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Mizuno Sticks and Mile High Golf



Winston Churchill is credited for saying, “Golf is a game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into an ever smaller hole, with weapons singularly ill-designed for the purpose.” Is it fair to say that the last piece of that quote applies to life as well?

I recently spent a few days in the Rocky Mountains. Colorado Springs, Colorado, to be precise. A business trip landed me in a government hotel that looked more like an abandoned asylum than it did a hotel. If it had been on my dime, I wouldn’t have even walked into the sad excuse for a lobby. In fact, I probably wouldn’t have even tapped the brakes as I drove by in my rental car. This place was ill-equipped to be a hotel.

51179990374__38ACAE47-DA5E-4400-BC24-2C6F07309B1EUsing my years old keycard, with which I’d gotten the warning, “Don’t put it in the same pocket as your phone or it will deactivate it and I’m only allowed to give you two extra ones,” I entered my room with minimal hope that the renovation just hadn’t made it to the outside of the building. My hopes were dashed when I saw floral border, a window A/C unit and a Sharp tube television resting on a piece of furniture that resembled something I’d once placed on the sidewalk after moving out of a college apartment. But the mountains have a way of forcing the give-a-damn out of you.


The first couple of work days ended a bit early and around 3:30 p.m., so on Wednesday I found myself suddenly with about four hours of daylight to fill. What better to do than play golf, right?

I found the local course and walked into the clubhouse, which, much to my surprise, was infinitely nicer than my sorry excuse for lodging. I asked what rental clubs they had expecting to hear only one option: Callaway Strata 12-piece men’s set. Also to my surprise, they offered premium rentals that included a Titleist set of either AP1 or AP2 irons, all 2017 Titleist woods and hybrids and a Cleveland milled putter. They also offered the new Mizuno JPX-900 irons in both cast and forged models (with Project X 5.5 shafts) and the new Mizuno JPX hybrid and woods. “I’ll have the Mizunos, please.” Those weapons are not ill-designed for the task.

IMG_0783Earlier that day I’d been driving back from eating lunch and the Rockies were on the right side of the road. As the radio shuffled through the playlist on my phone, an old Vince Gill song came through the speakers, “Go Rest High On That Mountain.” When that song came on the radio I found myself about halfway through singing along with Vince. And before it was over, I had to wipe my eyes. (If by some stretch of the imagination you’ve never heard this song, you must watch this video of him doing it in tribute to George Jones, you can skip to 7:20 in the video.)

What you must know about me, though, is that I’m a broken man. In 2013 my wife and I brought a little girl into this world. She was about seven pounds with dark hair and beautiful eyes. In 2014, while I was deployed to Afghanistan, she got really sick. So sick that I had to leave Afghanistan to be by her side. After many weeks in the hospital, she didn’t make it. A terrible combination of influenza and a respiratory virus was more than her nine-month-old body could handle. It was, and continues to be, devastating. But there are two ways you spiral after a family tragedy of that magnitude: up or down. There’s little room to stay in between.

Over the next three years I would write a lot and play golf, often doing one or both of those things at the expense of spending time with my family. As Churchill said, we are often using weapons in life that are ill-designed to deal with such an event as the loss of a child. In that video Vince Gill says, “Brother George [Jones] taught us all how sing with a broken heart.” If we can learn how to play golf with a crooked stick, then we can learn how to go through life with the broken hearts we pile up along our path. It’s just that sometimes we need reminding.

As I pulled the cart strap around the bag and clamped it down, I looked up at the mountains that embrace the property and thought about the Vince Gill song. I also thought about my daughter. It’s hard to convey the existential things that happen on a golf course when you play by yourself. It doesn’t happen all that often, but when it does you can’t help but share it with someone. When I rented the Mizunos in the clubhouse, all I was trying to do was take an opportunity to play golf and try out some clubs that were creating buzz in the golf world. What ended up happening was some unexpected healing.

My opening tee shot went a little right (I blamed it on the new driver). I hopped in and steered the cart to the opposite side of the hole, veering off the cart path to find my ball in some slight rough. I promptly hit a wedge just short of the green (my altitude calculations for yardage weren’t very precise), jumped back in the cart and drove to the green. Pumping the parking brake on the cart, I got out and saw the marshall approaching the green. He said, “It’s cart-path only on the course today,” and I apologized. At first, I was annoyed because neither the pro nor the marshall had given me this information and, had I known that I wouldn’t have paid for a cart.

