Beware readers, we are delving into the furthest reaches of coolness as it pertains to golf. No one has ventured into golf’s innermost cool zone since David Duval shot his final-round 59 at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic all of thirteen years ago. Since that time, golf has changed much and there are many harsh truths that we have forgotten when it comes to what is and what is not cool in golf.
In the past, the art of “cool” was slowly introduced to golfers by other club members as they took up the game. The rich tradition of reserved play, quiet confidence and sharp dress is a gift to golfers of all walks by the golf gods themselves. However, as more and more people abruptly took up the game, the uninitiated are overwhelmed by consumerism and walk as sheep among the wolves (OEM’s I love you, but really?). There is little mentorship in golf right now… but I digress. We have forgotten what is cool in our sport, my friends, and we need an Iceman to set us straight.
Who is an “Iceman?”
There have been relatively few Icemen in golf, and yet it seems like there has always been one around in any era of play…except for this one. You may already have formed your own thoughts regarding which players I am referring to, at least to an extent. In addition to David Duval, you could also include Raymond Floyd, Ben Hogan, Lloyd Mangrum and maybe a few others.
Let’s take a moment to make some observations about what made the aforementioned players “Icemen.”
First, there are the sunglasses. You never knew what this guy was thinking at any time because he covered most of his facial expressions in a pair of wrap-around shades. If “the eyes are the pathway to the soul,” you would never see Duval’s through those shades. And you weren’t going to get much else from the way he comported himself.
Nothing throws other players off more than a quiet dude wearing shades who doesn’t let on that anything bothers him. You just can’t read the emotional ups and downs, so you push harder to get a reaction out of him and end up doing something stupid in your match – just like he planned. Even if he is playing poorly, you wouldn’t know from the way he reacts; and this bothers some players who expect to see some kind of reaction. We all know that once we see a “defeated” looked on someone’s face during a match that we have already practically won it. After all, competitive golf includes a degree of gamesmanship. It makes things tougher when an opponent never shows a defeated reaction to you. It is the quiet suggestion that, “I will never give up, you will never get in my head, and I will not give you any satisfaction.” That is as tough as it gets, folks.
Ahhh…the infamous Floyd stare, or glare. Young dudes, have you seen this before? The opposite of Duval, in that many might have preferred that Floyd actually put on a pair of shades so they wouldn’t be creeped out by the look on his face when he was “in the hunt.” Floyd maintained this cold glare throughout every match, although it wasn’t always directed at people; it looked more like he was trying to frighten the golf ball into obeying him. He was the picture of concentration; the only thing that was going to bother Mr. Floyd is if he didn’t hit the shot he wanted. In any case, the expression never changed.
Do YOU have that level of concentration and commitment when you get over each shot? If you did, what would it tell a playing competitor if you could appear that “steely” and still not get upset even if you made a poor shot? I’ll tell you; it would say that, “If you were hoping I was going to make a mental mistake or get upset, you might as well give up now. YOU can’t win this match – I can only lose it.”
That is powerful stuff people, but is hard to pull off every time. I see many younger golfers (or at least new golfers) these days that can’t bring themselves to make consistent eye contact with another person. It takes a lot of confidence to simply stare right at someone on the tee when they are looking back. There is something immediately uncomfortable about it. I don’t want to put too much emphasis on gamesmanship (because it is only cool to an extent), but every once in a while, it can give you an advantage if you can somehow send the message to a competitor that you are keenly aware of what they are doing in their own game, and that it doesn’t throw you at all. For Floyd, it was all in the stare.
The “Wee Ice Mon.” Mr. Hogan earned that title by sharing his dislike of the greens at Carnoustie in 1953. That alone is a quality of an Iceman – simple honesty with yourself and with others. People simultaneously hate and crave honesty, but often are not fond of those who candidly share it. Mr. Hogan is usually described as something of an introvert, but apparently spoke his mind when asked. It is definitely cool to speak openly when invited to do so (if even people get riled up a little), however an “Iceman” would never simply go around sharing random thoughts in order to get attention. That would be tragically “un-cool,” and definitely not Hogan-worthy. Being honest lets you know whom your friends and where others stand in relation to you.
Another point about Mr. Hogan that puts him in the “Iceman” category is the amount of work he put into himself. After the round, are you the type to sit around getting tipsy at the clubhouse, or are you the lone wolf over at the range working on his swing? Can you say you know more people on the maintenance staff than you do in the pro-shop or clubhouse? Do you leave a 5-by-5 inch divot “signature” out at the range each day? A true Iceman could and does, because that person doesn’t care for after-round bragging or unimportant small talk. No, he or she is more interested on what is happening on the course, reflecting upon the events of their round, and putting in the time to correct weak spots. Such a reputation makes its way around the membership. Hard work earns respect. Competitors know they are going to have to get lucky with such a player, because they certainly did not put in as much time into their games or preparation for a potential match.
