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How to liven up pro golf



Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like the PGA Tour is in the process of being handed quite an opportunity to grow by rival sports and their leagues. It might sound crazy, with the NFL dominating our Sundays and making the PODS championship, or whatever it is called next year, a distant second on even an avid golfer’s list of priorities. But I believe this to be the case. The tide might be ready to turn again, and the sports we choose to watch could be ready for another momentum shift.

Crazy right? Four major sports have dominated television ratings for a while now — the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB, with golf hoping to sneak in during majors or whenever Tiger Woods is playing. But these things tend to be a bit more fickle then we give them credit for. The NFL has ruled the last 15 years, led by shorter seasons than most, neatly bunched games on Sundays, parity keeping every fan base interested and fantasy football drawing even people who didn’t play football into watching it. But this wasn’t always the case.

Before free agency kicked in and fans in places other then Dallas or New York had reasons to watch games, the late 80’s and early-to-mid 90’s saw many people praising basketball as “America’s new game.” It was a time where Magic Johnson and Larry Bird’s battles captivated Americans, where Michael Jordan’s struggles against the Piston’s Bad Boys and his eventual championship three-peat (capped off with a win against the outspoken media darling Charles Barkley) brought the NBA to being arguably the hottest sport in the U.S. Before that, it was pretty much standard practice to call Major League baseball “the national pastime.” But drawn-out, boring games in the Internet age and the decrease in American stars shifted it to the back burner.

Football will soon have issues to deal with. Player health and safety concerns could cause some problems, either legally or by cutting out the natural funnel of talent as children stop playing it (this is more realistic than you think right now). Pro hockey is mired in a lockout that no one seems to care about. Major League Baseball is still limping along as it has the last 10-to-15 years — still pretty boring to watch for the casual fan. Think about it, I’m guessing your girlfriend would rather watch golf with you than baseball, right? And the NBA? Well, the NBA is actually in a pretty great spot.

What about golf? It’s a sport that is safe to play and becoming more and more affordable every year, as courses fight for our dollars in a struggling economy. Can golf capitalize on some of its young stars in conjunction with the struggles of other sports? I believe it can, but it starts at the top.

The PGA Tour needs to become more compelling. It needs to make people want to watch and want to play, because there are a lot of fans out there waiting to be wooed. And with the young talent on Tour right now, it doesn’t seems crazy to implement some fresh ideas. Here are a few things that could give golf a boost:

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

All-Star Weekend

The most puzzling thing to me about the PGA Tour is the lack of an all-star weekend. How on earth has this one been missed? I mean, does Tim Finchem not watch any other sports on TV? Not only should the PGA Tour have an all-star weekend — I’m convinced it could be the BEST all-star weekend of any sport. Between the Masters and the Open Championship, there are some great tournaments – the RBC Heritage, the Wells Fargo Championship, The Players Championship and The Memorial. But other tournaments, such as the Zurich Classic, HP Byron Nelson Classic, Crowne Plaza Invitational and the FedEx St. Jude Classic don’t pack much of a punch. You’re telling me those sponsor wouldn’t rather be a part of something as cool as a PGA Tour All-Star Weekend.

Fans would go nuts to see Bubba Watson face off against J.B. holmes in a long drive content. And Phil Mickelson in a flop wall contest or Luke Donald in a skills competition? That’s must-see TV.

You are probably thinking that a lot of pros wouldn’t show up, but I beg to differ. There’s nothing the pros like more then easy money. The purse this year at The Greenbrier Classic was $6 million, which is why the second-tier PGA Tour event attracted golf’s two biggest names, Tiger and Phil. That proves that when big money is on the table, the pros take notice.

As far as actual golf, I’m thinking 27 holes with 9 on Saturday afternoon and 18 on Sunday. You could use a modified Stableford format that greatly increases points for birdies and eagles. You think these guys are good? You would surely see that watching them flag hunt for 27 straight holes. I’m convinced this would do as well in the ratings as anything other than the majors. Plus, it would help grow the game.