With bygones being bygones, I went about my round. It turns out, the cart-path only status gave me more time to walk and take in the scenery, so there’s the first uptick in the spiral. Since I was alone, I started playing music through my iPhone and kept on rolling. As I tell you the next part of this story it will be hard for you not to think I made it up, but I promise, it happened just as you read it.

I played the first 11 holes just letting one of my playlists cycle through some ballads (I’m a ballad kind of guy) and I pulled up to the par-4 12th hole. When I stepped out of the cart I grabbed my phone out of my pocket to take a picture and that damn Vince Gill song came on again. While the intro was playing, I took this picture.


I had to reset over the golf ball three times because I couldn’t keep my composure. Finally, on the fourth attempt, I striped a drive right over that fairway bunker you see, almost directly in line with the top of that mountain. When I got to my ball the song was about halfway through and Vince Gill was in the middle of a silky guitar solo. I played the shot to the front of the green and it bounced up to about 25 feet. To that point, I hadn’t made a birdie in the round and didn’t expect this one to fall either. (I wasn’t worried about the score all that much with rented clubs at 8,000 feet above sea level.) The universe had other plans.

I parked the cart and walked to the green with my Cleveland milled putter in hand, pulled the flag and lined up my putt. I set up over the ball and took my practice strokes looking at the hole (as I always do). As I placed the putter behind the ball I could still hear the song playing in my pocket. I made the stroke and the ball took off. It broke about six inches around the halfway mark (not what I read) and fell into the hole. It would be the only birdie I’d make all day.

As I replaced the flag and walked off the green the music stopped. I’d reached the end of my playlist.

I finished the round in quiet solitude, admiring the mountains and the lesson they’d taught me. Sometimes, in order to move forward in life, ill-designed tools are the only thing you need. And sometimes, they aren’t so ill-designed. Maybe golf is a game where we play with weapons better suited for chopping down baby trees or tilling a garden, but if it were easy it wouldn’t be something you did for a lifetime.

I’ve been playing golf for over half my life to some degree, and it’s never meant more to me than it did that day. Not because of any specific shot, but because of the power residing in the desire to improve at something. I walked into the clubhouse expecting to get some rentals and play a round of golf, then grab some dinner and spend the rest of the night in the room. I did those things, but somewhere in the middle of the round I realized that I’d been trying to avoid dealing with something terrible that happened to my family, something I couldn’t control and can’t change.

That’s why we love golf, right? Because we think that we can control the outcome with enough grinding and mindless practice. As we all soon learn, though, mindless practice will get you nowhere in this game… and that’s the same in life. I don’t want to build up the moment on 12th hole as something that will will forever change my life; it’s too early to tell, but it did change my day and my week.

Churchill was right, we’re trying to hit a “very small ball.” The last time I checked, though, the hole was bigger than the ball.

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Adam Crawford is a writer of many topics but golf has always been at the forefront. An avid player and student of the game, Adam seeks to understand both the analytical side of the game as well as the human aspect - which he finds the most important. You can find his books at his website,, or on Amazon.



  1. Rev G

    Apr 27, 2017 at 8:24 am

    I’ve always enjoyed your articles Adam, but for many reasons, this was your best.

    • Adam Crawford

      Apr 27, 2017 at 8:04 pm

      Thanks, man. Really appreciate that.

  2. Dan

    Apr 26, 2017 at 11:47 am

    Probably the best article I’ve read in a long time.
    I can only try to imagine the pain you’ve been through.
    Though, I felt like I was feeling the same emotions reading thru paragraphs.
    Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful thoughts, Adam.

  3. Edge of Lean

    Apr 25, 2017 at 4:08 pm

    Adam, there is a saying in the Christian world that “Joy shared is double joy; Sorrow shared is half sorrow.”
    It may seem like emotional tripe, but the sentiment is real. Having lost a child, I share your sorrow. But, to quote the Good Book again, “Joy comes in the morning.” I wish you strength to go on, until that beautiful sunrise.

  4. Jim H

    Apr 24, 2017 at 3:35 pm

    Somebody must be cutting up onions in here. Anyone with kids truly understands the anguish you have been experiencing Adam. Please keep that spiral to the high side, as though seeking the Rocky Mountain peaks. Living south of Denver for almost 40 years, the mountains are truly a magical sight for me on a daily basis. But now I will also think of you and say a prayer for you, your wife and your other children that God will ease the pain in each of your hearts. You are a very talented individual Adam, and I thank you for serving to protect us all. Keep playing and writing about this wonderful game we all love so much. God bless you.

