Locals to enjoy advantage on the greens
Great event for longshots
After a fortnight off following Viktor Hovland's victory at the Tour Championship, the PGA Tour resumes on Thursday in California with the Fortinet Championship.
Formerly the Safeway Open, and before that, the Frys.com Open, the Fortinet Championship is a fairly-new event and it's only been in existence since 2007.
The North Course, Silverado Resort and Spa, Napa Valley, California
Par 72, 7123 yards
Stroke Index in 2022 - 71.52
After three years at Grey Hawk in Arizona and four at Cordevalle in San Martin, California, the Fortinet Championship moved to the North Course at the Silverado Resort in Napa Valley, California, in 2014 so this will be the tenth year in-a-row the course has hosted.
The Robert Trent Jones Jr designed North Course opened in 1957 but it has been substantially reworked in recent years by Troon Golf and one of the venues co-owners, Johnny Miller.
In addition to the last nine editions of this event, Silverado hosted the Kaiser International between 1968 and 1976 and the Anheuser-Busch Golf Classic from 1977 to 1980 and some of the game's legends won here during those 13 years.
Johnny Miller, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Ben Crenshaw all tasted victory at Silverado and some big names also won here during the 15 years it saw Champions Tour golf when it hosted the Transamerica from 1989 to 2002, with the likes of Bernard Langer, Lee Trevino, Tom Kite and Dave Stockton all winning here.
This is what the 2014 Fortinet winner, Sang-Moon Bae, had to say about the venue.
"I really like this course because it's a classic. Always classic courses you need really good iron shots. Really narrow, small greens, a lot of undulation."
The fairways are largely tree-lined and reasonably tight. The rough is set to a height of 2 1/2 " and the Poa-annua greens will run at 11.5 on the stimpmeter - a fairly modest pace by PGA standards.
There's been a change to the routing this year. Holes 14-17 used to be holes 8-11, while the old stretch from 12-17 now are holes 8-13.
The changes have created nines of 35 and 37 and there are now three par fives on the back-nine.
Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 23:00 UK time
Last Eight Winners with Pre-event Prices
- 2022 - Max Homa -16 18.017/1
- 2021 - Max Homa -19 80.079/1
- 2020 - Stewart Cink -21 570.0569/1
- 2019 - Cameron Champ -17 200.0199/1
- 2018 - Kevin Tway -14 110.0109/1 (playoff)
- 2017 - Brendon Steele -15 36.035/1
- 2016 - Brendon Steele -18 75.074/1
- 2015 - Emiliano Grillo -15 75.074/1 (playoff)
What Will it Take to Win the Fortinet?
We now have nine years of course form to survey, so here's the top-three and ties at the last nine editions with all the key stats - Driving Distance, Driving Accuracy, Greens In Regulation, Scrambling, Putting Average and Strokes Gained Putting.
- 1 Max Homa -16 DD 34 DA 7 GIR 17 SC 3 PA 13 SGP 15
- 2 Danny Willett -15 DD 43 DA 47 GIR 10 SC 2 PA 11 SGP 7
- 3 Taylor Montgomery -13 DD 38 DA 64 GIR 67 SC 13 PA 1 SGP 1
- 1 Max Homa -19 DD 22 DA 7 GIR 19 SC 42 PA 2 SGP 14
- 2 Maverick McNealy -18 DD 13 DA 29 GIR 10 SC 61 PA 1 SGP 13
- 3 Mito Pereira -16 DD 11 DA 1 GIR 3 SC 31 PA 33 SGP 42
- 1 Stewart Cink -21 DD 11 DA 24 GIR 1 SC 2 PA 52 SGP 13
- 2 Harry Higgs -19 DD 21 DA 48 GIR 59 SC 17 PA 5 SGP 17
- T3 Chez Reavie -18 DD 61 DA 1 GIR 11 SC 34 PA 21 SGP 42
- T3 Doc Redman -18 DD 54 DA 5 GIR 40 SC 21 PA 8 SGP 24
- T3 Kevin Streelman -18 DD 49 DA 20 GIR 11 SC 49 PA 3 SGP 12
- T3 Brian Stuard -18 DD 55 DA 13 GIR 15 SC 5 PA 18 SGP 16
- 1 Cameron Champ -17 DD 1 DA 21 GIR 10 SC 1 PA 38 SGP 1
