The PGA Tour returns for the newly initiated FedEx Cup Fall beginning with the 2023 Fortinet Championship. Playing the lead role for the swing season in past PGA Tour campaigns, the Fortinet Championship will instead take on a new face. With the PGA Tour returning to a calendar season, the fall swing is now known as the FedEx Cup Fall where those who fell short in the 2022-23 season have a chance to make amends.
Justin Thomas is the notable name among those to miss out on the FedEx Cup Playoffs last season. Finishing the year No. 71 in the season-long race, the 15-time PGA Tour winner has his work cut out for him if he is to qualify for the signature events of next year. He is joined in this field by two-time defending champion and his Ryder Cup teammate to be, Max Homa.
The unofficial king of California, Homa utilized a dramatic chip-in birdie coupled with a three putt from Danny Willett on the 72nd hole of last year's championship to successfully defend his crown. He goes for his third straight title in Napa Valley and seeks to become the first player since Steven Stricker at the John Deere Classic from 2009-11 to go back-to-back-to-back.
Meanwhile, young stars Sahith Theegala, Cam Davis and a litany of players who finished outside the top 50 in last year's FedEx Cup compete for full-time status on the PGA Tour beginning this week at the North Course at Silverado Resort & Spa.
2023 Fortinet Championship odds leaders
- Max Homa: +750
- Justin Thomas: +1200
- Sahith Theegala: +2000
- Cam Davis: +2200
- Stephan Jaeger: +2500
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2023 Fortinet Championship: What to know
When it comes to the PGA Tour, there are players who fare well in the state of California and players who do not. Competence in the Golden State will be key for me this week, as will the general skillset that is needed around Silverado. Last season, Homa led the field in strokes gained tee to green, but it was not through you conventional ball-striking metrics.
In fact, Homa ranked 18th in strokes gained approach on the week as Silverado asks two main questions from players: Are you a good wedge player? Are you strong with your fairway woods? Playing just north of 7,100 yards and playing to a par-72, Silverado will feature roughly 20% of approach shots from 100-125 and another 15% from 250+. Nearly 50% of second shots will come from less than 125 yards making this week a test fit for wedge specialists and strong putters.
Here are my play this week.
Eric Cole (35-1): The likely 2022-23 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year did everything but win in his first stroll in the big leagues. Playing seemingly every week, Cole put his best foot forward and showcased a skillset ideal for Silverado. One of the best putters in the game, Cole matches his pace on the green with exquisite iron play. Over the last three months, he tops this field in strokes gained putting and ranks inside the top 30 in the world in total strokes gained.
Andrew Putnam (45-1): Putnam is a player I have been targeting in big-boy events at long odds, and I may like him even more in a field like this. The smooth-swinging right hander is adequate in three aspects of the game all of which will be needed this week — driving accuracy, wedge play and putting. He has connected on four straight made cuts in Napa Valley and finished his season with a top-25 effort at the St. Jude Championship and top-10 at the BMW Championship.
Chez Reavie (50-1): There are few players striking their irons as well as Reavie at the moment. Gaining strokes on approach in every tournament since the beginning of June, Reavie connected on quality outings on shorter golf courses like TPC River Highlands, Detroit Golf Club and Sedgefield Country Club. The 41-year-old is one of the most accurate drivers in this field and boasts a stellar history around the par-72, with four top-25s since 2016 — including a T3 in 2021.
Chesson Hadley (70-1): Hadley fits the profile of someone who finished strong in their 2023 season and has had prior success at this course. Capturing a T6 result at the Barracuda Championship, Hadley would go onto to make his final three cuts of the season through a combined effort of strong wedge play and his historically competent putting. While he has missed the cut in this tournament the last two years, the former PGA Tour Rookie of the Year enjoyed prior success with three top 25s over a four-year span, including a T3 in 2018.
First-round leader selections
Eric Cole (45-1)
Andrew Putnam (60-1)
Chez Reavie (70-1)
Chesson Hadley (80-1)
If you want to take a fire a single bullet, I think Homa at 22-1 is worth a look, but I will spread the wealth on Thursday. There is no reason to get away from what worked for us towards the end of the 2023 regular season backing our outright selections in the first round. Each player has plenty of upside and the ability to match a strong approach round with streaky putting. Putnam at 60-1 looks to be one of the most oddly priced offerings on the board, so I will happily indulge.
J.J. Spaun (-140) over Justin Suh
Eric Cole (-115) over Brendon Todd
The matchup market is very tight this week, leading to only two tournament picks. Spaun, a native of California, quietly put together a consistent end to his 2023 season and looks to be on the cusp of peaking. Over the last six months, he ranks fourth in strokes gained tee to green, sixth in strokes gained approach and eighth in strokes gained total. He's a player I may look to bet live if the correct price surfaces. Meanwhile, my love for Cole trickles into the matchup market, where he should take care of Todd. The two have similar skillsets, but Cole's has been more consistent with more upside.
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