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

Country club-style tournaments

Another thing I don’t really get about the PGA Tour is the lack of diversity in its tournaments. Fans scream and scream for match play for example, and that seems to get shot down because the sponsors want some assurance that the television cameras can show Tiger on Sunday. I get it; I mean, I guess I do. But does that really mean we have to watch 30 tournaments every year using the exact same format?

With the increasing trend of seeing pros line their schedule with WGC’s, the Majors, the Middle East tournaments, The Players and the FedExCup (that’s half your schedule or more right there), there seems to be a real struggle from some of the lesser-known tournaments to attract sponsors and draw a field. Maybe they could get a bit creative you know? Country clubs all over the world have several different formats for tournaments that get members excited. Why couldn’t these work on the PGA Tour? Why couldn’t there be a team best ball event early in the season, like at Kapalua for example? Four rounds playing with a partner would be a good way to work on the game early in the year with less pressure, plus it would offer something different for fans to watch.

But to me, the biggest head scratcher of all is the lack of a “big money” Vegas tournament. HOW ON EARTH DOES THIS NOT EXIST? Every single club in America has a big money Vegas, and it’s usually one of the most fun weekends during the entire year. You couldn’t replace a tournament with this? There are 15 tournaments before the Masters! 15! If you are a fan, would you rather watch the Tampa Bay Championship or a three player team Vegas event? Maybe make 20 teams of three, one player ranked between Nos. 1 through 20, another from Nos. 20 through 40 and another from Nos. 40 through 60. You know, something like that. Have it be a two-day event with the pro-am Friday and throw a big purse at it. Cha-ching!

Again, I think there would be a good turnout since the field would be limited and there would be a greater chance to earn a bigger paycheck. Plus, it would be really great to watch and analyze. You know how golfers at country clubs spend hours analyzing the teams in the bar with everyone else, talking trash? You’re telling me a big-money team event wouldn’t lead off Morning Drive every day for a week and spawn countless threads about which team meshes together the best?

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

Fix the FedExCup

OK it’s been a few years now, and I’m yet to be convinced that the FedExCup is actually a playoff. Don’t get me wrong — I’m a big supporter of the FedExCup and think it has a lot of potential. But it was pretty obvious the format was screwed since Jump Street. With Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh winning early on so convincingly, the Tour Championship became irrelevant. The reaction from the Tour was more predictable then the ending to a Night Shyamalan movie (No, I don’t mean that it’s a trick, I mean that it’s going to be bad). To combat the lack of volatility of the earlier years, the PGA Tour made the FedEx cup so volatile that it basically was reduced to being won by whoever won the Tour Championship. Congratulations Brant Snedeker and Bill Haas. It kind of takes some of the credibility away from the whole “Season-Long playoff event,” doesn’t it?

I understand the Tour has a problem in that they don’t want the thing over before East Lake, and they also want a way of guaranteeing they can show some Tiger and Rory on the weekend (so long pure match play), but that doesn’t mean there aren’t better ways to do this.

Here is my suggestion — Have the Tour Championship come down to an eight-person match play on Saturday and Sunday. To guarantee that there will be some big names, break it down is as follows:

Top-4 point getters from the regular season are automatically given byes to the weekend at East Lake as the top 4 seeds. This guarantees that the regular season, you know, counts for something and also that guys like Tiger, Rory and Phil could earn their way in without having to perform well only in the Playoffs. They would have the option of playing in The Playoffs to warm-up or just to pick up a check, but their spot is guaranteed at East Lake.

The winners of each playoff event are also given a bye into the match play portion at East Lake (Barclays winner gets the  No. 7 seed, Deutsche Bank winner gets the No. 6 seed, etc). If one of the already exempt players wins a playoff event, then no one gets the spot and it gets delayed until the Thursday-Friday portion of the Tour Championship.

On that Thursday-Friday, the remaining spot or spots for the Match Play segment are decided by a play-in tournament that rewards the highest cumulative FedExCup points score of any non-exempt player in the playoffs. It would be points in the first three events, as well as the Thursday and Friday stroke play at East Lake combined. And there you have it, a mix of big names and hot players, dueling it out in match play on the weekend at East Lake. Try and tell me that wouldn’t be more compelling than what we currently have, and that sponsors could legitimately complain about it. You can’t convince me that would happen.