Lloyd Mangrum earned the name “Mr. Icicle” due to the relaxed way he played on the course. During World War II, Mangrum was offered a head professional position at Fort Meade that would have kept him out of the fighting…but he declined. He earned two purple hearts and was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge, taking shrapnel to his chin and knee. He was also part of the D-Day landings and was one of only two surviving members of his original unit during the war. I challenge anyone to mention a tougher professional in the history of the game of golf (Okay, maybe Larry Nelson).
Mr. Mangrum once said:
“I don’t suppose that any of the pro or amateur golfers who were combat soldiers, Marines, or sailors will soon be able to think of a three-putt as one of the really bad troubles in life.”
I have never served in a combat situation and would never pretend to know, truly, what Mr. Mangrum’s words really mean. However, my humble (personal) interpretation as it pertains to golf, is that there are no true risks taken in a game, as there are in real life.
While I am not suggesting that golfers should go out and play shots that are not consistent with good strategy, I do feel it important to point out that – it is just golf. I have always found it funny how announcers describe shots as “dangerous.” Well, there are NO shots in golf that are actually dangerous, so at no point should a golfer be fearful or nervous about playing a shot.
No “buts,” either. It IS just that simple: No guts, no glory. There are no college scholarships, there are no first place checks, there are no long drive payouts…unless you perform the shot. You have nothing to lose, because you haven’t yet earned anything. So, step up and make it happen!
Sometimes when you play against other golfers, you are forced to play a shot that you are uncomfortable with. So my question to you is, are you going to whimper and worry about what you may or may not be able to do, or are you going to be a cool customer and rip it close? Golfers who are Icemen keep things in perspective. Fear is detrimental and needless – there is always more golf to be played, and you will always get another shot; if not this year, then next year; if not here, then somewhere else. There are things to be afraid of in life, but golf is not one of them, so be fearless in your play, and don’t be afraid of performing poorly (or well) in any given scenario.
Who is NOT an Iceman?
Like I said earlier, there aren’t many of these individuals and we haven’t seen one recently in pro golf. So few possess the inner confidence, fearlessness, top-notch games, mature perspective, soft-spoken demeanor and true humility all at the same time. It definitely is a tall order, especially as the “team sport” mentality has crept into both professional and fan mentalities alike. It can be hard to properly categorize an “Iceman” when you suspect you see one, because there are so many types of criteria. Here are some ideas that can help you weed out the wannabees from the true cool customers.
Dress and Overall Appearance
This is going to be a tough one for some folks. While I don’t wish to offend anyone, there simply are do’s and don’ts when it comes to playing it cool. If you are the sensitive type, skip to the next section on “Equipment.”
Rule 1 – Don’t dress like the circus came to town. I have gotten eye-strain from playing with certain folks just because they are trying to do the whole bright, mono-color thing that is big on tour now. Oddly enough, I see more middle-aged men doing this than the kids the clothing is actually marketed toward. I will be the first to admit that I am not an expert on fashion, but I am a child of the 70’s. I submit to you that, if people wouldn’t dare wear clothing with certain color schemes in the 70’s, then YOU shouldn’t be wearing it now. Let’s move forward from that dark era, shall we? Don’t become your own caricature.
Rule 2 – A belt buckle is not a codpiece. A CODPIECE is a codpiece. If there is one thing I know from growing up playing 80’s metal, is that any substitution for a decent codpiece, or loincloth, screams “poser.” It happened when Poison got the edge on Judas Priest (the band) and it is carrying forward now. It is even worse when those who don’t have a physique that really supports wearing such an accessory (like me, but I don’t) try to wear them. Let us consider carefully the disadvantages as well as the advantages of wearing such accoutrements. If you aren’t man enough sport the proper jewel-encrusted, leather codpiece out on the golf course (OR the grocery store), you aren’t going to make up for that with a three hundred dollar belt buckle either. Such are the woes of life.
Rule 3 – Don’t put your name on your gear. You want the nice, big staff bag? Fine. You want the Tour Issue baseball caps? Fine. You want the customized wedge with all the distracting symbols (and no good grinds)? Fine. You want the shiny belt buckle…nnn…well, that is NOT fine. Just…don’t put your name on them. No one wants to remember who you are unless you are on a professional tour. An Iceman would never invest in gear and apparel that cost more than your average used car. A good game should speak for itself, so why would you go about turning yourself into a billboard? Let’s face it, in any one given round with a total stranger, we are all likely to shoot poorly or medium-style at best. Why sign your name to an “epic fail” that others will (now) remember long after the round is done?
A real Iceman would have a bag that avoided “trend” like a mid-cap tries to avoid the shanks…um, I mean…the U.S. Ryder Cup team tries not to lose…ummm, well you know what I mean. In any case, I believe my distinguished colleague Jeff Singer described how best to build an intimidating bag of clubs that is free of poserness, so I will refer you all to the proper thread…
Let me say, however, that an Iceman would never let his/her clubs speak for their game when ability alone should have that honor.
The “Teeth Test”
Do you ever notice that we are seeing more teeth in golf than ever before? I am tired of seeing TEETH! I don’t need to see your food tools, thanks, OR be reminded of how poorly you floss. No Iceman is going to engage in open-mouthed, self-congratulation at any time out on the golf course. If you want that kind of thing, go to a football game, sit with the drunks, and wait for an end-zone dance. Oddly, even the NFL has rules about self-celebration while the PGA Tour apparently does not.
