Fortinet Championship Preview

·5 min read

The PGA TOUR has recharged its batteries for a few weeks and is ready to begin the 2022-23 campaign.

Event one will take place at Silverado Resort and Spa in Napa, California. It's a venue that has hosted eight straight season openers. Well, not exactly since it was slotted third in the batting order back in 2019 for the 2019-20 season. Still, a very familiar spot to kick off the new year.

The field is full at 156 golfers with the top 65 and ties making it through the 36-hole cutline.

The Course

The North Course at Silverado Resort and Spa returns to host another edition of the season opener.

This Robert Trent Jones design was touched up by Johnny Miller back in 2011. The scorecard shows a par 72 that plays to just 7,123 yards. That is one of the shorter courses when you take a hole-by-hole view.

There isn't a single par 4 that plays over 460 yards. That means a lot of short irons and wedges for golfers this week.

Big drivers can capitalize on the par 5s but the tight fairways make it tough to completely overpower the course. Still, there is an obvious lean to distance when you look at the last four champs (Homa, Cink right after he gained speed, Champ, Tway).

A part of the advantage comes from the relative ease of attacking from the rough. While it's true you want to be in the fairway as much as possible, the fairways are tight enough that the entire field will be missing nearly half of them. With everyone having to hit their fair share out of the ryegrass rough, the big hitters will at least be attacking with a shorter club.

The final test of the course comes on the greens. The poa annua putting surfaces can get bumpy in the afternoon but generally play pretty true relative to the sometimes sloppy West Coast poa we see on the winter portion of the schedule. Comfort on the bumpy weed is certainly a positive with four of the last six champs being California natives.

When you add it all up, this resort course offers a fair amount of scoring chances but more importantly there just isn't a lot of trouble to get into, at least for TOUR pros. Gamers should expect a low bogey-or-worse rate this week which often leads to low scores.

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Correlated Courses

Using historical data we can look at overperformance and underperformance at this week's host course and compare that to all of the courses played out on TOUR. Here are the ones that shared a lot of overlap:

TPC Twin Cities
Pebble Beach Pro-Am course rota
TPC Deere Run
PGA West course rota

The theme is shorter courses that put a lot of wedges and short irons into the hands of these pros.

The Weather

Thursday: Sunny with a high of 76 degrees. Winds at 10 to 15 MPH.

Friday: Sunny with a high of 76 degrees. Winds at 10 to 15 MPH.

It looks like someone took the Thursday forecast and cloned it for the entire week. Precipitation doesn't look like a serious concern but winds should swirl just enough to cause some nice caddie conversations.

Golfers to Watch

Brendan Steele
He's the course horse at Silverado Resort and Spa with two wins and zero missed cuts, in eight tries. He ended the season with missed cuts in two of his last four starts but top 35s in five of his last seven.

Maverick McNealy
The California kid has played this event more than any other on the PGA TOUR. He is very comfortable on the poa annua greens, having grown up on similar surfaces. He nearly made it the site of his maiden PGA TOUR win last year but settled for second place. He will be a popular selection in weekly fantasy leagues and for good reason.

Max Homa
Homa has been busy getting ready for the arrival of a new baby but staying busy on the course also (Colt Knost shared an ace on social media in late August). On top of that, Homa is dealing with the media obligations that come with being a defending champ and also getting ready for his Presidents Cup debut. He's a top target when plopping the stats on a blank piece of paper but will the external factors be too much to overcome?

Sahith Theegala
The Pepperdine product made it to East Lake in his rookie season but got overshadowed by an elite Cameron Young campaign. Theegala stayed humbled throughout the year and continues to look for new areas to improve. He was elite in college and already flashed big promise on the big stage. He would definitely fit the trend of California kids winning in Napa. He posted a top 15 here two years ago and returned with a 47th-place finish last year.

Taylor Montgomery
The Las Vegas native has picked up seven podium finishes (but no wins) over the last two seasons on the Korn Ferry Tour. After bubbling the 2021 season, he made it through with ease this time around. Montgomery is long off the tee but also showed a complete package with steady GIR numbers and elite putting stats to match. That resulted in him ranking 1st in birdies per round last season on the KFT.

Matt Kuchar
We saw Stewart Cink pop back into the winner's circle at this event a few years back. Could Kuchar follow his lead and snap a three-season winless drought? I wouldn't bank on it but he's the kind of off-the-radar play that brings top-5 upside to the table. He is 2-for-3 at the course with a 21st in 2014 being the highlight. He was one of the first off the list below.

Ranking the Field

1. Corey Conners
2. Maverick McNealy
3. Hideki Matsuyama
4. Max Homa
5. Taylor Pendrith
6. Cam Davis
7. Denny McCarthy
8. Davis Riley
9. Brendan Steele
10. Sahith Theegala
11. Alex Noren
12. Emiliano Grillo
13. Webb Simpson
14. Chris Kirk
15. Troy Merritt
16. Taylor Montgomery
17. Thomas Detry
18. Tom Hoge
19. Justin Suh
20. Gary Woodland