  5. David Ciccoritti

    Apr 24, 2017 at 11:12 am

    Why is this delusional idiot still not yet banned?

    • Adam Crawford

      Apr 24, 2017 at 3:51 pm

      Bubba, I’m not angered by your political views. All of us who serve struggle with justifying war at times. The only problem I have with your initial comment is that you either didn’t read the article all the way through (which is fine), or you did and chose to disrespect my daughter’s memory by making your comment about politics and not about the message I intended. If you failed to receive the message, then that is the fault of this writer, and for that, I apologize. I’ll work harder next time. However, if you did understand the message and still chose to make your comment about politics, then I’m sorry that you live in a reality that seems tortured. I hope some day you can find something to look up too, something that brings joy to your heart. To live without joy is not living at all.

      • BW

        Apr 27, 2017 at 10:52 am

        Good lord I like you, Adam. Amazing response to a terrible troll.

  6. David Ciccoritti

    Apr 24, 2017 at 11:11 am

    Hi Adam, thanks for sharing. Although your daughters time was short, I don’t think she could have picked a better father. The amount of hurt is a testament to the amount of love. Also, even though I’m Canadian, I also want to thank you for your bravery and service. God Bless.

  7. Sully

    Apr 23, 2017 at 8:44 am

    Bubba, the only reason you get to live in the best country in the world is because people like Mr. Crawford voluntarily go across the world to fight your enemies for you.

    Keep up the great work Adam. If Golfwrx keeps posting articles like this I might come to the site more often and deal with the pop up ads.

    • The Dude

      Apr 23, 2017 at 8:10 pm

      take time to think……………

    • Daniel Boyd

      Apr 24, 2017 at 1:06 pm


      How original. Another idiot using this platform to promote stupidity.

      To enlighten you. There are billions of people that live in this world who are productive, armed and do not rely on others to protect them or tell them how to think yet they live in extreme poverty and persecution just because of the country that they live in.

      Newsflash – You are not blessed because of ANYTHING you have done! You are blessed simply because you live in the United States of America and only have the rights that you have because of the men and women that have served and are serving currently in our Armed Forces. Without them you would have nothing!

      RESPECT. Something that you lack much like normal brain function.


      Thank you for you service and for the article above. Prayers and love go out to you and your family as you continue to seek peace in has to be the greatest tragedy any Mother and Father can experience.

  8. Pete

    Apr 23, 2017 at 6:38 am

    Bubba – you’re a wanker. Adam, best wishes to you and your family……

  9. Hardcore Looper

    Apr 23, 2017 at 12:15 am

    Adam, I truly hope you find peace. Thanks for sharing this with us. Golf isn’t just about getting another six yards off the tee.

    • Adam Crawford

      Apr 23, 2017 at 8:34 pm

      Peace is a strong word. However, articles like these are like opening a relief valve a tiny bit, just to let out a little steam. Through my wife, my other children, writing and the game of golf, there is a certain level of normalcy to be found. One also has to be thankful for where I am now. I could have easily fell down a dark hole never to resurface.

  10. Austin

    Apr 22, 2017 at 11:34 pm

    Dude? Seriously? I’ve never replied to a comment before but get a life.

    Adam, thank you for your service and I’m sorry to hear about your daughter. Glad you found some comfort

  11. Ronald Montesano

    Apr 22, 2017 at 11:34 pm

    Adam, I don’t know that I could ever share what you shared, and I pray for you and your wife, and for your beautiful daughter. I do hope that golf and life bring you repair to as great a degree as can happen. Selfishly, I hope that you continue to write for GolfWRX.


    • Adam Crawford

      Apr 23, 2017 at 8:32 pm

      I hope the same thing, my friend. I truly enjoy it.

  12. Justwin

    Apr 22, 2017 at 11:13 pm

    I accidentally clicked on “report comment” when I scrolled down. Didn’t mean to and I apologize. I would like to thank you for your service and express my condolences for your families personal tragedy. I wish you all the best in the future and ignore the “haters”.

    • Adam Crawford

      Apr 23, 2017 at 8:39 pm

      It’s all good. Thanks for the comment and the best wishes. Lotta life to live!

