With the dust having barely settled on Patrick Cantlay’s 2021 Tour Championship victory, the start of a new PGA Tour season is upon us.
The 2021/2022 season starts with the Fortinet Championship, a new sponsor for the tournament that used to be called the Safeway Open. It’s an interesting start to the year with the Ryder Cup just around the corner, many of Europe’s and America’s biggest names are giving this week a miss to focus on preparation for the big event, although world number 1 Jon Rahm headlines this week’s 156 man field.
Before we delve into the betting, let’s take a quick look back at the 2020/2021 season. There were ten first-time winners last season with new names entering the winner’s circle such as Abraham Ancer, Cameron Davis, Viktor Hovland, Sam Burns, Joel Dahmen, and Seamus Power. World number 1 Jon Rahm was the top earner on tour, racking up over $7.5 million dollars. The majors were split between Hideki Matsuyama, Phil Mickelson, Jon Rahm, and Collin Morikawa and it was no surprise to see that the $15 million dollar man Patrick Cantlay recorded the most wins on Tour posting four victories in 2021.
There will be new names for fans to look out for this year as the Tour welcomes 25 graduates from the Korn Fery Tour with Brandon Wu, Chad Ramey, Lee Hodges, and Nick Hardy all earning a Tour card for the year. However there will also be a few absentees with Tommy Fleetwood, Jason Dufner, and Byeong Hun An all missing out on full PGA Tour status.
Turning our attention back to this week’s opening event and the Fortinet Championship. The tournament will be held at the Silverado Country Club in Napa California. Tour veteran Stewart Cink won last year’s event posting a score of -21. Silverado is a course that measures just over 7,100 yards and will play as a par 72 this week. The course was redesigned back in 2010 by Johnny Miller, it is a treelined course, that houses an abundance of bunkers and run-off areas around the greens. The fairways are tight, and the rough can be tricky to negotiate, the greens are undulating and don’t present the biggest targets so accuracy from the tee and into the green is a must.
2021 Fortinet Championship Betting Predictions
MAIN BET: WILL ZALATORIS +2200
It was a surprise to absolutely no one to see Will Zalatoris crowned the 2021 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year following eight top-ten finishes last year, which was headlined by a 2nd place finish at the Masters and a T6 finish at the US Open. Zalatoris found himself in a unique position last year of not being able to play in the FedEx Cup Playoffs due to him not being a full PGA Tour member. The only thing missing from Zalatoris’s impressive start to life on the PGA Tour is a victory and it could arrive this week.
Statistically, Zalatoris is one of the most accurate players in the field. He finished last year ranked 7th in strokes gained through approach to the green and was 17th in overall greens hit in regulation with him hitting the dance-floor on 69% of all his approaches. Arriving at this weeks tournament fresher than most, Zalatoris has noted that during his extended off season he has been working on his putting which was the main area that denied him that maiden victory. Hoping that the putting improvements reap some immediate rewards he could go really close this week.
DARK HORSE: CAMERON CHAMP +4500
Cameron Champ was the winner of this tournament back in 2019, claiming his breakthrough Tour victory by posting a score of -17.
Returning to a course he clearly likes, Champ will be looking to build on a positive end to last season where the Californian won the 3M Open and made it all the way to the BMW Championship before falling short of qualifying for the season-ending Tour Championship.
The key to this week for Champ is keeping the driver accurate. Champ has the power to absolutely dominate this layout, the third-longest on Tour, Champ did a great job of keeping the ball in play during the second half of the year, finishing the year ranked 10th in strokes gained from tee to green.
Champ is an aggressive player and this is supported by him being the 5th ranked player on Tour last year at finding the putting surface when going for the green on a par 5. With four par 5s on the course look to Champ to maximize his scoring opportunities. If he can play the par 5s well this week, he stands a great chance of getting his year off to the dream start. Odds of +900 for a top 5 and +400 for a top 10 finish could be other great ways to play.
LONG SHOT: BRENDAN STEELE +10000
Brendan Steele is a two-time winner around Silverado winning the Safeway Open in 2017 and 2018.
Steele had a mixed year in 2021, playing well in the Honda Classic for a 3rd place finish and recording a 4th place finish at the Zurich Classic. However, Steele’s form greatly tailed off as 2021 continued with the American missing the cut in four of his last five tournaments.
Returning to the scene of two of his three PGA Tour victories, we are hoping that Steele will be able to find a spark and put in a good performance this week. Knowing what it takes to win around Silverado, odds of +2000 for a top 5 and +900 for a top 10 finish could provide some good value.
The obvious name missing from our selections is Jon Rahm. The Spaniard offers next to no value at odds of +350, and in a 156 man field we have tried to find value elsewhere, but his chances can’t be ignored.
Rahm’s decision to play this week has raised some eyebrows, particularly with the Ryder Cup just around the corner. European captain Padraig Harrington will be hoping that Rahm emerges from the weekend injury-free as he will need the big Spaniard to play a key role if Europe is to have any chance of regaining the trophy.
Rahm is playing golf from a different planet at the moment and was desperately unlucky not to win the $15 million FedEx bonus. He is the man to beat but odds of +350 aren’t as appealing as others.
Na had an amazing Tour Championship going from wire to wire by not dropping a single shot. Na’s display saw him finish 3rd in the overall FedEx Cup rankings. This added to an already great year, where Na won the Sony Open before finishing 2nd in both the John Deere and Wyndham.
Na ranked 1st in strokes gained from around the green last year and is a marvelous scrambler, he is also a deceptively good scorer, scoring a 61 last year which was the 4th lowest round on Tour, he averaged a score of 68 across all of his 2021 rounds, scoring an average of 4 birdies per round. In a tournament where the scoring is expected to be low, Na has both the game and confidence to play really well this week.