- 2 Adam Hadwin -16 DD 46 DA 29 GIR 1 SC 37 PA 12 SGP 4
- 3 Marc Leishman -14 DD 8 DA 18 GIR 20 SC 5 PA 47 SGP 2
- 1 Kevin Tway -15 DD 14 DA 40 GIR 18 SC 1 PA 22 SGP 18
- T2 Ryan Moore -15 DD 59 DA 1 GIR 2 SC 24 PA 18 SGP 6
- T2 Brandt Snedeker -15 DD 33 DA 30 GIR 40 SC 42 PA 1 SGP 2
- 1 Brendan Steele -15 DD 1 DA 3 GIR 4 SC 7 PA 60 SGP 29
- 2 Tony Finau -13 DD 11 DA 39 GIR 52 SC 10 PA 16 SGP 16
- T3 Chesson Hadley -12 DD 7 DA 24 GIR 47 SC 48 PA 1 SGP 9
- T3 Phil Mickelson -12 DD 45 DA 74 GIR 32 SC 44 PA 3 SGP 19
- 1 Brendan Steele -18 DD 23 DA 5 GIR 21 SC 4 PA 8 SGP 6
- 2 Patton Kizzire -17 DD 35 DA 67 GIR 21 SC 21 PA 4 SGP 1
- T3 Paul Casey -16 DD 10 DA 34 GIR 35 SC 2 PA 6 SGP 29
- T3 Michael Kim -16 DD 50 DA 34 GIR 16 SC 12 PA 5 SGP 18
- T3 Scott Piercy -16 DD 12 DA 29 GIR 7 SC 48 PA 8 SGP 4
- T3 Johnson Wagner -16 DD 42 DA 29 GIR 9 SC 9 PA 9 SGP 8
- 1 Emiliano Grillo -15 DD 37 DA 8 GIR 16 SC 5 PA 41 SGP 61
- 2 Kevin Na -15 DD 30 DA 5 GIR 10 SC 40 PA 12 SGP 51
- T3 Jason Bohn -14 DD 64 DA 5 GIR 1 SC 71 PA 4 SGP 39
- T3 Justin Thomas -14 DD 25 DA 67 GIR 2 SC 23 PA 11 SGP 19
- T3 Tyrone Van Aswegen -14 DD 44 DA 31 GIR 10 SC 21 PA 12 SGP 8
- 1 Sang-Moon Bae -15 DD 26 DA 45 GIR 6 SC 3 PA 18 SGP 44
- 2 Steven Bowditch -13 DD 17 DA 67 GIR 71 SC 2 PA 12 SGP 9
- T3 Retief Goosen -12 DD 29 DA 49 GIR 50 SC 15 PA 14 SGP 1
- T3 Martin Laird -12 DD 34 DA 16 GIR 9 SC 1 PA 39 SGP 8
- T3 Hunter Mahan -12 DD 21 DA 37 GIR 6 SC 52 PA 6 SGP 16
- T3 Hideki Matsuyama -12 DD 25 DA 8 GIR 3 SC 12 PA 22 SGP 45
- T3 Bryce Molder -12 DD 64 DA 45 GIR 48 SC 15 PA 2 SGP 12
Although nobody hit it further off the tee than the 2019 winner, Cameron Champ, the first three home all ranked inside the top-30 for Driving Accuracy.
Max Homa ranked seventh for DA when winning the last two editions, the most accurate driver has finished 12th, third and third in each of the last three editions, and the first three winners here ranked inside the top-eight for DA so I'd suggest being straight and short is slightly better than long and inaccurate but with the exception of 2022, when putting was key, the really key stat has been Scrambling.
The first seven course winners ranked inside the top-seven for that stat, Stewart Cink ranked second for Scrambling three years ago, and the two winners before him both managed to get up-and-down more often than anyone else.
The front three only ranked 42nd, 61st and 31st for Scrambling in 2022 but the first and second ranked third and second 12 months ago and 2022 looks like quite an outlier.
Is There an Angle In?
Putting on Poa is always a bit tricky, and the locals are often at an advantage on the west coast.
The hat-trick seeking defending champ, Homa, and the 2021 runner-up, Maverick McNealy, the 2019 winner, Cameron Champ, and the two-time winner, Brendan Steele, are all Californians and we've also seen California's Phil Mickelson contend too, so that's something to consider and from a course correlation angle, form at TPC San Antonio, home of the Texas Open, and Waialae, home of the Sony Open, look worthy of consideration.
Is There an Identikit Winner?
Homa went off favourite when defending last year, Jimmy Walker was fairly well-fancied nine years ago (generally a 36.035/1 shot) and Steele went off at 36.035/1 when successfully defending the title six years ago, but outsiders have a very fair record.
Max Homa was an 80.079/1 chance two years ago and the three winners before him went off at triple-figure prices. And so too did Sang-Moon Bae in 2014 and the 2011 winner, Bryce Molder, so don't be afraid to go for an outsider or two.