  13. LaBraeGolfer

    Apr 22, 2017 at 9:00 pm

    Adam I travel all over Northeast Ohio playing golf, my job affords me a weekday off a week so very rarely do I get to play with someone. However, I have got to play some truly incredible courses and it really is an incredibly religious type of experience sometimes playing alone, I can’t imagine what you have gone through. Thank you for your service!

  14. Butch

    Apr 22, 2017 at 8:09 pm

    Sorry for your loss. I have been in the military for 17 years and understand how being away from your kids might be the hardest and worst thing you can ever experience. Sorry for the above comment. I guess the 12-14 hour days in Iraq and Afghanistan cannot entitle somebody to getting off at 3:30

    • Adam Crawford

      Apr 23, 2017 at 8:40 pm

      No doubt being away from the family is the hardest part. But I think the military has done a good job in recent years of acknowledging the sacrifices made by military families.

  15. Adam Crawford

    Apr 22, 2017 at 7:42 pm

    I’m truly sorry that’s what you got out the article.

  16. Frozengolfer

    Apr 22, 2017 at 6:59 pm

    I enjoyed your story, thanks for sharing part of your private life. I too have had occasion to be on the golf course after some trying times and it was a comfort to me as well.

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The Wedge Guy: My top 5 practice tips



While there are many golfers who barely know where the practice (I don’t like calling it a “driving”) range is located, there are many who find it a place of adventure, discovery and fun. I’m in the latter group, which could be accented by the fact that I make my living in this industry. But then, I’ve always been a “ball beater,” since I was a kid, but now I approach my practice sessions with more purpose and excitement. There’s no question that practice is the key to improvement in anything, so today’s topic is on making practice as much fun as playing.

As long as I can remember, I’ve loved the range, and always embrace the challenge of learning new ways to make a golf ball do what I would like it to do. So, today I’m sharing my “top 5” tips for making practice fun and productive.

  1. Have a mission/goal/objective. Whether it is a practice range session or practice time on the course, make sure you have a clearly defined objective…how else will you know how you’re doing? It might be to work on iron trajectory, or finding out why you’ve developed a push with your driver. Could be to learn how to hit a little softer lob shot or a knockdown pitch. But practice with a purpose …always.
  2. Don’t just “do”…observe.  There are two elements of learning something new.  The first is to figure out what it is you need to change. Then you work toward that solution. If your practice session is to address that push with the driver, hit a few shots to start out, and rather than try to fix it, make those first few your “lab rats”. Focus on what your swing is doing. Do you feel anything different? Check your alignment carefully, and your ball position. After each shot, step away and process what you think you felt during the swing.
  3. Make it real. To just rake ball after ball in front of you and pound away is marginally valuable at best. To make practice productive, step away from your hitting station after each shot, rake another ball to the hitting area, then approach the shot as if it was a real one on the course. Pick a target line from behind the ball, meticulously step into your set-up position, take your grip, process your one swing thought and hit it. Then evaluate how you did, based on the shot result and how it felt.
  4. Challenge yourself. One of my favorite on-course practice games is to spend a few minutes around each green after I’ve played the hole, tossing three balls into various positions in an area off the green. I don’t let myself go to the next tee until I put all three within three feet of the hole. If I don’t, I toss them to another area and do it again. You can do the same thing on the range. Define a challenge and a limited number of shots to achieve it.
  5. Don’t get in a groove. I was privileged enough to watch Harvey Penick give Tom Kite a golf lesson one day, and was struck by the fact that he would not let Tom hit more than five to six shots in a row with the same club. Tom would hit a few 5-irons, and Mr. Penick would say, “hit the 8”, then “hit the driver.” He changed it up so that Tom would not just find a groove. That paved the way for real learning, Mr. Penick told me.

My “bonus” tip addresses the difference between practicing on the course and keeping a real score. Don’t do both. A practice session is just that. On-course practice is hugely beneficial, and it’s best done by yourself, and at a casual pace. Playing three or four holes in an hour or so, taking time to hit real shots into and around the greens, will do more for your scoring skills than the same amount of range time.

So there you have my five practice tips. I’m sure I could come up with more, but then we always have more time, right?

More from the Wedge Guy



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19th Hole

Vincenzi: Fortinet Championship First Round Leader picks



The PGA Tour begins its fall season with a trip to Wine Country as the world of golf patiently awaits the 2023 Ryder Cup which is just a few weeks away. Silverado is a course where plenty of players with varying skill sets can compete, but strong West Coast history tends to be a major factor.

In the past four editions of the Fortinet Championship, there have been six first-round leaders or co-leaders. Of the six, three have started their rounds in the morning wave, and three started in the afternoon. The leading scores have all been between 63 and 65.

As of now, the winds look to be very docile, with speeds of 4-7 MPH throughout the day. I don’t see either the AM or PM wave as having a major advantage.

2023 Fortinet Championship First-Round Leader Picks

Zac Blair +9000 (FanDuel)

First-Round Tee Time: 1.22 p.m PT

A big theme for me this week is targeting players who have had success at both Silverado and the West Coast in general. Blair finished 22nd here last year, and also finished 4th back in 2019. That year, he shot 66 in rounds two and three, showing his ability to go low on this track.

In 2022, Blair gained 3.8 strokes putting and in 2019, he gained 8.6. The 33-year-old seemingly has these greens figured out.

C.T. Pan +9000 (FanDuel)

First-Round Tee Time: 8.23 a.m PT

At the end of the 2023 season, C.T. Pan showed flashes of what made him a good player prior to his injury struggles early in the year. He finished 4th at the AT&T Byron Nelson in May, and 3rd at the RBC Canadian Open in June. He also finished 6th at Silverado back in 2021, gaining 4.5 strokes on approach and 6.6 strokes putting.

A few weeks off may have given Pan a chance to reset and focus on the upcoming fall swing, where I believe he’ll play some good golf.

Joel Dahmen +110000 (FanDuel)

First-Round Tee Time: 7:28 a.m PT

After becoming a well-known name in golf due to his affable presence in Netflix’ “Full Swing” documentary, Dahmen had what can only be considered a disappointment of a 2023 season. I believe he’s a better player than he showed last year and is a good candidate for a bounce back fall and 2024.

Dahmen finished in a tie for 10th at the Barracuda Championship in late July, and the course is similar in agronomy and location to what he’ll see this week in Napa. He has some strong history on the West Coast including top-ten finishes at Riviera (5th, 2020), Pebble Beach (6th, 2022), Sherwood (8th, 2020), TPC Summerlin (9th, 2019) and Torrey Pines (9th, 2019).

James Hahn +125000 (Caesars)

First-Round Tee Time: 1:55 p.m PT

James Hahn absolutely loves golf on the West Coast. He’s won at Riviera and has also shown some course form with a 9th place finish at Silverado back in 2020. That week, Hahn gained 4.7 strokes putting, demonstrating his comfort level on these POA putting surfaces.

He finished T6 at the Barracuda back in July, and there’s no doubt that a return to California will be welcome for the 41-year-old.

Peter Malnati +125000 (BetRivers)

First-Round Tee Time: 12.27 p.m PT 

Peter Malnati excels at putting on the West Coast. He ranks 3rd in the field in Strokes Gained: Putting on POA and has shown in the past he’s capable of going extremely low on any given round due to his ability to catch a hot putter.

His course history isn’t spectacular, but he’s played well enough at Silverado. In his past seven trips to the course, he’s finished in the top-35 four times.

Harry Higgs +150000 (BetRivers)

First-Round Tee Time: 1.55 p.m PT

In what is seemingly becoming a theme in this week’s First-Round Leader column, Harry Higgs is a player that really fell out of form in 2023, but a reset and a trip to a course he’s had success at in the past may spark a resurgence.

Higgs finished 2nd at Silverado in 2020 and wasn’t in particularly great form then either. Success hasn’t come in abundance for the 31-year-old, but three of his top-10 finishes on Tour have come in this area of the country.

Higgs shot an impressive 62 here in round two in 2020, which would certainly be enough to capture the first-round lead this year.

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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s Fortinet Championship betting preview: California native ready for breakthrough win in Napa



After a three-week break, the 2022-23 PGA TOUR season kicks off in Napa Valley at the Silverado Resort and Spa to play the Fortinet Championship.

Prior to 2021, the event was called the Safeway Open, but the tournament sponsor changed to Fortinet with contract that will last for three more seasons. Although the name has changed multiple times, Silverado’s North Course has been featured on the PGA TOUR since 1968.

The course is a par 72, measuring at 7,166 yards. Silverado features Poa annua greens that can be tricky, especially as the surface becomes bumpier in the afternoon. The tree-lined fairways aren’t easy to hit, but the rough shouldn’t be exceedingly penal. Shorter hitters are in play on this relatively short course, and accuracy will be at a premium.

