I hope you enjoyed the one week break! The PGA’s 2021-22 season officially begins with the Fortinet Championship. The event has been played at the Silverado Country Club (North Course) since 2014 and will feature a full field of over 150 golfers, with regular cut rules applying — only the top 65 and ties will play the weekend. This year’s version kicks off the fall swing, but there will be a one week hiatus after this event with the Ryder Cup scheduled for next week.
This week’s field is decent for a fall event. It will be led by world No. 1 Jon Rahm, who is making a warmup start before competing next week in the Ryder Cup. He’ll be joined by Masters Champion Hideki Matsuyama and Webb Simpson. This event also marks the start of the new year, which means some new graduates and TOUR members will be teeing it up here and looking to gain your fantasy trust with solid finishes.
Silverado CC (North) • Napa, CA
7,166 yards, Par 72; Green: Poa Annua/Bentgrass
This will be the seventh year in a row players will tee it up at the Silverado CC, so looking at results before 2014 won’t help, in terms of course history.
The Silverado North course isn’t extremely long, but there are several challenging features about it that will likely keep the winning score in the mid-to-high teens. Many holes have tighter tee shots — with a few doglegs thrown in — that require some accuracy off the tee. However, many these holes can also be challenged by longer hitters who don’t mind taking on some risk, and longer hitters have faired well here in past iterations. The smaller greens are primarily poa annua, and players with good records at West Coast venues with similar green types (Riviera/Torrey Pines/Pebble) have often excelled here, as well.
With four shorter par 5s, the course sets up well for those with length. Overall, the four par 5s at Silverado have played as the four easiest holes on the course. With three of them falling within the 550-600 yard mark, looking at efficiency ratings from that distance isn’t a poor idea. Additionally, there are three par 4s that measure in under 400 yards and only two that measure in at over 450 yards.
Of note is also the fact recent winners have traditionally averaged much higher in driving distance here for the week. Last year’s winner, Stewart Cink, averaged 315 yards off the tee and the field also averaged slightly above the TOUR average for driving distance. Hitting the fairways here is much more difficult than normal, though — the field here has typically averaged eight to 10% less fairways hit than the TOUR average. Overall, we have a course where good off the tee play can really set up a big week, especially if the tricky poa-laden greens can be figured out early.
2021 Outlook: There really isn’t much to report weather-wise this week. All four days have very similar forecasts, with clear skies and highs in the mid-70 degrees Fahrenheit range projected for the entire event. The wind won’t be completely dormant — gusts in the afternoon are expected to reach 10-12 mph all four days. For showdown formats, targeting the early starters could definitely be the right move as the greens should play quite fast this week given the hot temperatures and lack of rain. Look for the field to post lower scores than the morning starters on the first two days but for wave splits to be pretty small here.
Last 5 winners
2020—Stewart Cink -21 (over Harry Higgs -19)
2019—Cameron Champ -17 (over Adam Hadwin -16)
2018—Kevin Tway -14 (over Ryan Moore/Brandt Snedeker playoff)
2017—Brendan Steele -15 (over Tony Finau -13)
2016—Brendan Steele -18 (over Patton Kizzire -17)
The last nine winners have all had a finish of T21 or better in one of their past four tournament starts.
This event was the first PGA TOUR win for five of the last 10 winners here.
The last five winners of the Safeway Open have averaged 305 yards, as a group, in driving distance off the tee (Stewart Cink averaged 315 yards for the week last year).
Winners Stats and Course Overview
Stewart Cink 2020 (21-under-par)
2020 Lead-in form (MC-T46-T62-T17-MC)
- Cink’s form heading into last year doesn’t look great on paper, but he was striking it very well (especially OTT) and did record a top-20 finish a few starts prior.
- The venue contains four par 5s, three of which are likely to fall in 550-600 yard range for the week, making efficiency from this range important; on a similar note, seven of the par 4s this week measure in at 400-450 yards.
- The field here has averaged two-plus yards more in driving distance than the TOUR average, suggesting this is a good course for players who dominate with driver.
- Each of the past five winners at this week’s venue have now gained at least +1.6 strokes or more off the tee in the week of their win, with two of the last three winners gaining +2.5 or more OTT.
Finding Values (DraftKings Sportsbook)
- Harold Varner III +4000 and $9,100
- Sebastian Munoz +4500 and $9,200
- Cameron Champ +4500 and $9,000
- Brandt Snedeker +7000 and $8,300
- Stephan Jaeger +7000 and $8,200
- Brendon Todd +6500 and $8,400
All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
HORSES FOR COURSES
1. Brendan Steele ($7,400; best finishes: win-2017 and 2016): Steele has won this event twice and also finished T17-T21 in two previous years at this week’s venue. His consistency off the tee has paid off for him on Silverado’s tight driving holes, and he’s now made the cut here seven years running.
2. Chez Reavie ($8,500; best finishes: T3-2020, T13-2017): Reavie has been very consistent at this venue despite being a short hitter. The Arizona State graduate has made the cut at this venue/event in nine straight appearances and has gained over +3.0 strokes on approach here in his last four visits.
