This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
THE FORTINET CHAMPIONSHIP
Winner's Share: $1.26M
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the winner
Location: Napa, Calif.
Course: Silverado Resort and Spa (North)
2020 champion: Stewart Cink
Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends, otherwise known as the PGA Tour. Just a week after the last season ended, this new season will begin. It's actually a longer offseason than a year ago, when it was a mere four days, which was an offshoot of the pandemic. As is custom, the 2021-22 season will begin with the annual lid-lifter at Silverado, though now it's no longer the Safeway Open but the Fortinet Championship. Fortinet, a global security firm, has signed on for six years. But fear not, Johnny Miller is still part of the Silverado ownership group.
Fortinet is getting a pretty sweet welcome-to-the-PGA-Tour gift: the No. 1 golfer in the world. Jon Rahm is the only one of the 24 golfers competing in next week's Ryder Cup who is in Napa, though also on hand is one of the U.S. assistant captains, none other than Phil Mickelson. They are joined by one of the guys many people thought deserved to be on the U.S. team in Kevin Na. Rahm is the lone top-10 golfer in the field, but he'll be complemented by three others in the top-25: No. 17 Hideki Matsuyama, No. 22 Webb Simpson and No. 25 Na. There are five more from the top-50, including No. 33 Mickelson. The others are No. 31 Will Zalatoris, fresh off being named Rookie of the Year, No. 41 Marc Leishman, No. 44 Max Homa and No. 50 Si Woo Kim.
One notable absentee, however, is Stewart Cink, who was not able to defend his title because his son is getting married this week. (It's his older son, Connor, not his caddie from a year ago, Reagan.)
In past years, California wildfires have come a little too close for comfort to the Silverado Resort, though that is not be the case this year as of now even though there are numerous fires burning in Northern California. As you may recall three years ago, just hours after the tournament ended, wildfires crept onto the edge of the Silverado property. The resort was evacuated, and that included players staying overnight till Monday. No one was hurt, and the grounds and golf course were largely unscathed. But it all serves as a permanent reminder that there always is a threat in this area at this time of year.
This is the ninth year that Silverado has been the host course and the eighth time it's been the season opener since the Tour went to a wrap-around schedule in 2013-14. Miller overhauled the track in 2011 with the hopes of one day attracting a U.S. Open or PGA Championship. He thought getting Tiger Woods to play would help. And for a couple of years, Miller did have visions of Woods showing up – mostly because Woods said he would, first in 2016 and then in 2017, only to yank the football away just as Charlie Brown was about to kick it. There was no shot in 2018, right after the Ryder Cup. Woods didn't show the past two years and of course not this year. But for the sixth straight year Miller gets the next-best thing in Mickelson. Plus Rahm.
Silverado is not long, but it is heavily tree-lined with narrow fairways, a few of which are dog legs. Still, that hasn't deterred the biggest hitters, who can freely let fly with little penalty for wayward drives. Silverado usually lands somewhere in the middle of the pack on the difficulty meter among all courses, but last year it was especially easy, with Cink tournament record at this track, 21-under-par. Interestingly, three of the four hardest holes tend to be par-3s. Conversely, the finishing trio of Nos. 16-18 are generally among the easier holes, which is to be expected when two of them are under-600-yard par-5s and the other is a 375-yard par-4. The greens are bentgrass and poa annua – not everyone's favorite – and average a little more than 6,000 square feet. Water comes into play on only two holes.
Weather-wise, it should be very comfortable all week for the golfers, with temperatures in the 70s and not much chance of rain, though the wind could be a factor, forecast to be in the mid-teens mph.
Key Stats to Winning at Silverado
The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key Stats" follow in importance.
• Strokes Gained: Approach/Greens in Regulation
• Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green/Scrambling
• Driving Distance/Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee
• Birdie Average/Birdie-or-Better Percentage
2020 - Stewart Cink (Silverado)
2019 - Cameron Champ (Silverado)
2018 - Kevin Tway (Silverado)
2017 - Brendan Steele (Silverado)
2016 - Brendan Steele (Silverado)
2015 - Emiliano Grillo (Silverado)
2014 - Sangmoon Bae (Silverado)
2013 - Jimmy Walker (CordeValle GC)
2012 - Jonas Blixt (CordeValle GC)
2011 - Bryce Molder (CordeValle GC)
In the eight years the tournament has been played at Silverado, we have seen some really horrible putting rewarded. Cink was one of the more proficient winners by ranking 13th in the field in Strokes Gained: Putting. On the other hand, scrambling has had a strong correlation to victory: Every year the tournament has been played at Silverado, the winner has been ranked in the top-7 in the field. In fact, Cink was second in scrambling and Champ and Tway before him were first. Overall, Cink ranked 11th in driving distance, 24th in driving accuracy and first in greens in regulation. He also was 18th in SG: Off-the-Tee, sixth in Approach, 23rd in Around-the-Green and second in Tee-to-Green in edging a valiant Harry Higgs by two strokes. Among the top-6 on the leaderboard a year ago, none finished inside the top-10 in SG: Putting. Cink was the only who ranked in the top-10 in GIR. The over/under on the winning score on golfodds.com was set at 269.5 – 18.5 under par.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS
Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap
Tier 1 Values
Jon Rahm - $12,100 (Winning odds at the DraftKings Sportsbook: +300)
You kind of wonder what Rahm is doing here instead of prepping for Whistling Straits. But no matter where or when he plays, he's almost always in the top-10 with at least some chance of winning. We may never seen anyone else as low as +300 ever again.
