule immediately preceding the Presidents Cup, several European players electing to play at the Italian Open (being played at Marco Simone, next year's Ryder Cup venue) and LIV Golf event in Chicago. Nonetheless, this is still an important event to many players that pays out full FedEx Cup points and provides all the perks for the tournament winner (Masters invitation, 2-year PGA Tour exemption, etc, etc). This provides players an opportunity to earn all those perks against a weaker field, plus allows all the new PGA Tour members from the Korn Ferry Tour to get their feet wet on the big tour. Cybersecurity company Fortinet, based in nearby Sunnyvale, California, took over last year from retail grocer Safeway, Inc (2016-2020) as the title sponsor.
The Silverado Country Club's North Course in Napa, California, has hosted here since 2014. The course's first major re-design occurred in 1966 by Robert Trent Jones Jr. and then again in 2011 by Johnny Miller. It plays a Par 72 of 7,123 yards. The fairways are narrower (6th narrowest on Tour) than tour average (27 yards wide on average). Miller wanted to re-configure the bunkering on this course to create a bit of an "Augusta" type feel. A strong, balanced game off the tee (both distance and accuracy) is required here because the 3" Bluegrass/Ryegrass Rough can be tricky.
Although there is some rolling terrain and a couple of holes with elevation changes, it is predominantly a flat course. With only two holes with water hazards in play (7th fewest) and only 50 bunkers (6th fewest) on the course, there just aren’t that many ways for golfers to score bogey or worse.
Players will be hitting into Bentgrass/Poa Annua (11.5 stimpmeter) that are elevated with shaved run-offs and can be bumpy. Seven years is not a huge sample size, but west coast players have fared relatively well on these Bent/Poa greens with Max Homa, Cameron Champ and Brendan Steele, all California guys, winning here recently.
Comparable courses include Detroit Golf Club, TPC River Highlands, TPC Twin Cities, Pebble Beach, TPC Scottsdale.
2021: Max Homa (-19/269); 60-1
2020: Stewart Cink (-21/267); 200-1
2019: Cameron Champ (-17/271); 150-1
2018: Kevin Tway (-14/274); 66-1*
2017: Brendan Steele (-15/273); 33-1
2016: Brendan Steele (-18/270); 50-1
2015: Emiliano Grillo (-15/273); 50-1**
2014: Sang-moon Bae (-15/273); 150-1
Playoff Win over Ryan Moore and Brandt Snedeker - *
Playoff Win over Kevin Na - **
Every Fortinet Championship winner at Silverado, with the exception of Homa last year (42nd), has ranked seventh or better in Scrambling during their respective winning weeks.
- 2020: Cink - 2nd, 2019: Champ - 1st, 2018: Tway - 1st, 2017: Steele - 7th, 2016: Steele - 5th, 2015: Grillo - 5th, 2014: Bae - 4th
The last five Fortinet Championship winners have been third or better SG: Tee-To-Green during their respective winning weeks.
- 2021: Homa - 2nd, 2020: Cink - 2nd, 2019: Champ - 1st, 2018: Tway - 3rd, 2017: Steele - 1st.
Bombers like Cameron Champ have won here but so have plodders off the tee like Emiliano Grillo. According to DataGolf, Silverado is the 16th most difficult course to gain strokes off the tee.
When Champ won this back in 2019, his Driving Accuracy was only 53.6% but he still hit 73.6% of GIR. One year later in 2020, Stewart Cink’s numbers were even better with a Fairway rate of 55.4% and a GIR of 84.7%.
Players do not necessarily get punished for missing fairways as you can see with two of the last three victors here. However, gaining off the tee is still important. Both Brendan Steele (2017) and Champ (2019) led the field for SG: Off-The-Tee during their respective winning weeks.
Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee (Last 36 Rounds)
Brendan Steele 28.1
Taylor Pendrith 27.5
Cameron Champ 25.1
Corey Conners 23.3
Luke List 22.7
Hayden Buckley 22.4
Emiliano Grillo 20.8
Davis Riley 16.5
Wyndham Clark 15.7
Nick Hardy 15.7
Austin Smotherman 15.6
Brandon Wu 15.3
Max Homa 14.5
While this is not the proverbial 'second-shot' course due to the high Greens In Regulation rate even out of the rough, Approach shots are still important.
Strokes Gained: Approach (Last 36 Rounds)
Chez Reavie 28.6
Brendan Steele 26.7
Hideki Matsuyama 24.3
Lee Hodges 24
Stephan Jaeger 22.8
Mark Hubbard 22.6
Luke List 21.1
Corey Conners 20.2
Davis Riley 19.2
Cam Davis 18.6
Alex Smalley 18.3
Adam Long 17.5
Lucas Glover 17.3
Taylor Pendrith 16.7
Tom Hoge 16.7
Vaughn Taylor 16.1
44% of the approach shots here are from the 75 to 150-yard range.
