Time for some wine
After TWO full weeks, the PGA Tour is back to start another season at the Fortinet Championship. We've heard about changes coming to the tour, but don't get too excited yet, most of this will seem pretty familiar this fall. The larger changes to the 2022-23 wraparound season won't begin until the new year. In the meantime, we'll cozy up to some of our favorite fall events one last time.
The Fortinet is played at the Silverado Resort and Spa (North Course). Situated in the heart of wine country, this tournament has always attracted a wide assortment of grapes, I mean players. We have your journeymen PGA Tour guys who must love wine, the recent Korn Ferry graduates, past champions, and sponsor invites. Based on that eclectic group, the list of champions is quite varied.
- The last five winners have averaged a winning score of 17 under par. Over the last ten editions that number shrinks to 16 under par. If you can make it to twenty under this week, I like your chances.
- The average winner's pre-tournament odds over the last five years were 102-1 (+10200) and if you go back ten years the number lowers significantly to 82-1 (+8200). Needless to say, much of the field is capable of winning this one.
- We have three of the Top 25 in the world playing this week and seventeen of the Top 100.
There's a reason these guys head to Napa this time of year and that's the weather. The temperatures are predicted to reach highs in the mid 70's and lows in the mid 50's each day. There's a less than 10% chance of rain all week and the wind should blow just enough to keep everyone's attention. Saturday is the windiest day at 12-15 mph, but the other days are all showing wind speeds around 10-12 mph. It truly is birdie weather and I believe our contenders will take full advantage.
The Fortinet has gone through a couple of evolutions during its tenure on the PGA Tour. Remember Safeway and Frys.com as sponsors? Not just the name has changed, believe it or not, but the manner with which these guys attack the course has evolved as well! What used to be a strategic game plan has given way to a more aggressive bomb and wedge blueprint. When considering our contenders, I took this recent alteration into account significantly.
- Six of the holes have a birdie rate greater than 20% and only three have a bogey rate greater than 20%.
- Players hit GIR's more than the PGA Tour average and the average driving distance is also greater.
The Silverado North Course is a Par 72 layout measuring 7,118 yards. That's pretty short by PGA Tour standards especially when you consider there are four Par 5's. In fact, this collection of Par 4's is one of the shortest these guys will see all season. Nine of the ten Par 4's measure under 450 yards. It takes a certain player to score from all sorts of wedge distances. If you remember Max Homa's win last year, he took advantage of those Par 5's and Par 4's with insane accuracy from under 150 yards.
I really like this tournament. The blend of characters is really unique. Four guys this week will play in the President's Cup in eight days. Others just graduated from the Korn Ferry and face their first ever PGA Tour event. They are all bonded by the ability to make birdies and to contend they better make a bunch of them.
The Oregon Trail
Much like the Fortinet, the AmazingCre Portland Classic has held a couple of different sponsor names. One thing that hasn't changed much is the host club. Columbia Edgewater Country Club has hosted eight of the last ten Portland Classics and thirty-four editions overall. Needless to say, the crew who is heading out to Oregon has experience at this venue. The definition of tight tree-lined fairways, CECC is a Par 72, 6,478-yard design that will truly test a player's accuracy on all shots.
- Columbia Edgewater has four Par 3's, four Par 5's, and ten Par 4's.
- The Par 4 average is well under 400 yards (388) and the Par 3's are medium in length. All four Par 5's are reachable for the medium to longer hitters.
- Five holes have water in play to keep the lady's attention including eighteen.
- Speaking of eighteen, they flip the nines for this event, so if you have played CECC, keep that in mind.
Much like northern California, the weather in Oregon is pretty good this time of year. Considering we are in a part of the country where rain plays a significant role in their day-to-day, there's only a 33% chance of rain on Saturday into Sunday. Otherwise, the wind plans to be very calm (less than 10mph) and temperatures will be seasonable. That means mornings in the mid 50's and highs in the upper 60's and low 70's. Much like Napa, perfect weather for scoring.
The tee shots at Portland really are what matters most. We'll get deeper into the skill set when we talk about outrights, but for now, it is worth mentioning this field is a little on the weaker side. Highlighted by Nelly Korda and Brooke Henderson from the Top 10 in the Rolex rankings, and past them, there are only six more players in this field from the Top 30! If one of these leading ladies should slip, look toward that middle tier to jump up and take home the title.
What does it take to win in Portland?
- Over the last seven events played at Columbia Edgewater, the average winning score has been 17 under par.
- Three of those tournaments, the winner has gone past 20 under par.
Players can make birdies on this golf course. Year after year, when the LPGA shows up so do low scores. I have selected certain ladies who I believe can go low when accuracy is of the utmost importance. I'm also keyed into the scoring it takes to win on these Par 4's. They vary in length and topography. Not only do they bend back and forth, but they travel quite significantly up and down. Elevation changes always challenge the next level of a player's ball striking.
- There's a significant bias toward the left to right tee shots on this course. If she's right-handed and can hit a fade off the tee, this golf course will suit her style.
