The newly devised PGA Tour Fall Season begins this week when the middle tier of players from last season head to Napa Valley for the Fortinet Championship, the first of seven tournaments which form the chance for those not yet into the early designated events to play their way into them.
Max Homa has no need to worry on that score. He is here to attempt to defend the title he opened last season up by winning and also to keep his game sharp ahead of the Ryder Cup later in the month. A fair field will oppose him.
2022 – Max Homa
2021 – Max Homa
2020 – Stewart Cink
2019 – Cameron Champ
2018 – Kevin Tway
2017 – Brendan Steele
2016 – Brendan Steele
2015 – Emiliano Grillo
2014 – Sangmoon Bae
2013 – Jimmy Walker
The venue hasn’t changed from last year. Silverado Spa and Resort’s North Course graces the field again this year however the holes have been placed differently on the card for something different. The course is a par 72 which measures 7,123 yards which doesn’t sound long, and in the dry and humid air it isn’t long but they grow the rough here making these fairways harder to find. The greens here are pretty small too so accuracy is still important but if you look at the recent winners, length is certainly no detriment given that not many will hit too many fairways.
I like the accuracy players with a good long game around here. If you want the cherry on top in terms of players that we’re looking for then ones who score well on par 5s would be it but this is very much one for pure ball striking. Those who can get hot with the putter are never a bad thing so it might be worth checking the all-around statistic to see who is doing everything well. Temperatures are expected to be fairly high this week.
When you consider that there isn’t a whole lot to gain for those who were in the top 50 in the FedExCup last season you wouldn’t expect to see too many big names in the field this week. Max Homa is here and while he might only be doing it to try to defend the title again he is a good headline act in the field. One big name who does have something to play for is Justin Thomas. He doesn’t just need form for the Ryder Cup but needs to win or play very well to get into the Signature Events that start up 2024.
Those two will get much of the spotlight this week but the likes of Sahith Theegala is looking for a first PGA Tour title while Cam Davis is another who us looking to add to his tally of wins. The other household names in the field are all mostly looking to play to get into the fields for the big events in 2024. They include the likes of Kevin Kisner, Chez Reavie, Alex Noren, Taylor Pendrith, Webb Simpson, Matt Kuchar and Luke List who had campaigns to forget last term.
Max Homa is the standout player in the field this week and he looks a very worthy favourite to win this tournament for the third year in succession. He is 15/2 to achieve that and I would imagine that would be a great deal shorter than that if it wasn’t for the fact that he might have the Ryder Cup on his mind. Even with that, he’ll want to head to Italy in decent touch. Homa finished last season strongly and is very much the one to beat here.
Justin Thomas and Sahith Theegala come next in the betting. The pressure is on Thomas this week. He isn’t necessarily playing for his playing rights for next season like some are here but he is playing to be in the events that matter, not to mention some form for the Ryder Cup. 18/1 feels like the right price for him and could look big if he turns it on here. Theegala was beaten by the bubble for the Tour Championship and is here looking to better a T6 a year ago.
Cam Davis is one of few in the field who has a PGA Tour win to his name and he is 22/1 to add another title to his collection. He finished last season in good touch but it came too late to get him to East Lake but those who take the par fives apart tend to fare well here and he fits that bill. He has missed the cut in two of his last three starts here though which isn’t ideal but this field is certainly weak enough for him to take advantage.
Stephan Jaeger is the only other player in the field who is shorter than 30/1. The consistent German can be taken at 25/1 to win the tournament this week but having never won on the PGA Tour it is open to others to determine whether that price is a little skinny. A couple of top 20 finishes in the two playoff events he qualified for last season is certainly form which could move him up the leaderboard here if he can repeat it. His form here isn’t inspiring though.
I’ll go with a couple of main bets this week with the first of those being Justin Thomas. As I said above, the 18/1 on him to win this tournament is probably only a fair price based on recent form but I’m also a believer that form is temporary and class is permanent and there is no doubt that Thomas is a class or two above this field with the exception of Homa when he is at his best. Much was made of Thomas not making the playoffs last season but he was only a shot away from doing so and it might be that the month or so off to take stock of where he is and just freshen up will be a benefit to him. He has the confidence of a Ryder Cup pick behind him which should give him that mojo back and I’ll pay to see whether this week comes at a good time for him.
Whenever we have one of these weaker fields put together and Andrew Putnam is in the field he is always on my radar and this week is no different. Putnam put a really consistent season together last term, so much so that even without a win he made it into the penultimate event of the campaign where he ended his term with a T10 finish. Putnam is a solid golfer who isn’t going to be overly competitive on the longer tracks but this isn’t long with the technology today so with his straight long game and exceptional putting ability I think he has every chance of being in the mix when the business end of this week comes along.
Usually in this tournament I am looking at the form horses who have graduated from the Korn Ferry Tour for my picks as outsiders but with the restructuring of the season none of them are here so I’m going to go with players who have something to prove with the first of those being Zac Blair. He hasn’t threatened a win recently but I always take notice of players who wipe out a medical extension with their play because that is real pressure so the fact that Blair did that and is renowned for hitting fairways make me think that he is worth support now that he is playing much more pressure free. He wiped out his medical extension with a set of top 15 finishes in better fields than this so he is worth a try.
Another player I’ll take a punt on is Kevin Kisner. We all thought he was suffering from a physical illness when he just disappeared from the scene but it turns out the game had just got to him mentally and he needed a break. That break ends this week and as kind of a forgotten man I think he is worth supporting. It might be that it is a week or two too soon for Kisner to be competitive after a long break but there isn’t many in this field who have played competitively in the last month or so, so while the Kisner absence is a disadvantage it isn’t as much of one as it might be. If Kisner is back in love with the game and plays anything like he can he can certainly be competitive on a course where finding the fairway and holing putts are the key to success. It might be too soon but if it isn’t we’re not getting anything like 300/1 on him to win anymore so I’ll pay to see if he does deliver the goods this week.
Back J.Thomas to win Fortinet Championship (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 19.00 with Betway (1/5 1-7)
Back A.Putnam to win Fortinet Championship (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 34.00 with Coral (1/5 1-8)
Back Z.Blair to win Fortinet Championship (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 126.00 with Betfair (1/5 1-8)
Back K.Kisner to win Fortinet Championship (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 301.00 with Boylesports (1/5 1-8)
Back him here: