Golf is back. Thank God. I say that half kidding because golf’s off season is comically one week long, but I don’t think I could’ve handled an off-season any longer to be honest. In this brief stead without golf, I’ve aimlessly been throwing my money at Tennis, College Football, and NFL to little avail. I’ve also taken up NFTs and bought a virtual horse and goat. I’m spiraling, but thankfully the Fortinet Championship is here just in time to catch me from slipping any further
Fortinet is a new title sponsor taking over this year for Safeway, who sponsored the Safeway Open for the last 14 years going back to 2007. Despite the name change, the course and course layout remain completely the same, and we’re back once again in wine country, Napa Valley, California, on the Silverado Resort & Spa North Course. The event itself looks like an awesome one to attend for spectators. It’s on a beautiful resort in Napa with concerts and parties lined up on the grounds all week. But in terms of what we’ll see inside the ropes, it’s far less exciting. At 7,166 yards, this Par 72 course is very scoreable, straightforward, and does not require much strategy to navigate around. The quality of the field also leaves some to be desired, especially when juxtaposed with the FedEx Playoff fields we’ve seen over the past month on Tour.
World #1 Jon Rahm is here, but after that, Hideki Matsuyama, Webb Simpson, and Will Zalatoris are the only top names we can expect to see atop odds boards. I choose to believe Rahm is simply here to enjoy some fine wine and tune up his game for a couple rounds before heading over to Wisconsin for the Ryder Cup the following week. It helps me feel better about the equity of the 50/1 outright bombs I’ll instead be firing off this week. If you can also find yourself at peace ignoring Rahm’s vast advantage over this course, then I do think it’s an appealing week to bet, as everyone’s odds will be inflated assuming the red hot World #1 and (presumptive) Player of the Year runs away with it.
Silverado is a bona fide second shot course and, as is always the case, the player with the hottest irons who can gain strokes on the greens will position themselves to win this tournament. What I find interesting about this course is you can separate yourself from the field by either being elite with driving accuracy or driving distance, so I’ll be looking at players who are either strong in both, or highlight in the extremes of either category. In addition to Approach & Driving Accuracy/Driving Distance, I’ll also be looking closely at Par 5 Scoring, P4 400-450, Birdies or Better Gained, and SG: T2G on Short Courses to refine down a player pool. Here’s a look through everything you can expect this week from Silverado Resort & Spa!
Silverado Resort & Spa North Course Specs
- Yards: 7,166
- Par: 72 (4x 3’s / 10x 4’s / 4x 5’s)
- Greens: Poa + Bent blend
- Architect: Robert Trent Jones & Johnny Miller
- Historical Cutline: -2
- Comp Courses: TPC Boston, Detroit GC, Waialae CC, TPC River Highlands
- Past Winners: Stewart Cink (21), Cameron Champ (20), Kevin Tway (19), Brendan Steele (18, 17), Emiliano Grillo (16)
There are many different ways to find success at Silverado. The fairways are tight and more difficult to hit than Tour average, however there are not many hazards awaiting for wayward tee shots, and the rough is not especially penal. Unlike other sub-7,200 yard tracks like Harbour Town or Innisbrook, there are not many doglegged forced layup holes at Silverado, meaning players can freely take out driver on most of their tee shots. All of that to say, if you’re a long hitter, you’ll likely take the 2019 Cameron Champ approach, hit Driver on every hole, and get yourself as close to the hole as possible to maximize birdie opportunities. If you don’t have distance in your arsenal, you can take the Chez Reavie, Ryan Moore, and Kevin Na approach (each Top 10 SG: TOT at Silverado) and pound fairways for more controlled spin on short-mid range approach shots. In that sense, I think this course sets up a lot like Detroit Golf Club, where fairway finders like Troy Merritt and Kevin Kisner have attacked the course with as much success as bombers like Bryson DeChambeau and Cam Davis.