Proximity Gained 75-100 Yards (Last 36 Rounds)
Lucas Glover 170.5
Davis Riley 161.2
Andrew Novak 161.1
Matt Kuchar 142.5
Kramer Hickok 141.1
Adam Svensson 129.2
Michael Gligic 122.7
Kevin Streelman 118.7
Matt Wallace 117.9
John Huh 116.7
David Lipsky 110.6
Chris Gotterup 109.4 (24 Rounds)
Russell Knox 106.3
Note: Total Feet Gained towards the hole
Proximity Gained 100-125 Yards (Last 36 Rounds)
Chez Reavie 321
Cam Davis 272.3
Austin Cook 227.6
Camilo Villegas 214.6
Tom Hoge 191.4
Andrew Landry 173.8
Paul Haley II 161.2
Adam Svensson 156.2
Ben Martin 151.1
Lucas Glover 145.4
Vaughn Taylor 144
Brandon Hagy 140
Martin Laird 139.6
Note: Total Feet Gained towards the hole
Three of the four Par 5s measure between 550-600 Yards.
Strokes Gained Par 5s 550-600 Yards (Last 36 Rounds)
Nick Hardy 13.8
Emiliano Grillo 12.7
Harry Hall 11.2
Austin Eckroat 11
Brandon Wu 10.6
Callum Tarren 10
Cam Davis 9.9
Matthew NeSmith 9.7
Davis Thompson 9.7
Paul Haley 9.7
Scott Piercy 9.5
Brent Grant 9.4
Philip Knowles 9.3
Ben Taylor 9.2
Six of the 10 Par 4s measure between 400-450 Yards.
Strokes Gained Par 4s 400-450 Rounds (Last 36 Rounds)
Philip Knowles 22.4
Andrew Putnam 20.4
Taylor Montgomery 18.9
John Huh 18.6
Nicolas Echavarria 18.6
Adam Svensson 18.4
Brendon Todd 17.4
Tyler Duncan 15
Paul Haley II 14.9
Justin Suh 14.8
Hideki Matsuyama 14.7
Corey Conners 14.5
Michael Kim 14.1
Ben Taylor 14
While the Scrambling and Sand Saves percentages are better here at Silverado, the course actually rates as the 10th most difficult course for SG: Around The Green. Most of the greens slope from back to front and have some severe undulations that lead to closely mown run-off areas for inaccurate approaches. Therefore, there will be some tricky chip shots for players that miss the greens and the bunkers that surround the greens are relatively deep.
Strokes Gained: Around The Green (Last 36 Rounds)
Andrew Putnam 19
Danny Willett 18.7
Stephan Jaeger 15.8
Jonathan Byrd 15.8
Vincent Whaley 14.6
Bill Haas 13.8
Jimmy Walker 13.7
Matt Kuchar 13
William McGirt 12.6
John Huh 12.6
Chris Kirk 11.9
Denny McCarthy 11.6
Rickie Fowler 10.5
Jason Day 10.2
Wyndham Clark 10.1
Putting will be difficult for many players on this primarily Poa (some Bentgrass) bumpy surface.
Strokes Gained: Poa Annua Putting (Last 36 Rounds)
Maverick McNealy 30.7
Matt Kuchar 29
Wyndham Clark 27.2
Brian Stuard 26.7
Webb Simpson 23.7
Max Homa 20.4
Mark Hubbard 19.8
Michael Kim 19.8
Peter Malnati 18.4
Brandt Snedeker 17.7
Patrick Rodgers 17
Matt Wallace 16.9
Troy Merritt 16.7
Denny McCarthy 16.6
Maverick McNealy 26-1, Circa Sports
Last year's Fortinet Championship looked like it would be McNealy's first PGA TOUR win as he was the leader after 36 holes and the co-leader after 54. A double bogey at the 71st hole on Sunday ended his chances and McNealy settled for runner-up.
The Stanford product and California native has shown a proclivity to do well in his home state. Aside from last year's runner-up in Napa, McNealy was also runner-up at the 2021 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and was 5th there the year prior. He was also T-7 in the 2022 Genesis Invitational at Riviera. In addition, he was a respectable 15th in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.
In all, seven of his last 10 Top 10 or better finishes combined on the PGA and Korn Ferry Tours have come in the Golden State.
McNealy is clearly comfortable on Poa Annua greens as he rates 1st in this field for Strokes Gained: Putting on Poa Annua greens over the last 36 rounds and 2nd over the last 50 rounds.
