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Fortinet Championship Tips: Six selections at big prices

Fortinet Championship Tips: Six selections for Silverado.
Fortinet Championship Tips: Six selections for Silverado.

Two weeks removed from the climax of the 2020/21 PGA Tour season we start anew. Always an interesting period in the PGA Tour calendar, as the fields are a mix of those who retained their cards on the PGA Tour last year and those who qualified for the main tour via the Korn Ferry Tour, the PGA Tour’s development tour. Trying to figure out who, from this talented, predominantly young group of players will take to the step up, offers an exciting challenge.

The 2021/22 season starts with the Fortinet Championship (formerly the Safeway Open), which takes place at Silverado Resort’s North Course in Napa, California. The host of this event since 2014.

The North Course at Silverado is a tree-lined par 72, measuring 7123 yards. Originally designed by Ben Harmon in the 1950’s, it was re-designed by Robert Trent Jones Jnr in 1965, with further alterations made a decade ago by two-time major champion, Jonny Miller. Including lengthening the course by over 200 yards and wholesale renovations to bunkering.

It’s a tough driving course with relatively tight fairways, clever fairway bunkering and awkward doglegging holes, frequently ranking amongst the toughest fairways to hit on the PGA Tour. Showing why quality driving has been a key to success here.

Ryder Cup odds

Both 2019 champion, Cameron Champ and 2017 champion, Brendan Steele ranked 1st in SG: off-the-tee. Stewart Cink ranked 18th off-the-tee when winning last year and Kevin Tway, the 2018 champion, ranked 19th off-the-tee. Though the winners have often driven it far, due to the average length of the rough, there’s been plenty of shorter hitters on the leaderboards, as the length of the course offers opportunity to both.

The large, tricky poa-annua greens are further protected by tactical bunkering and run off areas, meaning the short game has also been an important factor in deciding winners around the course.

Cink’s victory last year was the lowest winning score we’ve seen at the course, shooting -21 to win by two shots over Harry Higgs. It is worth noting that the course was really receptive last year and  usually the course had provided a good, strong challenge. With none of the previous six versions being won with a better score than -18, four of the six not exceeding -15. 

The forecast is currently dry and hot beforehand, though cooler once the tournament starts. With a likely firmer course than last year and a strong breeze forecast throughout the four days I don’t expect there to be a repeat of last year’s winning score.

World #1, Jon Rahm is this week’s star attraction and will be looking for a good tune up before the Ryder Cup next week. With this year’s Masters champion, Hideki Matsuyama also teeing it up. As does Will Zalatoris, playing for the first time in 5 weeks.

Fortinet Championship Tips

Golf betting tips
Si-woo Kim each-way (8 places)
Odds correct as of 2021-09-13 21:05 Odds subject to change.

With an event possessing so many question marks as to where many of this field stand, I’ve decided to avoid the front of the market completely and have been a little more speculative than usual. Starting at 40/1, with Korea’s Si-woo Kim.

A three-time winner on the PGA Tour, where all three of those wins have come on similarly short, tree-lined courses. Si-woo fits really well here.

He’s a solid driver where he ranks 54th and though outside the top 100 in approach, is capable of blistering golf in that regard. 22nd in scrambling, which has been important around here is a big plus and he also ranks 42nd in par 5 scoring and 45th in bogey avoidance. Further keys to success around Silverado.

Recent form is solid, with a 2nd place finish at the Wyndham Championship 3 starts ago and the last time we saw him, in the low scoring BMW Championship, he closed the event out in impressive fashion. Shooting rounds of 65 and 66 to finish, the best score of the weekend and resulting in a 29th place finish.

He’s played here three times and whilst his form in the event is modest, reading: MC-49-44, he’s got better with every visit. Shown by that 44th place finish last year, which included rounds of 65 and 66, his best rounds yet at the event and if it wasn’t for a 3rd round 77, he’d have finished much higher.

He’s already won in California this year, when winning The American Express back in January and can go in again at a course he’s starting to get to grips with.

Max Homa each-way (8 places)
Odds correct as of 2021-09-13 21:10 Odds subject to change.

It seems inconceivable that Max Homa would be as big a price as this for an event lacking depth in terms of field strength, when you look at his form earlier in the year. 

A winner at the Genesis Invitational back in February in his native California. He played well either side of that victory, racking up 7 other top 25s in his first 11 events of the year and looked set for a big season.

It hasn’t quite worked out like that, as he’s missed as many cuts as he’s had top 50s in his last 10 starts, but I’m hoping the fresh start of a new season, combined with a return home can spark him back into life.

Ball-striking is his asset, ranking 40th for approach and 78th off-the-tee, more power than accuracy. Though the standout stat for Homa this week is his scoring on par 5s, where he ranks 13th. He’s also a good poa-annua putter, shown by his win at Riviera, no surprise considering his Californian roots.

He’s played here four times, missing the cut just once but with only a 39th place finish in 2014 as his best. Though he hasn’t played here since 2019 and has become a much better player in the interim. 

He typically plays well when coming home, with top 10 finishes at Pebble Beach and Torrey Pines to go with that victory at Riviera. Here’s hoping he can transfer that level of form to another event in his home state. 

Doug Ghim each-way (8 places)
Odds correct as of 2021-09-13 21:15 Odds subject to change.

