With the dust from the FedEx Cup finale barely settled, and literally just one week off, we’re back at it. The 2021-22 PGA Tour season is already upon us and first up is a trip to California, where the season-opening Fortinet Championship, formerly known as the Safeway Open, takes place at Silverado Resort.
Last year, Silverado was the setting for a fine story, as 47-year-old veteran Stewart Cink came out on top, and there’s the prospect of another great storyline this time around, especially as plenty of PGA Tour rookies will feature in California. Thanks to their performance on the Korn Ferry Tour last term, Stephan Jaeger, Greyson Sigg, Davis Riley, and Adam Svensson have all earned themselves a spot in the line-up here, while Mito Pereira, a three-time winner on the Korn Ferry Tour during the previous campaign, will be looking to make his mark now that he’s a full-fledged PGA Tour player.
In addition to the rookies named above, there will be a few big dogs in the field. World number one and last season’s US Open winner, Jon Rahm features. The recent FedEx Cup runner-up clearly wants to waste no time at the start of this new campaign, so he’s straight into the action. Two of the other three major winners from last season will tee it up this week too, as both Phil Mickelson and Hideki Matsuyama are set to feature at Silverado. Brenden Steele, who won this event in both 2016 and 2017, is in as well, while California native and 2019 winner Cameron Champ will be in attendance also. Other notable inclusions in the field are Marc Leishman, Kevin Na, Webb Simpson, and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who finished runner-up at the BMW PGA Championship in the UK last week.
Silverado Resort, North Course
There are two courses at Silverado Resort, the North Course, which was the original course, opened in 1955 and remodeled by famous course designer Robert Trent Jones Jr in 1961, and the South Course, which came later. It is the North Course that will test players in the Fortinet Championship this week.
In 2011, renovations were carried out by course owner Johnny Miller, who made the course more suitable for attacking play, widening fairways, taking out some of the sand traps, though the greens can still be quick and tricky to putt on.
This is often the case, but recent history tells us that a strong game tee-to-green helps players here. Brendan Steele topped the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green when winning at Silverado for the second time in 2017, gaining a whopping 12.239 strokes from to green, while Kevin Tway ranked third in that area when finishing ahead of the field a year later. In 2019, Cameron Champ also came out as the number one player in terms of strokes gained: tee-to-green, so it’s clear that flying high between the tee box and the putting service so to speak is key at the Fortinet Championship.
Key stats for the North Course at Silverado Resort
Being a course that is relatively simple to attack, strokes gained: tee-to-green is the only area that has consistently cropped up as a key feature among winners at this venue. Other categories that are important, but still very much secondary to strokes gained: tee-to-green, are strokes gained: off-the-tee and strokes gained: approach.
Three key stats have been highlighted below, followed by the top 10 in those categories.
Note: rankings are based on the events at this venue in the last five seasons, including only those players who’ve played at least four rounds on Silverado North Course during that time.
Strokes gained: tee-to-green: Marc Leishman, Jon Rahm, Cameron Champ, Kyle Stanley, Emiliano Grillo, Doc Redman, Kevin Na, Doug Ghim, Chez Reavie, Hideki Matsuyama, Stephen Jaeger, Brendan Steele, Harry Higgs, Dylan Frittelli, Adam Svensson.
Strokes gained: off-the-tee: Cameron Champ, Jon Rahm, Luke List, Martin Trainer, Doc Redman, Seth Reeves, Charley Hoffman, Patrick Rodgers, Ted Potter, Brendan Steele, Brett Drewitt, Webb Simpson, Sebastian Munoz, Bronson Burgoon, Chase Seiffert.
Strokes gained: approach: Adam Svensson, Doc Redman, Marc Leishman, Chez Reavie, Kyle Stanley, Harry Higgs, Austin Cook, Cameron Percy, Emiliano Grillo, Kevin Na, Matthew NeSmith, Matt Kuchar, Webb Simpson, Cameron Tringale, Stephen Jaeger.
|Odds To Win +2200|
|Draft Kings $10,000|
|World number one, Jon Rahm will be hugely popular, as is always the case, but if you can bring yourself to dodge the Spaniard, then you may just be rewarded handsomely, as there are a couple at slightly lower prices who tick lots of boxes, and nobody does that more than Kevin Na. |
Na finished last season in fine form, flying home at the Tour Championship to claim third in the FedEx Cup race, while he’s got plenty of strong form here, finishing third in 2013, second in 2015 and seventh in 2016. As we can see above, he also ranks highly in some key strokes gained categories, so don’t be surprised if the current world number 24 finishes near the top this week.
|Odds To Win +4000|
|Draft Kings $9,500|
|The big Aussie played himself back into form last season, winning the Zurich Classic in April, as well as posting a few other encouraging finishes. What’s more, he has form at Silverado, finishing third here in 2019. He also rates as the best in the field in terms of strokes gained: total at this track, ranking number one for strokes gained: tee-to-green also, which just cannot be ignored. |
In a field not exactly full of top-tier talent and big names, Leish is a player to take very seriously.
|Odds To Win +4500|
|Draft Kings $8,900|
|I slipped the Argentinian into a few line-ups last season to no avail, and in truth, he’s a hard man to catch right, but on his day, he’s a superb player, one who could easily devour a field of this nature, much as he did when winning here back in 2015. |
Since coming home in front six years ago, he’s only missed the cut once, while he has some pretty solid strokes gained data to his name, ranking inside the top ten here for strokes gained: approach, tee-to-green, and ball striking. As another player who knows what it takes to do well at this venue, Grillo completes the value plays.
|Odds To Win +6600|
|Draft Kings $8,500|
|In this field, Chez Reavie could easily be a bit more costly, as he’s a man who knows how to play well when it comes to this tournament. Not yet a winner, but the American has delivered three top 20’s in recent times, as well as finishing third last season. |
From tee to green he’s solid, which is why only eight players in the field rank above him for strokes gained: tee-to-green on this track in the last five seasons, while only three guys can better him in terms of strokes gained: approach. He’s probably not going to be the man with his hands on the trophy, but you can expect plenty of steady play, which should reward draft players with steady point-scoring.
|Odds To Win +17500|
|Draft Kings $6,900|
|47-year-old Cameron Percy hasn’t won since getting the job done on the Web.com Tour back in 2014, so it’s no surprise that he’s down the bottom of the order in terms of draft prices. However, this is an event that he’s done well in more than once, so there’s reason to think that his price tag may be on the cheap side. |
Percy has made the cut in each of his last four appearances here, finishing 24th all the way back in 2011, 26th in 2014, while he finished seventh in 2019 and 23rd last season. Only five players in the line-up rank better in terms of strokes gained: total, while as we can see above, he ranks favorably for strokes gained: approach too. Again, with no shortage of big names missing, don’t be surprised to see someone like the Australian, who is also a pretty mean putter on his day, position himself highly on the leaderboard.
|Odds to Win +20000|
|Draft Kings $6,700|
|Kyle Stanley probably won’t be on everyone’s list of players to have this week, but I’m OK with that, as there’s always something quite appealing about taking a player unpopular in the betting. |
Without doing anything spectacular, the 33-year-old has made the cut in three of his four appearances at this tournament, and in doing so he’s recorded some pretty encouraging strokes gained data. Of those in the field to have played at least four previous rounds at this venue in the last five years, he ranks fourth for strokes gained: tee-to-green, as well as fourth for strokes gained: approach. What often lets Stanley down is the putter, but besides that he’s got a wholly likable profile, one that fits what should be required to do well in Napa, and on the off chance that he has a good week with the flat stick, he’s worth having in the team at a cheap price.