Damien Kayat previews the PGA Tour’s season-opening Fortinet Championship taking place at the Silverado Resort’s North Course.
2022/2023 US PGA Tour
The North Course, Silverado Resort and Spa, Napa Valley, California
15th- 18th September
It has been two weeks since Rory McIlroy captured his third FedEx Cup title. His showdown finish against Scottie Scheffler was a fitting end to a roller-coaster season that had to contend with the fallout of LIV Golf.
Speaking of LIV, the PGA Tour returns this week with a LIV event also taking place in Chicago. It will be another direct shoot-off between the establishment and the rebels.
Formerly known as the Safeway Open, this is a fairly recent event that started life back in 2007. Max Homa will return to defend his title after holding off Maverick McNealy by one shot last year.
The tour will take another hiatus next week with the latest edition of the comically one-sided President’s Cup. And that doesn’t look like it’s going to be pretty when you consider the international golfers that have been lost to LIV (Smith, Oosthuizen, Ancer and Niemann).
Silverado Resort: North Course
This will be the ninth consecutive year that Silverado Resort will be hosting this event. Designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr, the North Course was opened way back in 1957. It has been renovated extensively in recent years by Troon Golf and Johnny Miller.
Previous winners such as Max Homa and Cameron Champ would seem to suggest that power is key here. But accuracy and precise iron play are far more crucial indicators of success around Silverado.
It is perhaps around the greens where the title could be decided this week. The first seven course winners ranked inside the top 10 for scrambling. These Poa Annua greens are also notoriously tricky and tend to favour the local West Coasters.
The tour hasn’t attracted an elite field to begin the 2022/2023 season (this is fairly typical in recent wraparound seasons). 2021 Masters champ Hideki Matsuyama is something of a course specialist and makes a logical favourite this week.
Max Homa looked impressive last time out at the Tour Championship and will be confident of emulating Brendon Steele’s back-to-back titles in 2016 and 2017.
Canadian Corey Conners was the model of consistency last year and Cameron Davies will replace Cam Smith as the preeminent Aussie Cam on tour.
Matsuyama, Conners and Cam Davies will also be looking to gather some momentum ahead of next week’s potentially disastrous President’s Cup.
2021: Max Homa (-19)
2020: Stewart Cink (-21)
2019: Cameron Champ (-17)
2018: Kevin Tway (-14) *playoff
2017: Brendon Steele (-15)
To Win Outright:
Hideki Matsuyama 14/1 | Max Homa 16/1 | Corey Conners 16/1 | Cameron Davis 28/1 | Sahith Theegala 28/1
Sahith Theegala- To Win 28/1 | To Place 6/1
Theegala is coming off a real breakthrough season and he looks poised to become one of the tour’s next big stars. He finished on a high last season, finishing in the top 15 of the first two playoff events to qualify for East Lake. He came agonizingly close to winning on a few occasions last year. He was runner-up at the Travellers and T3 at the Phoenix Open. He has made the cut here in both of his appearances, finishing in a tie for 14th in 2020. I think he will look at this field and think this could be his week.
Tom Hoge- To Win 45/1 | To Place 19/2
There is plenty to like about Hoge this week. Silverado does tend to open itself up to the accurate types. Hoge hits plenty of fairways and has also shown his capacity to perform in Californian conditions. He won his maiden US PGA Tour title at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February. He also finished fourth at the 3M Open in July. Last time out, Hoge actually finished fifth in 72-hole scoring at East Lake.
The Man to Beat- Hideki Matsuyama- To Win 14/1 | To Place 3/1
I really am not a fan of backing outright favourites. But there is something very appealing about Japanese superstar Hideki Matsuyama this week. He has course figures around Silverado that read 3-17-MC-6. He was one of the hottest golfers in the world for around 18 months, culminating in an excellent T4 at the US Open. But his form tailed off a bit as the tour hurtled towards the FedEx Cup Playoffs. Still, the former Masters champ is a scrambling machine who perfectly understands the unique contours of these greens.