3. Emiliano Grillo ($8,900; best finishes: win-2015): Grillo won this event back in 2015 and has also posted T26 and T28 finishes here over the last five years. He has lost strokes on the greens at Silverado in all but one of his visits and lost -3.9 strokes on the greens here in 2019 — the only time he’s missed the cut at this event.
4. Harold Varner III ($9,100; best finishes: T17-2019, T14-2018): Varner has posted some solid finishes at Silverado over the last few seasons and has made the cut here in each of the last six years. He ranks fourth here in strokes gained total stats since 2016 and ended last season with two top-12 finishes — against tough fields. He’ll likely be a popular choice this week in DFS.
5. Chesson Hadley ($7,000; best finishes: T14-2020, T3-2017): Hadley is a streaky player, but when he’s playing well off the tee, he can compete. He has finished inside the top 25 at this event in three of the last four years and has gained over +4.0 strokes putting on these greens twice now. He ended last year on a nice uptick and could follow through this week.
1. Jon Rahm ($12,100; second-T9): Rahm is coming off a great playoffs, where he finished second at the TOUR Championship and nearly made up a four-shot deficit in the FedEx Cup race. He’s now finished T9 or better in his last six PGA Tour starts.
2. Kevin Na ($10,000; third-T17): Na has been red-hot of late. His last six starts have produced a third-place finish and two runner-up finishes. He leads the field in around the green stats.
3. Harold Varner III ($9,100; T11-T12): Varner had a solid FedEx Cup playoffs, landing T12 and T11 finishes in his last two starts. He’s gained over +2.5 strokes on his approaches in his last four PGA starts, overall.
4. Sebastian Munoz ($9,200; T29-T21): Munoz had a nice end to his season, finishing top 30 in his last three starts of the year. He’s now gained strokes on his approaches in seven straight starts and ranks top 10 in Birdie or Better percentage in this field.
5. Pat Perez ($7,900; T16-T11): Perez played some really good golf towards the end of last season. He’s now recorded four top-20 finishes in his last six starts and gained +5.7 strokes on his approaches alone in his last start.
DRAFTKINGS DFS STRATEGY
Cash Games: No need to fade Rahm
Jon Rahm ($12,100) is playing in this event for some reason (likely just to stay sharp for the Ryder Cup) and rates out as a monster +300 favorite on the DraftKings Sportsbook — the biggest favorite we’ve seen in the outright market on the PGA in quite sometime. You should play him even if he’s just here for practice. After Rahm, Harold Varner III ($9,100) rates out very well as a core option, as does Mito Pereira ($8,000). Both have played very well in recent starts and Pereira’s salary will let you fit in Rahm. Other cash/core targets here to consider include Charles Howell III ($7,700), Hudson Swafford ($7,200) and Kevin Tway ($6,600).
Tournaments (GPPs): Key in on Munoz and McNealy
If you’re fading the top play, then going super balanced will set you apart in bigger fields this week. Both Sebastian Munoz ($9,200) and Maverick McNealy ($8,600 – see below) rate out highly in recent Birdie or Better production and should have enough firepower to keep up this week if the course plays softer. I also like Charles Howell III ($7,700) here for similar reasons — the veteran is still one of the best in the game off the tee and has a great West Coast record that should set him up for success this week. Other potential targets here include the likes of Sahith Theegala ($7,400), Patrick Rodgers ($7,000 – see below) and Trey Mullinex ($6,600).
MY PICK: Maverick McNealy ($8,600)
The name of the game at Silverado has always been to have a good week off the tee and then find your groove on the poa greens, and it’s a setup that should fall right into McNealy’s wheelhouse. The 25-year-old is coming off his best season ever on the PGA TOUR, where he finished 58th in the FedEx Cup standings and grabbed nine top-20 showings. His best finish was early in the year at Pebble Beach, where he finished as solo runner-up, and that showing should give us a clue to what he could produce here.
McNealy grew up on the West Coast and is very familiar with the setting and greens out this way, which shows in the stats — he’s gained +24 strokes on poa greens alone over the last 50 rounds. He’s also got the length and consistency off the tee (seventh in SG: OTT stats over the last 50 rounds) that have been typical of recent winners here and rates out as one of the better scorers on shorter par 5s. I expect a good start for him and at under $9K, and he rates out as a nice DraftKings target given the weaker field and venue this week.
MY SLEEPER: Patrick Rodgers ($7,000)
It feels like a good time to go back to an old friend here in Rodgers. Still in search of his first PGA win, Rodgers is coming off a Korn Ferry playoffs where he was able to secure his TOUR card for 2021 with a great final round in the KFT Finals. Rodgers has been inconsistent his entire career but has nearly broke through for a win numerous times. Before the end of last season, he was starting to hit the ball a little better and had gained strokes on his approaches in five of his last six PGA starts.
Rodgers is also a great fit for Silverado as he remains a long and consistent driver of the ball and ranks 13the in this field in Strokes Gained: OTT over the last 50 rounds. Good off the tee play is certainly needed this week, but the ability to sink a ton of putts will obviously be required, too. Rodgers has had some of his best success on the poa greens out West and ranks 12th in SG: Putting over the last 50 rounds on Poa. He finished T6 at this event in 2015 and comes into this year’s event riding high after a great clutch finish in his last start. I like him for a big week here, and he makes for a juicy top-10 target at +900 on the DraftKings Sportsbook as well.
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