Damien Kayat previews the 2021 Fortinet Championship taking place at the North Course at Silverado Resort and Spa. Find out why he things Will Zalatoris is the one to side with this week.
2021/2022 US PGA Tour
The North Course, Silverado Resort and Spa, Napa Valley, California
Padraig Harrington must be secretly convulsing behind the scenes this week. He knows that his European side will need Jon Rahm at his optimum level for next week’s Ryder Cup should they stand any chance of taking down the current American behemoth. Surely Rahm could have benefited from another week off after such a gruelling end to the season. But the burly Spaniard (no doubt delighting new sponsors Fortinet) will be using this as a glorified practice session for next week’s shenanigans at Whistling Straits. It’s a weird decision considering this is usually an event embraced by Korn Ferry alumni and fringe PGA Tour stars. As I alluded to earlier, Fortinet will be taking over sponsorship responsibilities from Safeway. Prior to that it was known as the Frys.com Open and came into existence in 2007.
This will be the 8th consecutive year that Silverado Resort will be hosting this event. The North Course was designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr and opened back in 1957. This is a throwback classical test that is largely tree-lined and features relatively narrow, small Poa-Annua greens. There is a premium on accurate iron-play and accuracy from the tee. It’s not really analogous to Whistling Straits in many ways (making Jon Rahm’s decision to play here all the more confusing). Scrambling has also proved a vital stat in recent weeks. You also have to consider West Coast specialists who are accustomed to these idiosyncratic Poa-Annua greens.
While World Number One Jon Rahm has been remarkably consistent of late, he has often disappointed in the climatic moments of events. 4/1 doesn’t seem too appetizing considering his recent inability to close out events. Furthermore, it’s arguable that many of these players will be more motivated for the actual victory this week. Webb Simpson will probably feel slightly aggrieved not to receive a captain’s pick this year. He will be keen to prove a point to Steve Stricker0 The same can be said for Kevin Na after his recent form. Reigning Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama will be looking for a quick start to this season’s FedEx Cup race. Also, look out for the ageless Phil Mickelson (who will no doubt demand a huge portion of the galleries this week).
2020: Stewart Cink (-21)
2019: Cameron Champ (-17)
2018: Kevin Tway (-14)
2017: Brendon Steele (-15)
2016: Brendon Steele (-18)
To Win Outright:
Jon Rahm 4/1 | Webb Simpson 14/1 | Hideki Matsuyama 20/1 | Kevin Na 22/1 | Will Zalatoris 26/1
Chez Reavie- To Win 66/1 | To Place 14/1
39-year-old Chez Reavie looks a nice outside bet this week. This will be his 8th straight year playing this event and he’s yet to miss the cut (he’s actually never finished worse than T33 since his debut). He finished 3rd here last year, dominating the weekend with a pair of 66’s. He has made eight of his last ten cuts, with four top 25’s and two top 15 finishes. He was 1st for Driving Accuracy last time out and this bodes well for this tight test. He also has decent California form, actually finishing 3rd at Pebble in the 2019 US Open.
Brendan Steele- To Win 80/1 | To Place 17/1
Steele’s 28 career rounds at Silverado are tied for the most in this field. He has also averaged 1.41 total strokes gained per round. He is a two-time winner of this event, winning back-to-back titles in 2016 and 2017. Despite massive fluctuations in form, Steele has yet to miss the cut since then. Yes, he is coming off a pretty poor season (he only managed to pick up two top 10 finishes). But he generally tends to thrive in these depleted-field events.
The Man to Beat- Will Zalatoris- To Win 28/1 | To Place 6/1
Will Zalatoris is a Californian who loves putting on these Poa Annua greens. It seems as if a putting breakthrough could galvanize his career from this point on. Zalatoris injured himself hacking it out of the rough at Royal St Georges. In the interim that followed his team noticed that the insert of his putter has caved in. This was resulting in off-line putts. The tee-to-green beast could now be primed for greater success. He was 8th at the Memphis WGC but was not allowed to compete in the FedEx Cup playoffs due to his lack of full membership status. He was still voted PGA Tour Rookie of the Year and I think this could be a massive season for this natural talent.