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Op-ed: Banning the anchored stroke is bad for golf



By Ryan David

GolfWRX Contributor

There has been speculation for over a year now, and we finally have some sort of confirmation.  The USGA and the R&A have hinted they will ban the anchored stroke sometime “in the coming months.” USGA Executive Director Mike Davis presented the topic recently to the PGA Tour Policy board, to mixed reviews. While I’m sure the USGA understands it will have a fight on its hands from professionals, I’m not convinced they understand how a belly ban will hurt the game overall.Keegan Bradley spoke out recently, telling Golfweek,

“I’m going to do whatever I have to do to protect myself and the other players on Tour.”

Ernie Els, who won The Open Championship in 2012 with an anchored stroke (remember, Adam Scott lost the Open with a long putter) has famously been quoted as saying,

“As long as they’re legal, I’ll keep cheating like the rest of them.”

Okay, fine. To me, Bradley doesn’t issue the statement as a protection of an advantage. He understands that as a professional an equipment change of that magnitude requires a major adjustment and really doesn’t equal the playing field. It’s obvious that in the world of golf, anchoring the putter is a divided and heated issue. It’s also an irresponsible and short-sighted move by the USGA and R&A to ban it.

In a nutshell, the mission of the USGA serves to preserve and foster growth of the game to all who love and respect it. No mention here of preserving integrity of Tour players or tour equipment. A ban on an anchored stroke would leave the casual/beginning golfer in the cold. In order for the game to grow, it must appeal to a wider audience. An anchored stroke helps derive enjoyment out of the game far sooner for a new golfer, increasing the likelihood of retention. We’re a passionate and driven community here at GolfWRX, so thinking about golfers at the margins can sometimes be difficult.

The USGA ‘Tee-it-Forward’ initiative was a step in the right direction to growing the game. By helping players understand the relative distances and advantages of playing a slightly shorter course, the USGA opened the game to a broader audience. To me, it just seems a little odd that one hand promotes a faster, simpler game while the other takes strides to make it more difficult for some. If I were a cynic, I’d imagine Mr. Davis sitting back and saying, “Play up guys, because your wedges are duller, your putter is shorter and you need all the help you can get.”

Understandably, It is a delicate balancing act to build an inclusive environment for new golfers and reign in Tour players from shooting the lights out. They’ve spent too much effort and time during these last few years focusing on pros and not building relationships with beginners and casual players.

The governing bodies need to take a step back and generate a holistic view of putter performance and regulate from there. In my hasty analysis, I could not find any rules regarding weight or MOI rating.  Since most of the belly putters of note are mallet style, is it possible that the anchored stroke alone is not the entire driver of the advatange of a belly putter?  Although a ban on anchoring seems a foregone conclusion at this point, I’d hope the USGA/R&A would take a deep breath, ignore the media frenzy and make the right decision for the future of the game we all love.

Click here for more discussion in the “Tour Talk” forum. 

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  1. Tim Schoch

    Mar 6, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    Bernhard Langer. He turned his putting around with the long stick. So have many others. Whether is it psychological or a cure for the yips or a very real advantage, I think it is individual to each player’s needs. A golf swing is a swing, not a shove. It is irrelevant if we’re waking up to this after so many years. Better late than never. Unless we want to see players strapping drivers to their forearms or employing elevator spikes that lift you up above hazards and hills. The PR damage is already done.

  2. Jim M

    Nov 8, 2012 at 11:19 am

    There is zero statistical evidence to suggest that the long putters provide any advantage. When the USGA spoke to the policy board, they admitted that the proposed ban was more about perception than reality. The announcers keep insisting that it gives someone an advantage, so the public believes it gives someone an advantage. I fail to see how golf is a better place if we drive Langer, Couples, Els, Scott and Bradley from the game

  3. ElVerde

    Nov 6, 2012 at 10:08 am

    Golf is inherently a game that allows tinkering with equipment…I think of NASCAR as pretty similar. We all have to work within the same framework, but there is room to play.

    This is why golfers can use different shafts, different drivers, different putters, even different length clubs, etc. It’s like using a different gear ratio in a NASCAR…as long as it’s in the same transmission as everyone else!

    The anchored stroke is a fundamentally different stroke, and that is why it should be banned. It would be like running a rear-engined NASCAR…not necessarily better or worse, but DIFFERENT.