Hideki Matsuyama - $11,000 (+2200)
We've seen time after time that you don't have to be a good putter to succeed at Silverado (Hello, Brendan Steele and Emiliano Grillo). Matsuyama does most everything else well, including being a decent scrambler. He's played here only once in the past five years, but in 2013-14, he tied for third both times.
Webb Simpson - $10,800 (+1400)
Simpson had a very disappointing season in which he failed to reach the TOUR Championship. Part of that was injury-related, as a neck ailment slowed him down over the summer. But he showed signs of recovering by finishing in the top-20 of four of his final five events of the season, three of which were a major (The Open), a WGC (Memphis) and a playoff event (the BMW). He still has one of the elite short games on Tour: last season he ranked fifth in scrambling, 22nd in SG: Putting and eighth in birdie average.
Kevin Na - $10,000 (+1600)
Na is not a long hitter, but there's always more than one way to win a golf tournament and he has played well here – 3rd in 2013, second in 2015, seventh in 2016. He ranked fourth on Tour in scrambling last season and first in SG: Around-the-Green. Na has to still be fuming/crestfallen over not being selected to the Ryder Cup team. He can channel those emotions in two different ways. We obviously think it will spur him on.
Tier 2 Values
Harold Varner III - $9,100 (+4000)
Varner plays this tournament every year and usually plays it well, with three top-20s in his six consecutive visits. He closed this past season with top-12s in the first two playoff events.
Cameron Champ - $9,000 (+4500)
Champ bombed his way to victory here in 2019 – and we do mean "bombed," as he averaged 337 yards off the tee. He simply hit it as far as he could, and he still finished in the top-25 in fairways hit. That was remarkably impressive. Champ did not defend his title last year. He is now not too far removed from winning his most recent title, the 3M Open less than two months ago.
Maverick McNealy - $8,600 (+6000)
McNealy has been on Tour only two years, but he's already played this tournament four times, a perk from his nearby Stanford days. He has not had great success in this tournament. But he did just finish a great stretch of golf, making eight straight cuts to close last season with five top-25s. McNealy ranked 36th in scrambling last season and 40th in birdie average.
Stephan Jaeger - $8,200 (+7000)
Jaeger is back on the PGA Tour after a dominant season on the Korn Ferry Tour in which he won twice, finished second four times and third once. He wound up first in the KF finals and ranked top-5 in many stats, including scrambling. Jaeger has played Silverado twice, tying for 30th in 2017 before missing the cut the following year.
Tier 3 Values
Mito Pereira - $8,000 (+5000)
Pereira begins his first full season on Tour after earning a summer battlefield promotion from the KF Tour. He finished in the top-6 in both the Barbasol and 3M Open after arriving, then just missed a medal at the Olympics. In his brief time on the PGA Tour, Pereira hit almost 75 percent of his greens in regulation and more than two-thirds of his fairways.
Pat Perez - $7,900 (+6000)
Perez had a pretty fair season at age 45, finishing with top-16s in four of his final seven tournaments and coming close to qualifying for the second playoff event. He missed only two cuts in his last 12 starts. His 2020-21 season began with a top-10 at Silverado. Perez ranked 16th in scrambling and 67th in birdie average despite being one of the shorter hitters on Tour.
Taylor Moore - $7,700 (+7000)
Moore was one of this season's RotoWire Sleeper picks, as you can seen in the 2021-22 Draft Kit. He closed the Korn Ferry season with top-10s in six of his final seven starts, including a win, and a runner-up. Moore ranked sixth on the KF Tour in both scrambling and total driving. He last played a PGA Tour event in 2017.
Brendan Steele - $7,400 (+10000)
How could we not pick the man we called Mr. Safeway for all his success at this tournament? (But we're not gonna call him Mr. Fortinet now. Maybe Mr. Silverado?) Steele has forever been a great ball-striker and is still decent, having ranked 38th in total driving last season. Since winning back-to-back here in 2016-17, he's made all three cuts and tied for 29th last year.
Greyson Sigg - $7,100 (+8000)
Sigg is another young gun up from the Korn Ferry Tour. He's the latest in a long line of Georgia Bulldogs and, at 5-feet-7 and 179 pounds, he could almost pass for an actual bulldog. Sigg won twice last season, including the Boise Open playoff event last month. He also qualified and made the cut at the U.S. Open in June. Sigg ranked eighth on the KF tour in scrambling and 15th in greens in regulation.
Chesson Hadley - $7,000 (+18000)
When we last saw Hadley, he was tearfully recounting on TV at the Wyndham what it meant for him to keep his Tour card, finishing at exactly 125th in the point standings. He's done quite well at Silverado, finishing 14th last year, 23rd the year before and third in 2017.
Cameron Percy - $6,800 (+20000)
The now-47-year-old Aussie will play out of the 126-150 category to start the season, which is where he often begins, after finishing 135th in the point standings. But he still finds a way to make a lot of starts, including at the Fortinet. He tied for 23rd last year and seventh the year before. Percy does not do many things well, but he did manage to finish first on Tour in greens in regulation. In and of itself, that's a huge accomplishment, but when you average only 286 off the tee, that is a massive accomplishment.
Lee Hodges - $6,600 (+15000)
Hodges closed last season with one of his best results – a tie for fourth at the Korn Ferry Tour Championship. He made four PGA Tour starts in 2021 and made every cut, two of them top-15s, though all four were alternate-field events (he also made the cut at the 2018 RSM). Hodges ranked top-10 on the KF Tour in putting and 28th in scrambling.