An Iceman would never do this, as the focus on “self” is…well…selfish. A winning round, or losing round, should look no different than if you finished in the middle of the pack. Putting on a “show” is disrespectful to those you are playing with, as well as those you might be playing against. This truly is sportsmanship 101, and it is a shame that we have forgotten.
Seriously, could you ever imagine Jack Nicklaus putting on a fist-pumping spectacle on the 18th green of a major? Could you imagine Ben Hogan “riding the bull” during a Ryder Cup match? No, of course not! I bet some of you actually crossed yourselves and closed the shutters when you read that, didn’t you? This is team-sport behavior, and an Iceman is the antithesis of that. So, if you ever see a player giving him or herself a personal cheering session, they likely won’t pass the teeth test. A quiet smile or acknowledgement to the fans or gallery is one thing; roaring at the top of your lungs and riling the masses for your own benefit is another. Let modesty reign!
Why Do We Need An Iceman?
Stated simply, a golfing Iceman is the manifestation of the sum total of all that is cool in golf. He or she serves as the point of comparison that all golfers use to determine whether their actions, mannerisms, equipment selection, style of play, etc. fall on the “cool” side, or the “lame” side, of the spectrum. There have been no real Icemen on the PGA Tour since Duval, which is supported by the clear reality that we are inundated with equipment, apparel, marketing, and on course behavior that doesn’t pass the straight face test.
We need to bring “cool” back to golf. Not just cool, but principle and sportsmanship coupled with great play. The “Iceman” represents the best aspects of all of these, but we don’t currently have one. (No, Jason Dufner doesn’t count. He apparently doesn’t have a problem with people referring to him as a furry, burrowing mammal. Sorry, but some nicknames are cooler than others. His isn’t. You have only yourselves to blame.)
The golfing Iceman is a figure so inherently cool and reserved, that he or she pulls you into being a fan as a matter of course. No image enhancement, no Facebook pages, no Twitter, no “rep,” no BS. What you see is what you get, but what you see is the coolest person you could ever imagine playing golf. Not being a fan is almost harder than being a fan.
Weird Iceman “Facts”
(okay, they are MY facts, but what else have you got to do?)
- Only one professional (male) golfer has ever finished at the top of the money list and still been considered to be an Iceman, and that was Ben Hogan. Let’s face it folks, it is tough to be great and still look like you aren’t interested in how good you are.
- You can lose your Iceman title if your coolness drops below a certain point. Just look at poor David Duval. One of my favorite players, but he has (for now) lost his game. The title of Iceman comes with great expectations.
- Icemen hate the lead in a match. Simply put, it is cooler to chase than be chased.
- All Icemen are good putters. See how rare they are? I am guessing you had hopes there for a minute, didn’t you?
- Icemen will never show you their true distances with any club. Just assume there is much more in the tank than what you see.
- Icemen will only be found playing with others who are equally focused on their games. They may not be Icemen themselves, but are individuals who don’t place an emphasis on the social aspect of the game. As such, Icemen might be found in regular groups or as singles most often. If they are spotted as a single, they will NEVER crowd you; if they are in a foursome, you will never catch up to them.
- Icemen rarely talk about golf when they are away from golf. Sounds weird but also sounds totally true, right?
- Icemen are mostly self-taught and are skeptical of formal instruction.
- Icemen don’t take practice swings or look at their ball flight for more than a second or two.
- You will never find more than one Iceman at any club or on any professional Tour at any given time. They are very territorial, it seems.
There it is. What is YOUR opinion?
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- The Wedge Guy: Anyone can be a better wedge player by doing these simple things
- Wedge Guy: There’s no logic to iron fitting
- The Wedge Guy: Mind the gap
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.
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.
- 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:
- Chez Reavie (+24.7)
- Sam Ryder (+20.0)
- Mark Hubbard (+17.8)
- Kevin Streelman (+18.3)
- 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:
- Doug Ghim (+24.4)
- Matt NeSmith (+23.8)
- Russell Knox (+20.6)
- Brice Garnett (+19.9)
- 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:
- Beau Hossler (+14.7)
- Max Homa (+12.4)
- Garrick Higgo (+8.5)
- Justin Suh (+8.3)
- 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:
- Nick Hardy (+15.3)
- Scott Piercy (+15.2)
- Ryan Gerard (+14.9)
- Max Homa (+14.0)
- 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:
- Kevin Kisner (+27.7)
- Max Homa (+21.2)
- Peter Malnati (+20.5)
- Justin Suh (+18.5)
- Mackenzie Hughes (+16.0)
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%).
- Max Homa (+750)
- Doug Ghim (+5000)
- Andrew Putnam (+4000)
- Chez Reavie (+4500)
- Kevin Streelman (+5500)
- Mark Hubbard (+5000)
- Sam Ryder (+7000)
- Brendon Todd (+3500)
- Akshay Bhatia (+6000)
- 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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