As a former number one amateur, Doug Ghim is a player with the potential to have a long, successful career on the PGA Tour and after a 14th place finish on his debut here last year, this would be as likely a place as any for him to get that first win.

He enjoyed a solid first season on tour last season, with a top 5 finish at the American Express and three other top 25s to go with it. Though will undoubtedly be looking to improve on that this season and with the quality of his tee-to-green game, I am expecting the same.

That tee-to-green game was the 21st best on the tour. Rock solid off-the-tee and around the greens, though it’s the approach play where he excels, also ranking 21st. The putter is the obvious concern, though he did show improvements in that regard over the final weeks of the season.

He was excellent here on debut last year, finishing 14th and excelled in every part of his game that week. Well in contention heading into the final round, though a final round 71 meant he fell short. 

With the majority of his best results to date coming on similarly short, tree-lined courses, including that 5th at the AmEx this year, as well as a 14th at Colonial. Ghim is a good fit for Silverado and if he can combine some improvements with the putter, with that typically excellent tee-to-green game, can go well again this week.

Hayden Buckley each-way (8 places)
Odds correct as of 2021-09-13 21:20 Odds subject to change.

I contemplated quite a few Korn Ferry Tour graduates. Chad Ramey appealed plenty, but at 66/1 is short enough now and I also looked closely at Taylor Pendrith and Lee Hodges. Though I’ve decided to take a watching brief on all bar one for this first event, and that one is Hayden Buckley. 

He produced an excellent end to his KFT season with a run of 2-26-7-MC-4 in his final five events, the final 3 coming at KFT Finals and won his tour card comfortably.

Only turning pro in 2018, where he got to #34 in the amateur rankings, he’s already had two professional victories in just 53 events. First winning on the Canadian Tour in 2019 and backing that up by winning the first Korn Ferry Tour event of 2021. Showing a player very much heading in the right direction and I see big things for him on the PGA Tour.

He’s an excellent ball-striker, where he ranked 3rd on the Korn Ferry Tour. Owing to being both a high quality driver of the ball, ranking 4th in total driving, possessing that deadly combo of accuracy and power off-the-tee and impressive iron play, ranking 9th in greens-in-regulation. 66th for scrambling is solid but there’s definitely a weakness with the putter, though he’s not alone in that category of being excellent tee-to-green but not on the greens. Something’s got to give somewhere.

He played in the US Open this year and though missing the cut, he actually sat an incredible 5th after round one amongst some of the world’s best players, highlighting his potential at this level.

I’m also interested in a piece of form from a couple of weeks ago, when he finished 2nd in the Utah Championship. Cameron Champ, who won here at Silverado in 2019 is a winner there, as was Kris Ventura, who finished 7th here last year, amongst many others with crossover form at both events. Though it is worth noting that only form from 2017 onwards is relevant there as they played a different course prior.

A player with a bright future. He’s well suited to the test and in excellent form. Here’s hoping he can get off to a fast start in his PGA Tour career.

Brice Garnett each-way (8 places)
Odds correct as of 2021-09-13 21:25 Odds subject to change.

A bit of a change of pace now, as Brice Garnett is getting ready to start his 8th season as a PGA Tour player. 

Garnett has had a solid season, which ended with him making it into the Northern Trust, the first of the FedExCup playoff events. 3 top 10s, with his 5th at the Travelers Championship in June by far his best result. A short tree-lined course, not dissimilar to this week’s venue and the type of course he usually excels at.

This is evidenced by his record here at Silverado, where he’s played 3 times, recording finishes of 17-23-67. The 67th last year a little disappointing, but easy to look past with the quality of the other two performances.

He’s a solid driver, ranking 64th, and is super accurate, ranking 6th in driving accuracy. Backed up by hitting a bunch of greens and being excellent on and around the greens. His ranking of 18th in bogey avoidance should also stand him in good stead this week.

Another positive is he’s also a winner at the Utah Championship on the same course as Cameron Champ and a second Korn Ferry Tour victory in the Portland Open seems to potentially be a good pointer too.

A winner at the alternate Corales Puntacana event in 2018, his only victory on the PGA Tour. I feel he’s a player who has another win in him down the line and a place like this feels as likely as any.

Vince Whaley each-way (8 places)
Odds correct as of 2021-09-13 21:25 Odds subject to change.

Finally, a player who also needed to attend Korn Ferry Tour Finals to get his tour card, though that was to win it back, rather than get there for the first time, as he’s played on the PGA Tour for the past two seasons. Vince Whaley is a player who is improving year on year and with that experience now under his belt, can kick on in this next tour year.

Finishes of 10-4-41 in the three Korn Ferry Finals events is indicative of Whaley’s year, where he’s been rock solid throughout. Just 8 MCs in 23 and 3 top 10s, 2 more than he managed last year and with plenty of time to improve on that further.

His stats are solid if unspectacular but do match up with what we’re looking for here. He was 61st off-the-tee last season, 65th in scrambling and 72nd in putting. With 30th in par 5 scoring the standout in predicting how well he can go this week.

He’s twice played here and improved dramatically on his 2nd start. Following a MC in 2019 by finishing 23rd last year, shooting three rounds in the 60s. Buoyed by once again securing his place on the main tour, he can go even better here this week.

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