    Someone else up here mentioned straddling the putting line, and I think it’s a pretty apt comparison. Where do we draw the line?

  4. adam

    Nov 4, 2012 at 10:13 am

    14 year-old Guan Tianglang of China just qualified for the 2013 Masters. He uses a belly putter. If you don’t ban them now, we’ll see more and more kids go in that direction. It’s now or never, babay.

  5. Courtney Zimmerman

    Nov 1, 2012 at 2:23 pm

    On a website like this where people are gaining distance through perfecting launch etc through high end shafts and tinkering, if you are going to ban anchoring because of the advantage it provides, then all competition should go back to steel shafts and persimon heads and blades only. Lets take away distance gained by weaker smaller players and you will go back to guys like Tiger dominating through strength. Leaves most of the new competitors out of the winners circle. I dont use an anchored putter currently, I have used one and don’t make any more putts with or without but am a much better lag putter without. Doing what I mentioned is no different than what they are doing with guys like Keegan who have had the option their entire lives to play with the long putter and now that success comes to them they are calling it an unfair advantage. USGA and R&A are being too quick to judgment on this one. Senior competitors in USGA events who need it for their back and are successful are hosed. Does this mean they are a bad putter with a short putter, no, it simply allows them to practice and play more, isnt that the point?

    • JG

      Nov 1, 2012 at 5:54 pm

      no, all arguments wrong. Senior players with bad backs??? haha wow. The can have a putter as long as they want. It is anchoring that is the issue not length. Its against the rules already!! why it was ever approved for tournament play is beside me.

  6. kevin smith

    Nov 1, 2012 at 10:58 am

    Keegan uses his shirt to anchor the butt end of his putter. Watch how he lifts his shirt and then positions the butt.
    What is next , a shirt with a stomach holster built in soo he can anchor his putter and also carry the american flag at the olympics?????

  7. kevin smith

    Nov 1, 2012 at 10:20 am

    Anchoring of the putter is the question , not the Belly or long putter….This anchoring of the putter is bad for the game of golf!!!

  8. Zooch

    Nov 1, 2012 at 9:51 am

    People who dislike belly putters only dislike them for asthetic reasons. If you’re honest. It’s going to be an arguement that nobody will win until someone can produce some empirical evidence to show that these really are the bain of golf. and PS they’ve been around for a while.

  9. Prut

    Nov 1, 2012 at 9:50 am

    If you had a $100, you wouldn’t be able to buy an anchored putter.

  10. obvioustroll

    Nov 1, 2012 at 8:56 am

    i bet 100 dollars that if you had an absolutely flat surface and a 5 meter putt, anchored putters will have higher consistency of making it… they should ban it.

  11. Tim

    Nov 1, 2012 at 8:34 am

    All I know is that at 64 yo I was ready to give the game up due to my putting. Since going to the belly I find myself enjoying the game again.

    I am an not a professional and there will never be a time now that I will be one. However, I am sure that I represent a much higher number than the professional ranks when it comes to enjoyment of the game. Banning the body-anchored putter will set back our games to the point of reducing the number of players that the USGA wants to see playing each year. I am sure the equipment mfg feel the same.

  12. Jeffrey

    Nov 1, 2012 at 7:48 am

    There is no advantage to a belly or anchored putter. It’s just a different method. I have extensively tested belly vs short putter using on course data and software stroke data and I was slightly better with a short putter. Anchoring a putter removes freedom and feel from a stroke. If an anchored putter was truly an advantage everyone on tour would use it because their putting stats would dramatically improve. Belly putter banners seem to look at it like the ones who use it get an advantage like using a titanium 460 cc driver vs a persimmon wood.

  13. James

    Nov 1, 2012 at 5:59 am

    You can’t be serious that belly putters keep hundreds or thousands of people interested or willing to take up the game of golf, because its easier to score? Surely factors such as affordability and time (especially for people with young families) a far more influential factors.

    Belly and broomstick putters and their allowed use have been a blight on the game for too long,. It’s not golf it’s croquet – and any argument that says differently comes from a place of self interest.

    The problem is not a ban, it’s that they’ve been allowed in competition in the first instance.

    As for allowing pros to have different rules to amateurs(?) That is a terrible and flawed argument. If anything pros should uphold the rules and if anything play to stricter standards and set an example to the rest of us – not be given a break because it is their chosen profession.