There will be a re-routing at Silverado for this year’s Fortinet Championship. Ten holes will be played in a different order. Holes 1-7 and 18 will remain as in year’s past. The new finishing stretch – No. 14 (par 4), No. 15 (par 5), No. 16 (par 4), No. 17 (par 3) and No. 18 (par 5). The new 17th was previously the 11th, which is the signature hole on the course.

The field will consist of 155 players. Being the swing season, the field for this event is usually relatively weak. However, there are some intriguing names in the field including Justin Thomas, Webb Simpson, Sahith Theegala, Joel Dahmen, and Kevin Kisner.

Past Winners

  • 2022: Max Homa (-22)
  • 2021: Max Homa (-19)
  • 2020: Stewart Cink (-21)
  • 2019: Cameron Champ (-17)
  • 2018: Kevin Tway (-14)
  • 2017: Brendan Steele -15
  • 2016: Brendan Steele -18

Let’s take a look at several key metrics for Silverado to determine which golfers boast top marks in each category over their last 24 rounds.

Strokes Gained: Approach

Historically, one of the North Course’s defenses will be tightly tucked pin placement, so effective shot-shaping and a higher ball flight may be an advantage this week. In order to find success, players need to hit the correct level of the sloping Poa Annua greens.

Strokes Gained: Approach past 24 rounds:

  1. Chez Reavie (+24.7)
  2. Sam Ryder (+20.0)
  3. Mark Hubbard (+17.8)
  4. Kevin Streelman (+18.3)
  5. Doug Ghim (+17.1)

Good Drives Gained

Hitting fairways in regulation at Silverado is more difficult than TOUR average, as players have done so in the past at a rate of only 52.2%. While the rough isn’t extremely long here, controlling spin out of the thick grass is much more difficult than doing so from the fairway. In order to find success, players need to hit the correct level of the sloping Poa annua greens.

In 2021, the top eight players on the leaderboard all had a positive week in “Good Drives Gained. The winner, Max Homa was +3.3 in the category and Mito Pereira, who finished third, was +8.3.

In 2022, 12 of the top 13 players on the leaderboard gained in the category including the winner Max Homa (+6.0) and runner up Danny Willet (5.0).

Good Drives Gained past 24 rounds:

  1. Doug Ghim (+24.4) 
  2. Matt NeSmith (+23.8) 
  3. Russell Knox (+20.6)
  4. Brice Garnett (+19.9)
  5. Ryan Armour (+19.8)

Par 4: 400-450

There are six par 4’s at Silverado that are between 400 and 450-yards. It will be important to target players who excel at playing these holes. With the par 5s being fairly short and reachable, the par 4 scoring may prove to be the bigger difference-maker.

Par 4: 400-450 past 24 rounds:

  1. Beau Hossler (+14.7) 
  2. Max Homa (+12.4)
  3. Garrick Higgo (+8.5)
  4. Justin Suh (+8.3)
  5. Stephan Jaeger (+8.2)

Birdie or Better: Gained

With scores at Silverado potentially approaching the 20 under par range, making plenty of birdies will be a requirement in order to contend this week.

Birdie or Better: Gained in past 24 rounds:

  1. Nick Hardy (+15.3)
  2. Scott Piercy (+15.2)
  3. Ryan Gerard (+14.9)
  4. Max Homa (+14.0)
  5. Peter Kuest (+13.5)

Strokes Gained: Putting (Poa Annua)

Poa annua greens on the West Coast can be quite difficult for golfers to adjust to if they don’t have much experience on the surface.

Prior to the 2019 Safeway Open, Phil Mickelson talked about how the type of putting surface is a major factor:

“I think a lot of guys struggle with the Poa annua greens, which is a grass that I grew up playing, so I’m very comfortable on the greens. When you grow up and spend most of your time back east in Florida on the Bermuda, this is a very awkward surface to putt on. The color looks different — it’s hard to sometimes read. But when you’re used to it, I don’t know of much better surfaces than these right here.”

This week it is important to look for the golfers who historically excel on Poa annua.

Total Strokes Gained in category in past 24 rounds:

  1. Kevin Kisner (+27.7) 
  2. Max Homa (+21.2)
  3. Peter Malnati (+20.5)
  4. Justin Suh (+18.5)
  5. Mackenzie Hughes (+16.0)

Statistical Model

Below, I’ve reported overall model rankings using a combination of the five key statistical categories previously discussed.