In addition to Detroit GC, Waialae CC has also seen overlap on its leaderboards from the likes of Brendan Steele and Kevin Na, and should be a useful reference to project success again for this event. The Top 10 players SG: TOT across the Silverado comp courses (Detroit GC, Waialae CC, TPC Boston, TPC River Highlands) includes Marc Leishman, Hideki Matsuyama, Brian Stuard, Brendan Steele, Jon Rahm, Webb Simpson, Matt Kuchar, Kevin Na, Chez Reavie, and Lanto Griffin.
Looking at recent results at this event, the list of players with multiple T10 finishes over the last 5 years includes Brendan Steele, Phil Mickelson, and Nick Taylor. With more limited reps, Harry Higgs, Cameron Percy, Cameron Champ, Brian Stuard, Dylan Frittelli, Marc Leishman, Doc Redman, Nick Taylor, Nick Watney, Adam Hadwin, Russell Knox, James Hahn, Pat Perez, Charles Howell III, and JJ Spaun have all finished T10 at this event within the last 2 years. Overall, the Top 10 players SG: TOT at Silverado in this field includes Kevin Na, Brendan Steele, Harry Higgs, Ryan Moore, Cameron Percy, Phil Mickelson, Chez Reavie, Emiliano Grillo, Hideki Matsuyama, and Harold Varner III.
The list of recent winners here, including Stewart Cink, Cameron Champ, Kevin Tway, and Brendan Steele, would suggest that driving distance is needed to contend on this course, as they’re all above average in terms of driving distance. With so many other plotters finding success here though however, I think you’ll need to use a more layered approach to identify the best course fits. Distance aside, I’m looking for players who can hit a high percentage of fairways while still putting themselves in position to score on Par 5s, make a lot of birdies/eagles, and gain strokes putting for the week. There are only 10 players in the field this week who rate out above average in those 4 categories: Brandt Snedeker, Jon Rahm, Pat Perez, Mark Hubbard, Vaughn Taylor, Maverick McNealy, Mito Pereira, Scott Brown, Hudson Swafford, and Kramer Hickok.
- SG: APP
- Fairways Gained / Driving Distance
- Par 5 Scoring / P5: 550-600
- P4: 400-450 / P4: 450-500
- Birdies or Better Gained
- SG: Putting (L36)
- Course + Comp Course History
- SG: T2G: <7,200 Yard Courses
Stats To Avoid
- SG: OTT
- SG: ARG / Sand Saves Gained
SG: APP reigns supreme every week on Tour, and that’s no different here once again in Napa on a second shot course that will require players to separate themselves from the field with their approach play. The Top 10 players SG: APP entering this week are Emiliano Grillo, Cameron Percy, Kyle Stanley, Hideki Matsuyama, Russell Knox, Will Zalatoris, Charley Hoffman, Harold Varner III, Matthew NeSmith, and Jon Rahm.
Interestingly enough when looking at the correlation stats this week, SG: OTT has been one of the least correlated stats to success at Silverado. What that tells me is that we should be isolating Distance and Accuracy in models separate from OTT to avoid players who may rate out well OTT but not especially strong in terms of Distance or Accuracy. This week, we want specialists. The Top 10 players in Driving Distance are Cameron Champ, Brandon Hagy, Joseph Bramlett, Luke List, Peter Uihlein, Jon Rahm, Tyler McCumber, Taylor Pendrith, Kevin Tway, and Wyndham Clark. The Top 10 players in Driving Accuracy are Chez Reavie, Brendon Todd, Ryan Armour, Brian Stuard, Ryan Moore, Doug Ghim, Kramer Hickok, Kyle Stanley, Chase Seiffert, and JJ Spaun.
Looking at the hole by hole breakdown here, a majority of holes fall in the 400-450 yard range, which should create birdie opportunities regardless of a player’s distance off the tee. All Par 5s also fall under 600 yards, meaning many of the players should have plenty of chances to reach greens in two and create eagle opportunities. There are 7 players in the field who rank Top 40 in P4 400-500, Par 5 Scoring, and Birdies or Better Gained: Charley Hoffman, Jon Rahm, Webb Simpson, Cameron Tringale, Brandt Snedeker, Adam Schenk, and Si Woo Kim.
