The 2021-2022 PGA TOUR season kicks off in Napa Valley at the Silverado Resort and Spa to play the Fortinet Championship.
The event was previously called the Safeway Open but Fortinet has taken over as the tournament’s sponsor and will do so for the next six years. Although the name has changed multiple times, Silverado’s North Course has been featured on the PGA TOUR since 1968 under different sponsors.
The course is a par 72, measuring at 7,166 yards. Silverado features poa annua greens that can be tricky, especially as the surface becomes bumpier in the afternoon. The tree-lined fairways aren’t easy to hit, but the rough shouldn’t be exceedingly penal. Shorter hitters are in play on this relatively short course, and accuracy will be at a premium.
The field will consist of 156 players. Being the swing season, the field for this event is usually relatively weak. However, there have been some surprising additions to the field this year including three major champions from last season: Phil Mickelson, Hideki Matsuyama, and Jon Rahm.
- 2020: Stewart Cink (-21)
- 2019: Cameron Champ (-17)
- 2018: Kevin Tway (-14) (defeated Brandt Snedeker and Ryan Moore in a playoff)
- 2017: Brendan Steele -15 (2)
- 2016: Brendan Steele -18
Let’s take a look at several key metrics for Silverado to determine which golfers boast top marks in each category over their last 24 rounds.
Strokes Gained: Approach
Historically, one of the North Course’s defenses will be tightly tucked pin placement, so effective shot shaping and a higher ball flight may be an advantage this week. In order to find success, players need to hit the correct level of the sloping Poa annua greens.
Strokes Gained: Approach past 24 rounds:
- Cameron Percy (+23.4) (+18000)
- Emiliano Grillo (+20.8) (+5000)
- Kyle Stanley (+19.1) (+15000)
- Adam Svensson (+19.1) (+12000)
- Bo Hoag (+18.0) (+18000)
Good Drives Gained
Hitting fairways in regulation at Silverado is more difficult than TOUR average, as players have done so in the past at a rate of only 52.7%. While the rough isn’t extremely long here, controlling spin out of the thick grass is much more difficult than doing so from the fairway. In order to find success, players need to hit the correct level of the sloping Poa annua greens.
Although the past two winners (Stewart Cink and Cameron Champ) are known for the long ball, both players were in the positive for “good drives gained” for the week with Cink gaining an enormous 8.1 strokes in the category.
Good Drives Gained past 24 rounds:
- Chez Reavie (+25.9) (+5000)
- Ryan Armour (+25.5) (+11000)
- Brian Stuard (+22.1) (+5000)
- Brendon Todd (+21.8) (+6000)
- Kramer Hickok (+21.3) (+17000)
Par 4: 400-450
There are six par 4’s at Silverado that are between 400 and 450-yards. It will be important to target players who excel at playing these holes. With the par 5s being fairly short and reachable, the par 4 scoring may prove to be the bigger difference-maker.
Par 4: 400-450 past 24 rounds:
- Kevin Na (+18.3) (+2200)
- Sebastian Munoz (+12.1) (+3700)
- Brendon Todd (+11.6) (+6000)
- Hank Lebioda (+11.2) (+9000)
- Jon Rahm (+8.2) (+480)
Birdie or Better: Gained
With scores at Silverado potentially approaching the 20 under par range, making plenty of birdies will be a requirement in order to contend this week.
Birdie or Better: Gained in past 24 rounds:
- Jon Rahm (+21.2) (+480)
- Hank Lebioda (+20.4) (+9000)
- Webb Simpson (+16.5) (+1100)
- Kevin Na (+15.6) (+2200)
- Emiliano Grillo (+13.5) (+5000)
Strokes Gained: Putting Poa Annua
POA Annua greens on the West Coast can be quite difficult for golfers to adjust to if they don’t have much experience on the surface. Prior to the 2019 Safeway Open, Phil Mickelson talked about how the type of putting surface is a major factor: “I think a lot of guys struggle with the Poa annua greens, which is a grass that I grew up playing, so I’m very comfortable on the greens. When you grow up and spend most of your time back east in Florida on the Bermuda, this is a very awkward surface to putt on. The color looks different — it’s hard to sometimes read. But when you’re used to it, I don’t know of much better surfaces than these right here.”
This week it is important to look for the golfers who historically excel on Poa annua.
Total strokes gained in category in past 24 rounds:
- Matt Kuchar (+29.7) (+11000)
- Jonas Blixt (+25.0) (+42000)
- Maverick McNealy (+21.6) (+4100)
- Mark Hubbard (+19.7) (+15000)
- Brian Stuard (+19.0) (+5000)
Below, I’ve reported overall model rankings using a combination of the five key statistical categories previously discussed.
These rankings are comprised of SG: APP (25%), Good Drives Gained: (25%), Birdie or Better (20%), Par 4: 400-450 (15%), SG: Putting (Poa annua) (15%).
- Jon Rahm (+480)
- Sebastian Munoz (+3700)
- Brian Stuard (+5000)
- Mark Hubbard (+15000)
- Hank Lebioda (+9000)
- Kevin Na (+2200)
- Bo Hoag (+18000)
- Pat Perez (+8000)
- Ryan Armour (+11000)
- Emiliano Grillo (+5000)
Fortinet Championship Best Bets
Max Homa (+6000, DraftKings): Max Homa was the first golfer to catch my attention in terms of value in this field. With two PGA TOUR wins already on his resume, the 30 year old certainly carries a fair share of win equity.
It’s no secret that Homa plays his best golf on the West Coast. Having won at Riviera Country Club this past season, the California native has shown once again he feels very comfortable competing in his home state.
Homa’s biggest issue in the latter half of last season was his extreme difficulties with the putter, highlighted in his most recent event (BMW Championship) where he lost a horrific 7 strokes putting to the field. However, there is some reason for optimism regarding his putting this week. Homa has done his best work on the greens on West Coast Poa, and gains an average 0.23 strokes per round on the surface. Additionally, three of the top fifteen putting performances of Homa’s career have come at Silverado. The former California Golden Bear grew up on the bumpy poana greens and should give him an advantage in Napa this week.
Chez Reavie (+7000, DraftKings): While fully acknowledging the risk of sounding redundant, I am really looking to target golfers who have great track records on the West Coast this week; and there are only few in the field who can match Chez Reavie in that department. Of the eight best strokes gained performances of his career, six of them have been on the West Coast; with five of those six being in the state of California. The 39 year old veteran made a run at this event last year and finished in 3rd place, highlighting how well he suits Silverado.
In addition to Chez being a great fit for the course and region, his skill set fits perfectly as well. Driving the ball well at Silverado will be quite difficult at Silverado as fairways are much more difficult to hit than TOUR average. This should give Chez a big advantage; in his past 24 rounds he ranks first in the field in Good Drives: Gained.
Many approach shots this week will be coming from 100-125 yards, and Reavie is one of the best players on TOUR with a wedge in his hands. If he can putt even slightly better than field average this week he will have a real shot to win.
Adam Hadwin (+8000, DraftKings): Another golfer who has a great track record on the West Coast is Adam Hadwin. The 33 year old Canadian has had some very close calls in California with two runner up finishes in 2019. The first was at the American Express at PGA West in La Quinta, California. The second was at Silverado where he narrowly lost to Cameron Champ by one shot and gained an impressive 6.8 strokes on approach.
Hadwin also comes into an event that he clearly loves to play in some pretty solid form. With two top 10’s in his past three starts, he has shown enough to take a shot on him at this big of a number.
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