This article is part of our Golf Picks series.
Fortinet Championship Betting Preview
Welcome to the 2021-22 PGA Tour season!
To kick things off, we head to wine country in Napa, California for this week's Fortinet Championship. World No. 1 Jon Rahm, who will be preparing for next week's Ryder Cup, headlines the field. He is the lone top-10 player on hand, though a total of four top-25 players will tee it up out west, as will a new crop of Korn Ferry Tour graduates for the first time since the end of the 2018-19 season. In last year's tournament, Stewart Cink – despite being a significant long shot at 200-1 odds – won by two strokes over Harry Higgs.
The North Course at Silverado Resort and Spa will host for the eighth consecutive year. The track plays as a par-72 at a relatively short sub-7,200 yards. None of the par-4s will play longer than 450 yards, and players will have plenty of birdie opportunities at their disposal with short irons or wedges in their hands often. We've seen a variety of different styles find success here, and ultimately, players will need to drive the ball well and make a lot of birdies. Around-the-green play should be deemphasized with golfers able to hit the greens in regulation at a high clip.
All odds via DraftKings Sportsbook as of 7:00 PM ET Tuesday.
These five golfers, with a minimum of two appearances, have averaged the most birdies per round at Silverado since 2016:
In recent years Hadley made more birdies per round here than anyone else – and by a significant margin. Since 2017, he has notched a best finish of a share for third and two other top-25s. He comes into the season with some positive momentum, having made the playoffs as the last man in after a closing 62 at the Wyndham Championship. Hadley is a long shot at 180-1, but at the least he appears to be an enticing low-cost option in daily fantasy sports contests. Another long shot in the field that's shown well here is Reavie, who finished T3 last year and led the field in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green. He's trending in the right direction after a solid summer that consisted of four top-25s over his last 10 events. Reavie ranked second in driving accuracy last season, which will come in handy at a course that stresses keeping tee balls in the fairway.
Scouting the Rookies
The following players led the Korn Ferry Tour in ball striking last season:
- Nick Hardy: 10 top-10s
- Hayden Buckley: five top-10s, one win
- Austin Smotherman: five top-10s, one win
- Taylor Moore: 13 top-10s, one win
- Brandon Wu: seven top-10s, one win
The 25-year-old Hardy was outshined by the likes of Will Zalatoris and Mito Pereira on the Korn Ferry Tour over the last two years, but the former University of Illinois golfer is one to keep an eye on from the latest class. He made the cut of the U.S. Open at age 19, and although he was unable to win at the lower level, he was a consistent presence last season while ranking top-10 in both greens in regulation and scoring average. Possibly the most ready to make an immediate impact on the bigger stage is Moore, a little bit of a late bloomer who golfed at Arkansas and played on the PGA Tour Canada before spending the last four seasons on the Korn Ferry Tour. He's coming off consecutive top-10s in the KFT Finals and also notched a win and a runner-up in his last five events. The oddsmakers have taken notice of his prospects, as he comes into the week at 70-1.
Kevin Na (16-1)
Is there anyone on Tour hotter than Na? He tied for the fewest strokes taken at the TOUR Championship while also managing top-20s at longer courses to start the postseason. He also has had a pair of runner-ups since July. Now he heads back to Napa, where he lost in a playoff six years ago. With Rahm likely viewing this week's event as a tune-up, there's value to be had on Na – even at this number.
Emiliano Grillo (50-1)
Grillo emerged on the scene in 2015, winning this event in his first start after graduating from the Korn Ferry Tour. After seeing his ranking fall outside the top 150 last season, he rebounded with a solid 2021 that included six top-15s and a runner-up at the RBC Heritage. With Grillo looking like his old-self again – he finished top-20 in both SG: Off-the-Tee and Approach last season – the winner's circle is again within reach.
Brendon Todd (65-1)
Todd is one of only a handful of three-time Tour winners in the field, but he is being priced in the range of some guys that have little-to-no PGA Tour experience. He notched two wins during the last true fall portion of the schedule two years ago and is a player to keep an eye on at shorter courses. He recorded a T26 finish in his lone appearance here back in 2015.
Chad Ramey (6-1)
Ramey is a Korn Ferry grad that will be making just his third PGA Tour start, but he should be ready to make an instant impact. We've seen guys like Zalatoris and Pereira find success quickly on the bigger stage, and Ramey could do the same, as he should be a good fit at Silverado with a game that relies on hitting fairways and greens. He enters in good form, having finished top-20 in all three KFT Finals events.
Doug Ghim (6-1)
Ghim is a player we featured in our Sleepers Article for the 2021-22 season, and for good reason – after struggling as a rookie, he made a massive jump and finished top-50 in SG: Total last season. This number feels like a bargain in a below-average field, particularly with Ghim missing out on a top-10 here last year by only one stroke.
Hudson Swafford (11-1)
Swafford has made the cut in all five of his trips to Silverado and has one top-10 during that stretch, but the oddsmakers seem to have overlooked his history. Although he struggled to find his game for most of the year, he turned the corner this summer, posting a T2 finish at the Palmetto Championship and top-20s in both playoff events he appeared in. I love the value here.
Talk about two guys trending in opposite directions – Varner posted a top-15 in four of his last six starts while Hoffman's last top-20 came in May. Varner is also a good target across the board, as he has made the cut in all six of his trips to Napa and notched a top-30 result in each of his last three starts here.
While he was a reliable option in the past, Hadwin's level of play has dropped off a bit, with him missing more cuts than he made over his last 10 events. That makes him hard to trust in a head-to-head bet, especially against Howell, who recorded a top-5 in his last trip here two years ago. I'm looking for Howell to be zeroed-in early this season after missing the playoffs for the first time.