Generally speaking, I think finding success on shorter courses is just a little more predictable than your average Tour stop. There are a collection of Tour players who simply cannot keep up with the longer hitters on Tour on 7,500+ yard courses, and they understand that they need to take advantage when faced with a shorter challenge. The Top 10 players SG: T2G on short courses includes Si Woo Kim, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Webb Simpson, Luke List, Harold Varner III, Emiliano Grillo, Jim Herman, Marc Leishman, and Cameron Champ.
Taking the Top 10 Correlated Stat categories for this week at the Fortinet Championship, there are 5 players who rank Top 50 in the field in each: Jon Rahm, Webb Simpson, Mito Pereira, Patton Kizzire, and Pat Perez.
Spotlight: Mito Pereira
With so many different paths to success at Silverado, this week is not a case where all signs pointed to one player. But looking at the pool of players who where popping, Mito Pereira was unquestionably the most talented, most exciting, and presents the most upside to win this tournament.
Now a fully exempt PGA Tour member heading into 2022, Pereira is poised to burst onto the scene right away on the PGA Tour, and what better stage to announce himself than the very first event of the year, the Fortinet Championship. Okay fine, there are way better stages to announce yourself than an incredibly weak field head to head with NFL week 2, but the point remains, he’s equipped to win this week. Mito became the first player since 2016 to achieve an automatic PGA Tour promotion by winning 3 Korn Ferry events last season, which bodes very well for his outright potential this week. It’s also encouraging that seemingly half this field was also on the Korn Ferry Tour last year, which should give him a sense of comfort.
We have limited ShotLink data on Pereira who played just 5 measured events on Tour last season, but in those events, he closed out the 2021 season with a T5 at the Barbasol and T6 at the 3M Open in two of his final 3 events. He also looked impressive on the world stage at the Olympics where he lost in the massive playoff for Bronze to CT Pan.
Pereira’s Ball Striking profiles very similarly with 2016 Safeway Open champion, Emiliano Grillo, each ranking Top 40 in both Driving Distance & Accuracy and Top 10 SG: APP L6 Months. What’s exciting about Pereira though, is he’ll likely open at longer odds than the 2016 champion, even despite being the superior putter. I’m looking to get ahead of the curve on the Chilean Sensation in 2022 and expect we’ll see outright odds north of 50/1, which I’ll be ready to pounce on.
What To Look Out For at the 2022 Fortinet Championship
The biggest storyline going into the Fortinet Championship, the first event of the new 2022 season, centers around Jon Rahm. Why is he here? He is the only player in the Ryder Cup from either side who is scheduled to tee it up in Napa. Justin Thomas has come to this event all the time over the course of his career and had great results – even he’s not here. Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay are in Napa Valley right now – they’re not playing either! We’ll need to keep an eye out in the press this week to hear Rahm’s motivations for playing in this event, but either way, probably best to place your outrights early in the event we do get a late WD from Rahm, as that will drastically effect the odds board. A few players I’ll be looking out for extra close this week who fell just short of Mito’s spotlight include Resort Course killer Pat Perez, as well as successful Silverado plotters Brandt Snedeker and Chez Reavie, who each have a very good chance of making my final outright card when all is said and done
With all the course fit profiles in mind this week, I’m leaning early towards the below player pool, broken out by projected pricing/odds tier.
This week, I’m putting a premium on SG: APP followed by a balanced mix of P5 Scoring, BoB Gained, Driving Accuracy, Driving Distance, SG: P, Course + Comp Course History, Short Course History, and P4: 400-450. #1 in my model is Jon Rahm for obvious reasons. If you’re running a model and Jon Rahm does not pop #1, you should (1) DM me because I would love to hear what it takes for that to actually happen and (2) delete that model and start again because whatever you’ve done is terribly terribly wrong. After Rahm, the rest of the Top 10 is rounded out by Charley Hoffman, Hideki Matsuyama, Emiliano Grillo, Pat Perez, Cameron Tringale, Webb Simpson, Kevin Na, Harold Varner III, and Patton Kizzire.