These rankings are comprised of SG: APP (25%), Good Drives Gained: (25%), Birdie or Better (20%), Par 4: 400-450 (15%), SG: Putting (Poa annua) (15%).

  1. Max Homa (+750)
  2. Doug Ghim (+5000)
  3. Andrew Putnam (+4000)
  4. Chez Reavie (+4500)
  5. Kevin Streelman (+5500)
  6. Mark Hubbard (+5000)
  7. Sam Ryder (+7000)
  8. Brendon Todd (+3500)
  9. Akshay Bhatia (+6000)
  10. Cameron Davis (+2200)

2023 Fortinet Championship Picks

Sahith Theegala +2000 (DraftKings):

Sahith Theegala is yet to break out for his maiden PGA Tour victory but is a great candidate for a player who can have a strong fall and take advantage of some weaker fields. The 26-year-old ended his season on a positive note, finishing 13th at the FedEx St. Jude and 15th at the BMW Championship.

I’ve long believed that Theegala’s first win would come on the West Coast. He grew up in California and was a three-time All-American at Pepperdine University, where he became the fifth player to win the Jack Nicklaus Award, Haskins Award and Ben Hogan award all in the same year (2020). Sahith made his PGA Tour debut at Silverado in 2020, where he finished in a tie for 14th. Last year, he finished 6th at the Fortinet Championship.

Theegala is very comfortable playing in California. That is perhaps most noticeable on the putting surface where he gains an average of +0.44 strokes on the field per event on POA, which is more than four times what he gains on Bermudagrass or Bentgrass. The POA greens at Silverado can get especially difficult late in the day, which is a reason why players with a background on them have had so much success at the course. In the past seven years of the event, five winners have come from California.

Theegala is pricey this week and is as close to the top of the odds board as I can remember him being, but that’s the nature of the PGA Tour fall season. It’s hard to find a spot on the schedule that Sahith will have a better chance at winning than this one.

Justin Suh +5000 (PointsBet)

Consistency has been an issue early in the career of Justin Suh, but he’s shown flashes in 2023 of what made him such a highly regarded prospect to begin with. After a few top-10 finishes at the PLAYERS Championship and the Honda Classic, Suh ended the season on a bit of a sour note, failing to finish better than 34th in his last five starts of the season.

Despite the struggles, I’m optimistic about Suh as we begin the fall swing. The 26-year-old made the trip to Crans-Montana, Valais, Switzerland to play in the Omega European Masters, and finished 24th in a decent field. More encouraging than the finish was how Suh hit the ball. He gained 5.24 strokes on approach and hit plenty of fairways.

The 2018 Pac-12 Player of the Year grew up on California golf courses. Suh was a highly decorated amateur golfer with plenty of wins on the West Coast prior to attending USC, where he was one of the best players in the country.

When he’s on, Suh is one of the best putters on Tour, and he should comfortable playing in his home state in search of his first PGA Tour victory.

Akshay Bhatia +5500 (DraftKings):

Akshay Bhatia is still just 21 years old and one of the most tantalizing prospects in the world of golf. The smooth-swinging lefty was able to obtain his first PGA Tour victory at the Barracuda Championship at Tahoe Mountain Club in Truckee, California just a few months ago. The course is just a few hours ride from Silverado and the conditions and course should be very similar.

Bhatia will have no issue making birdies in bunches at Silverado, and the rough shouldn’t be exceedingly penal if he gets loose with his driver.

Bhatia made his debut at Silverado in 2020 at just 18 years old and managed to finish 9th. Since then, he’s gained a great deal of confidence and has refined his game as a professional.

Akshay got engaged this week. He can celebrate with a victory this week at the Fortinet.

Sam Ryder +8000 (FanDuel):

Statistically, Sam Ryder jumps off the page this week. In his past four measured starts, he’s gained 4.2, 5.4, 5.2 and 5.7 strokes on approach and is completely dialed in with his irons. Despite the numbers, he hasn’t managed to crack the top-30 on the leaderboard in that stretch but this is a field that is much weaker than he faced at the end of last season.

In addition to the recent stats, Ryder played some good golf on the West Coast last year. Most notably, he finished 4th at Torrey Pines in a loaded field and also finished 20th at both the Waste Managment Phoenix Open and the Genesis Invitational.

If Ryder continues with his hot approach play, he should be able to contend at Silverado this week.

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