The PGA is finally back! The 2-week offseason concludes on Thursday, as golfers officially kickoff the 2023-24 season in Napa Valley, California. The Fortinet Championship, formerly known as the Safeway Open, has the distinguished honor to crown the first champion of the season.
2 golfers will have the most attention this week, as Max Homa and Justin Thomas look for a final tune-up before heading to Italy for The Ryder Cup. Homa looks to join rare company with a potential 3-peat as the betting favorite, and JT desperately needs a good showing to garner some much needed confidence against the Europeans. It’s worth noting none of the Europeans competing will be teeing it up at Silverado Resort and Spa’s North Course.
The Fortinet Championship: Picks and Best Bets
The Course: Silverado Resort and Spa North Course
In my opinion, Silverado’s North Course is a very underrated course. It has a good mix of scoring opportunities and difficult par saves. Golfers will take driver off of most tees, as the rough has not been very penalizing in the past. You’ll find some scattered trees and longer stuff if you miss really badly, but for the most part, the rough is not an issue. The difficult part is the short stuff.
This course tends to play very firm, needing higher shots to land and stay on the greens. The firmness also makes scrambling around the green fairly challenging. If you want to win here, you’re going to have to make a lot of 10-footers for par. With how volatile putting is, it opens the door for longer shots to win here. I understand Homa won last season as the 14/1 favorite. However, for his first win, you could have gotten him close to 60/1. Stewart Cink was a 200/1 winner in 2021, and Cam Champ a decent 120/1 champion in 2020. Don’t be scared to throw a dart or two.
Let’s highlight a few golfers I expect to find success at the Fortinet Championship.
Cam Davis (+2200)
Cam Davis is the perfect fit for this course. He gained on the field in distance in all but one tournament in the 2023 season. His approach game can get just as hot as anyone. Thanks to his world-class ball-striking, Davis tallied up 7 Top 10 finishes last season, with 4 of them coming in the final few months. Davis’ putting is what has kept him from pulling out victories, but he’s really not that bad of a putter.
His good weeks and bad weeks on the green are right at 50/50. Most of the time he’s very close to average, either swaying a little negative or positive each week. His finishes are incredibly reliant on his putting performance, as expected. In the final 16 tournaments in 2023, he gained strokes putting in 8. He missed just 1 cut in those 8, and in 6 of them, he finished at T7 or better. Davis gained strokes putting last season for the first time in 4 tries at Silverado. I expect this trend to continue this week, and Cam Davis’ putter will find some real success.
On a course that fits him this well, in a field that is about as weak as it gets, I believe 22/1 is a fair price for Cam Davis. I’d obviously like to hit on a much higher number with what would be Davis’ second victory on Tour, but I’d also hate to miss out. You can confidently start fantasy lineups with him at $10,100 as well. Expect loads of birdie opportunities for Davis this week, and let’s hope his putter can get hot.
Nick Hardy (+6000)
Nick Hardy is a very similar player to Cam Davis but is almost triple his odds. Similar to Davis, Hardy will be amongst the longest off the tee. He’s also a one time winner on Tour, although Hardy’s did come in the team event format at the Zurich Classic.
The difference between Davis and Hardy comes in the approach and putting parts of the game. Hardy has shown flashes of being a solid approach player, but lacks the strong consistency of Davis’ game. Hardy’s putter, however, has been unbeatable. He finished the 2023 season gaining over 3 strokes putting in 7 of his final 10 events.
Hardy has played here twice, and his approach was spot-on in both appearances. This doesn’t come as too much of a surprise, as his game fits this course well. His putter has slowed him down here in the past, but as shown with his 2023 finish, I expect this time around to go a little different. Don’t be shocked to see Nick Hardy in contention come Sunday, and doing it by putting it out of his mind.