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

Scrap and replace the Presidents Cup

I am Canadian, so the Presidents Cup is supposed to be relevant for me. But I can pretty much tell you that it isn’t. I attended the Match Play portion of the Presidents Cup at Royal Montreal about 10 minutes from where I live in 2007. I watched Mike Weir defeat Tiger and watched the fans go nuts for that. But the fans didn’t care who won the actual event.

It was cool to watch golf, and fans overall showed a bit more preference to the international squad, but I think that it boils down to it being more of a fun jab at our neighbors to the south more thn anything, who we trade barbs with on occasion. But no one was hurt when the Internationals lost. I don’t think anyone playing or watching REALLY cares about the Presidents Cup, so why not replace it with someone genuinely interesting? Here is my suggestion:

There’s too much history and too much sports rivalry involved between Europe and the U.S. for the Presidents Cup to rival the Ryder Cup, so don’t try and compete with it. Change the format to something a little more fun.

Why not have the top-2 ranked players in the world get selected as captains and have them each draft a 12-man squad. No rules or country alliances, just straight drafting. Anyone is eligible anywhere in the world. Captains would pick teams, come up with a team name and then they would play against each other in the same manner as the Presidents Cup format. As with the Vegas tournament I proposed, how much fun would this be to analyze? How much discussion would spawn over why Rory picked this guy or that guy? You wouldn’t want to watch this more then the boring Presidents Cup? And of course, as with the other suggestions, forget the history or honor associated with playing in the event. Sell out to corporate sponsors and offer $5 million to the winning team. I’m pretty sure that will keep the competition fierce.

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

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Jeff Singer was born and still resides in Montreal, Canada. Though it is a passion for him today, he wasn't a golfer until fairly recently in life. In his younger years Jeff played collegiate basketball and football and grew up hoping to play the latter professionally. Upon joining the workforce, Jeff picked up golf and currently plays at a private course in the Montreal area while working in marketing. He has been a member of GolfWRX since 2008



  1. Nathan W

    Jan 2, 2013 at 10:49 am

    How about a tournament or Fedex Cup tiered along the lines of the world cup. You have groups of players playing against each other to get out of their groups. You could do it match play or stroke play. So you could actually play better than someone, but because of the group strengh you could get left behind. Base this on pre tournament rankings. It also allows for cinderella’s.

  2. Jon

    Dec 27, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    Great stuff. I like your ideas. I have always thought the Tour Championship should be like the US Amateur event.

  3. Ty

    Dec 27, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    Personally, I think the whole “Sportstainment” concept that ESPN so blatantly pushes on its audience to be disgusting. I think real fans enjoy sports for the beauty of the game itself. We do not enjoy having our sports reduced down to a collection of highlight reels with sophomoric commentary.

    NFL games now last over 3 hours because of all the stoppages for advertising etc.

    Golf would do well to avoid as much of this “entertainment production” formula as possible. Its already embarrassing how much they show Tiger on TV at the expense of other players who are actually in contention for the tournament.

    People like to watch golf because they play golf and like to see it at the highest level. Golf also has great history and traditions which will suffer if major structural changes are made to the way the season quantifies champions.

  4. Pingback: – How to liven up pro golf | Golf Products Reviews

  5. pablo

    Dec 19, 2012 at 6:38 pm

    Good ideas – I like them all!

  6. patrick

    Dec 19, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    You have some great ideas! That all star weekend end and the president cup replacement reminds me of the nhl all-star weekend. I live in montreal to just down the street from Royal. When the presidents cup came, i watched Wier and Tiger but couldn’t care less who won team wise. I would love to see some of your ideas come into effect. That would be awesome!!

  7. sean_miller

    Dec 19, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    The President’s Cup is boring because 1.) there’s no one team feel for the International side and 2.) the outcome is basically a foregone conclusion. Make it co-ed and the internationals would have a much better chance.

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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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