Taylor Pendrith (30-1, DraftKings)
Pendrith was selected as a Captain's pick last week by International Team Captain Trevor Immelman for next week's Presidents Cup.
The Canadian was tipped in this column for the Rocket Mortgage Classic at Detroit Golf Club earlier this year and came up just short battling down the stretch with Tony Finau.
He is a big hitter that can follow the Cameron Champ formula of bombing his way to a victory at Silverado, only Pendrith is much better with short irons.
Cam Davis (33-1, BetRivers)
Davis was also selected as a Captain's pick last week by International Team Captain Trevor Immelman for next week's Presidents Cup.
The Australian posted four Top 10 finishes on tour last season after his maiden win at the 2021 Rocket Mortgage Classic held at Detroit Golf Club, which has a fairly strong correlation to Silverado.
Davis rates Top 10 in this field for Strokes Gained: Approach and is 2nd for Proximity Gained from 100-125 Yards.
Taylor Montgomery 50-1, DraftKings
Montgomery is a PGA TOUR rookie fresh off the Korn Ferry Tour. In 2021, he finished one spot out of the Top 25 required to earn his card. This year he finished Top 5 on the KFT money list and is one of the Korn Ferry graduates that has the highest expectations.
The Las Vegas product is another player that tends to go well at west coast events but proved in the last three years on the KFT that he can contend everywhere. Montgomery posted five runner-up finishes including two last year. He also had four other Top 4 finishes last season.
Montgomery was also T-11th last year in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines (also Poa Annua greens) against an elite field that was a class above the one he will see this week.
Wyndham Clark (65-1, DraftKings)
Clark is one of the longer hitters on Tour. He is Top 10 in this week's field for Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee.
Based out of Las Vegas, Clark plays fairly well out west. He finished T-8 in the Genesis Invitational at Riviera, 13th last year at The American Express in Palm Springs, T-17 in the 2020 Genesis, T-13 at the 2020 Shriners in Las Vegas, and T-18 at the 2020 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Furthermore, he rates 3rd in this field for Strokes Gained: Putting on Poa Annua over the last 36 rounds.
Luke List (90-1, DraftKings)
List has not exactly been in peak form, missing five of his last seven cuts, but 2022 was his career year having earned his first PGA Tour win at the Farmers Insurance Open in a playoff over Will Zalatoris.
He is not known as a great putter, but sometimes the ball striking can make up for it.
Along with two-time Fortinet winner Brendan Steele, young upstart Davis Riley, and perennial elite ball striker Corey Conners, List is one of the few players in this week's field that ranks in the Top 10 for both Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee and Strokes Gained: Approach.
Adam Svensson (120-1, Circa Sports)
Svensson did not win last season after winning two events on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2021. However, he did make 17 of 23 cuts on the big tour last season, including three Top 10 finishes.
The Canadian is very good with short wedges as he rates Top 10 in this field for Proximity from both 75-100 Yards and 100-125 Yards.
Brandon Wu (130-1 DraftKings)
Brandon Wu, a Stanford graduate born and raised in the Bay Area, played his way into the FedEx Cup Playoffs with four Top 10 finishes last season, including a runner-up in Mexico, a 3rd in Puerto Rico, and a 6th in the Scottish Open.
Wu ranks 12th in this week's field for Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee.
Brady Kannon's picks
Cam Davis (28-1)
Taylor Pendrith (30-1)
Taylor Montgomery (50-1)
Gary Woodland (54-1)
Cam Davis is an up-and-coming bomber on the PGA Tour. He won the Rocket Mortgage Classic at the Detroit Golf Club in 2021 and I think the skill sets needed there are very similar to those needed in Napa this week.
Taylor Pendrith is certainly someone to watch out for on Tour now and into 2023. He's 19th in the field this week, over the last 24 rounds, for SG: Ball Striking and 26th for SG: Off the Tee. He tied for second this past summer at the Rocket Mortgage Classic.
Taylor Montgomery is a little bit of a homer play as he played his college golf at UNLV and his father is a friend, Monty Montgomery, the general manager at Shadow Creek here in Las Vegas. Aside from that, the kid has been fantastic, making his way up the ranks on the Korn Ferry Tour. I think he is going to win soon on the PGA Tour – maybe not until 2024 – but I take a shot with him here at 50-1 against a bit of a watered-down field. Growing up on the West Coast, I'm guessing he's very familiar with California golf courses.
Finally, one of the biggest strengths of Gary Woodland's game, has always been Total Driving. He ranks very high in Ball Striking, Approach, Off the Tee, and Birdies or Better Gained relative to this field. I also like the fact that just a few years ago, he won the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, a golf course with Poa Annua greens.