    Good luck in court Keegan. I am sure your very expensive lawyer is talking up your chances.

  14. chris

    Nov 1, 2012 at 1:54 am

    Let’s not worry that Keegan hit driver 9 iron to a 497 yard hole…surely the belly putter is what is ruining the game!

    This discussion is a laughable joke.

    • March

      Nov 1, 2012 at 11:00 pm

      Very true. Carbon fiber, graphite, titanium clubs, 3,4 and 5 compound laser straight balls. Putter heads of every shape and size. But the belly putter is the only thing that is in focus. Oh yea, changing the grooves was another huge jump in curbing the pros.

  15. Christian

    Oct 31, 2012 at 11:43 pm

    Keegan Bradley is one of my favorite players, and I use to be against the belly putter completely and I thought it was a crutch as well. I still think the belly putter gives the player an advantage, however, banning it would be bad for the game if you ask me. Yes nerves is a part of the game, but is your driving and iron play nerve proof? Is bunker play and flop shots not affected under pressure? All of them are. A belly putter is a great training aid if you ask me. And I think it won’t affect putting statistics in the long run. I think if you take it away it does more harm than good. I use a conventional putter and I will continue to because it’s comfortable and it’s what I know. I think they should be legal, period.

  16. joe

    Oct 31, 2012 at 10:37 pm

    The usga should have addressed the belly putter years ago. Doing so now just because young guys are winning with it seems like it was a response directly to those guys. I think Keegan has a point given the amount of work he has put in to master the belly putter. I never liked him before but his style of play and grit, and now standing up for what he thinks is right (even if I disagree with him) shows character.

  17. Gm

    Oct 31, 2012 at 9:03 pm

    NOT banning the anchored putter is bad for golf, just as square grooves was bad for golf.

  18. Randall

    Oct 31, 2012 at 7:58 pm

    They are not making the game harder for the hackers. Most weekend golfwrx don’t follow the rules, so it will not affect. The fact is the rule book has said no part of the club can be anchored to anything other than the hands. The pros have been cheating for years; hence Ernie’s statement. They need to be held to a higher standard. I love watching Keegan and Web play, but they are breaking the rules

  19. Kkoz17

    Oct 31, 2012 at 7:29 pm

    I disagree. When a golfer is a notoriously bad putter and then switches to an anchored putter and becomes an above average putter, that is a clear problem. Ban them and don’t look back!!!!!

    • Gm

      Oct 31, 2012 at 9:06 pm

      Precisely! And by Keegan saying that he will take the Rules to court, he’s ADMITTING to the whole world that the anchored IS HELPING him make putts. Duh.

  20. jay hall

    Oct 31, 2012 at 7:18 pm

    The fact is the USGA and R&A should NOT set the rules for the professionals. The pros should have different rules from the amateurs, the game they play is night and day from 99.9% of amateurs out there so why make rules that make it harder for the guys who sux!!!

    • Gm

      Oct 31, 2012 at 9:05 pm

      @jay hall

      That still doesn’t help Keegan, does it? You’re saying that the Amateurs should be allowed to anchor but not the Pros, if the USGA and R&A are to set different rules? What???

      • sean_miller

        Nov 2, 2012 at 2:17 pm

        Isn’t the point of the article that it’s beginners and ultimately the entire game of golf that will suffer because of this ban? The Keegan Bradley bit is in there to justify using that awesome photo from The Ryder Cup. On that point though, I’ve been in Golf Town a couple dozen times since Keegan won the PGA Championship and not once have I seen anyone checking out a belly putter. If they’re selling them people must be sneaking in and buying them when nobody is looking . . . and using them on courses I never play. I did not see one pleyer using a belly putter this summer. Not sure what part of North America depends on these abominations for golf to survive but it sure isn’t Western Canada.

  21. Bill Miller

    Oct 31, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    They allow these crutches, and I’ll start putting astraddle my target line. What’s the difference? None IMO.

    • Steve Loomis

      Nov 8, 2012 at 12:16 pm

      Professional golf is played by the elite few, who play the game at the highest level, have access to the most advanced equipment and instruction, and play under the penultimate conditions on the world’s best golf courses. When one considers all of the things that are “banned” or “outside the rules” like kneeling on a towel, or stradling the line. Is it really that absurd to suggest anchoring the club or gripping it in any other way but with your hands should not be banned? Grow up boys you are the best, if not then move over and get out of the way.

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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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