Winner's Position and Price Pre-Round Four
- 2022 - Max Homa - T2 - trailing by one 3.3512/5
- 2021 - Max Homa - T3 - trailing by two 10.09/1
- 2020 - Stewart Cink T7 - trailing by two 42.041/1
- 2019 - Cameron Champ led by three strokes 2.6413/8
- 2018 - Kevin Tway second - trailing by three strokes 7.26/1
- 2017 - Brendan Steele T3 - trailing by three 6.411/2
- 2016 - Brendan Steele T6 - trailing by four 32.031/1
- 2015 - Emiliano Grillo T4 - trailing by two 14.013/1
Only two of the nine editions staged here have been won by the 54-hole leader or co-leader so taking on the frontrunner or runners on Sunday makes sense and this is a venue at which winning from off the pace is perfectly possible.
Homa was inside the top two places all week long last year and he was matched at odds-on during round two but we still witnessed the most remarkable of finishes.
Pre-event 270.0269/1 chance, Danny Willett, took a one-stroke lead into the 72nd hole and after both he and Homa had played three strokes on the par five 18th hole, victory looked assured for Englishman.
Over £14k was matched on Willett at 1.011/100 and someone managed to get £2 matched on Homa at 1000.0.
Left of the green and 32 feet from the pin after a poor bunker shot with his third, Homa looked well and truly cooked. The defending champ trailed by a stroke and Willett had less than four feet for his birdie four but then this happened...
That was far and away the most incredible finish here and one of the most amazing finales ever witnessed on the PGA Tour but Willett wasn't the first to get beat after trading at long odds-on we've seen winners here come from much further back too...
Brandt Snedeker began the final round with a three-stroke lead five years ago and after birdies at five and seven, he opened up a five-stroke advantage. He was matched at a low of just 1.081/12 but he soon lost his grip on the title and he was eventually beaten in extra time.
Cameron Champ was never more than three strokes back or outside the top-five four years ago and the 2018 winner, Kevin Tway, was five, four and three strokes adrift after rounds one, two and three, so he was never too far away either, but Ryan Moore trailed by seven with a round to go before getting into the playoff with Tway and Snedeker.
Brendan Steele was always up there in 2017 but Chesson Hadley, who began the final round just a stroke behind the 54-hole leader, Tyler Duncan, was tied for 61st after round one, before a course-record 61 in round two moved him up to third at halfway.
Sang-Moon Bae was always on the premises in 2014 and he was four clear after 54 holes but the runner-up, Stephen Bowditch, was tied for 80th after round one and he was still six adrift and tied for 36th at halfway.
Emiliano Grillo was six back and tied for 19th at halfway when he won eight years ago and the first nine home were all outside the top-five through 36 holes.
Homa was matched at a high of 240.0239/1, after a poor second round saw him trail by seven in a tie for 24th at halfway in 2021, the 2020 winner, Stewart Cink, trailed by eight at halfway and finally, Steele was nine strokes adrift at halfway and still four back with a round to go when he won here for the first time seven years ago.
Homa attempting the threepeat
After his fortunate success 12 months ago, Max Homa is looking to become the first player to win the same PGA Tour event for three years running since Steve Stricker won the John Deere Classic in 2009, '10 and '11.
Like the vast majority in the field this week, Homa hasn't played anywhere in the last three weeks, but he was in fair form before the break, finishing inside the top-12 in each of his last five events.
That run includes a 10th place finish in the Open Championship and three top-tens in all three FedEx Cup playoff events but given the last 19 players to attempt the threepeat in the same event have all failed, history suggests he's up against it.
Justin Thomas will be very keen to find some strong form ahead of the Ryder Cup in two weeks' time and it's good to see him in the line-up. But he hasn't shown much in a very long time and I'm more than happy to swerve him, although he does have a strong set of course form figures reading MC-3-8-4.
Sahith Theegala, who has course form figures reading 14-47-6, finished a respectable 13th at the St Jude Championship and 15th at the BMW Championship in his last two starts. I can see why he's been well-backed but I'm in no rush to take less than 20/121.00 about someone yet to win on the PGA Tour.
Kevin Streelman looks over-priced at 80.079/1 given he was second in the 3M Open in his penultimate start and that he has course form figures reading MC-41-MC-13-25-MC-3-59.
Streelman has a pair of top-eight finishes in the Texas Open. He's exceptionally good around the greens, ranking inside the top-eight for Scrambling on three of the last five occasions that he's made the cut, and he's no bigger than 50/151.00 on the High Street.
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