What's on Tap: The Fortinet Championship
After a brief hiatus, the PGA Tour is back. We've got your picks for your Splash tiers contest here.
By Alex Lauzon from the “Course of Life” podcast
Return of the Tour
Well, that was a fun little two-week holiday over the DP World Tour picks, where we raked in a winner in Switzerland and enjoyed a week of Irish Open action. It was a great mini vaca from the week-to-week madness of the PGA Tour - just enough time to be ready for another season. Now with the official unveiling of the 2024 PGA Tour calendar being centered around the actual calendar, this makes for the final “wrap-around” feel to the golf schedule. It’s a goofy sandwich of fall events, but there are contests that are LIVE so let’s get after it.
The Irish Open featured a slew of Team Europe’s Ryder cuppers, and now as we return stateside, the Fortinet Championship will be the last tune-up for some Team USA Ryder Cup members before they head over to Italy. With that as the backdrop, let’s make sense of this week’s field in the wine country and keep our winning ways going into the new season.
The Fortinet Championship is contested at Silverado Resort & Spa, a Napa Valley destination that’s had its fair share of adversity in recent years. It’s been marred by a slew of sponsor changeovers and Mother Nature hasn’t been kind to the area, even producing a dangerous wildfire in 2017 that just missed the tournament action. Still, the North Course has persevered as the host, and at 7100ish yards, it’s usually fairly dry and ripe for birdies. Before Homa’s current run on winning the event, Stewart Cink had a turn-back-the-clock win here in 2020 and Cameron Champ’s 2019 victory was an emotional moment for the Aussie. Now, we look to see who’s more focused on fairways and birdies instead of reds and whites.
The Fortinet field is led on the betting boards by Homa who’s going for the three-peat as your tier one pole sitter, and he’s joined by Ryder Cup Captain's pick Justin Thomas and their captain Zach Johnson in the field. Other notables teeing it up include Sahith Theegala, Webb Simpson and Joel Dahmen. Obviously, the form of Homa and JT will be closely analyzed all week as this is the last tournament action for anybody on the US side before the trip to Italy.
Forecasting The Fortinet
As we look down the barrel of a Max Homa three-peat and have other horses that have tamed this course more than once, it’s clear that this track has a “type” of winner. That player is a high ball hitter that can hold the greens, and give themselves ample chances to score low. Every winner at Silverado hits -15 or lower so it’s just a matter of how we get there in four days.
1. Who’s hot and trending – recent high finishes, top-10 streaks, and consistent play are never a bad thing.
2. Horses for courses – players love certain courses and course familiarity and experience are invaluable in a field of the world’s best.
3. What the numbers tell you this week – while I’m far from analytical, there’s always a tournament darling or two scattered across the golf talk stratosphere that stuns on paper.
4. Intangibles – while this allows for theater of the mind, there’s a mysterious optimism surrounding a player that feels “due” or if the price looks just right for buying.
The Irish Open picks decent but not on the nose with an outright winner. We nabbed one winner in our two-week departure to DP World Tour golf, but now we’re back for the PGA Tour’s new season beginning in Napa. Here are the tiers set up for this week’s contests and where my picks are being directed:
THE TIER PLAYS
Tier 1: Max Homa - Blatantly obvious choice here but with logic against the field. Andrew Putnam’s form has been sub-par, so I’ll take the two-time defending champ over Sahith Theegala this week.
Tier 2: Eric Cole - Really enjoyed a great rookie campaign and has shown versatility at differing and unfamiliar tracks - I like his putter here this week.
Tier 3: Alex Noren - I think JT finds SOME pre-Ryder Cup form this week, but Noren has multiple made cuts here and should play better overall.
Tier 4: Brendon Todd - This course sets up best for Todd’s, who is a veteran plodder that should give himself enough birdie looks to play well and score low. Top 10 here last year.
Tier 5: Dylan Wu - Heading into his second full year on tour, Wu has lots of west coast golf experience and a year’s schedule under his belt.
Tier 6: Christian Bezuidenhout - The quiet South African has the tools to contend more, and an offseason of work should have him ready to go this week.
Where to watch: The Golf Channel has coverage all week, and we’ll definitely be getting vineyard shots all week that will have you planning your next excursion.
Why to watch: The news season is here, and with a few Team USA Ryder cup members playing and a Max Homa three-peat on the line, there’s players to watch this week.
What to eat: Grab your nicest bottle of red, white or sparkling, assemble your charcuterie board and have a virtual weekend in wine country.
Purse: $8.4 million
Winner's Share: $1.3 million
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