We have two tournaments in primetime this week. With both on the west coast, we can easily catch coverage at night even during football season. Enjoy the amazing views on this course as the evergreens really dominate the landscape. You'll see some trees in Napa as well, but up in Portland they truly define the edges. Like the ladies, let's keep it in play and move along.
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The season starts at Silverado
The Silverado Resort has started the PGA Tour season for the past couple of years. Looking back at the winners, we see a couple of trends that cannot be ignored. Length and ball striking jump to the top of the list, but so does the scorecard. The North Course has a very unique setup for a PGA Tour course.
- Three of the Par 3's are in the Top 4 toughest holes relative to par.
- The Par 4's are quite short.
- There's a decided advantage on the Par 5's if you can bomb it.
The funny thing about this course is that it has some of the tightest fairways on the tour. Yet, the penalty for missing them is not very severe. In fact, Silverado ranks in the bottom five on tour for missed fairway penalty. So bomb away boys and get as close to the hole as you can. Each of the recent champions struck the ball great T2G, but he also was very skilled at avoiding bogeys. You can get tripped up on this course quickly if you're not careful.
Getting close to the green on every Par 4 and 5 leaves you with a wedge in hand. Take a look at these approach percentages.
- Nearly 46.5% of the approach shots these guys face at the Fortinet will be under 150 yards. The tour average for those distances in total is just 35%.
- Conversely, only about 32% of the approaches are over 175 yards. That's way under what these guys normally face.
This all makes sense, when we look at the recent champions: Cam Champ, Max Homa, and Kevin Tway. Send it down there and pitch it close. One of the defining ways we can measure how well a player can hit their target from short yardages comes from their ability to scramble. Around the Green skill and Scrambling proficiency count at Silverado. That ability to always get it close from varying distances on those short Par 4's and three-shot Par 5's is a recipe for success.
We'll need to make a bunch of birdies, so the Birdie or Better % better be in line with getting to twenty under par. When it's all put together, and we see these really defined trends come into view our list of outrights will get you really excited.
- In his last ten events, Taylor Pendrith has gained over four shots against the field on approaches under 150 yards. He's ranked third in the field T2G and Ball Striking. He can avoid bogeys with the best of them and his BoB% is Top 11 in the field. The last time he played a course with this skill set he finished runner-up (Rocket Mortgage). Consider the fact he's about to play in his first President's Cup match as well, you know he will be really sharp. With five Top 15 finishes in his last six starts, he's definitely on my list of contenders for the Fortinet.
- Another guy who excels at bomb and pitch play is Cam Davis. I love his fit starting with being fourth-ranked in the field for Bob%. The young Australian is a talent with the driver and touch around the green. A Top 25 guy on approach, Top 10 in Par 5 scoring, and sixth T2G he'll present a perfect blend of power and finesse. Again, the same skill set that keeps him in contention on similar courses helped him win the Rocket Mortgage at Detroit Golf Club. Two Top 40 finishes in the past three years here and Cam has proven he knows the layout. Just like our first pick, Davis is also on the International President's Cup team. He's in full grind mode to get ready and this course matches his game. Sign us up!
Outright winners - Fortinet Championship
Taylor Pendrith (+3000)
Cam Davis (+3300)
Pick 3* (+8000)
Pick 4* (+12500)
(*- member content)
Between the trees please
When you first turn on the television this weekend and see Columbia Edgewater Country Club you will not believe the tree-lined fairways. All sorts of evergreens create hallway-like holes for these ladies to contend with. As I mentioned in the narrative opening, there's a strong bias toward the left to right tee shots here. My contenders either are extremely accurate off the tee or bend it that way. Honestly, some of these holes are just amazing how they have been carved out of the forest.
Driving accuracy is just step one, then the ladies have to contend with the green size. CECC has small greens at the end of these hallways. All eighteen have at least one bunker around them although fifteen have two or more. Short game skill is important since these small targets aren't always easy to hit. Especially if you miss a fairway or two. Similar to Silverado, Par 5 scoring is really important alongside successfully navigating the variety of Par 4's.
When you do hit the green, you better make birdie because even though this course requires a premium on accuracy, the average winning score over the last seven tournaments is in the high teens. We've established T2G play is vital, Approach play, and birdie conversation rate. You can also include GIR% and Par 4 scoring to round out the analysis. As we can see by the field, it seems only a handful of LPGA players make this trip annually. My point is, those who make the trek, like this golf course. The better players who do attend all seem to play well here. Overall, I think course knowledge does make a significant difference. You will definitely see that in my list of outright winners.
- The best ball striker on the LPGA tour in 2022 is Brooke Henderson. Although she may only have two wins, she has eight Top 10's in seventeen starts. She's very good in the northwest playing tree-lined courses. Her first major championship came at Sahalee Country Club in Washington State. We need a ball striker like this for CECC. Fairways and greens will win over all else and Brooke has done it here twice before. A course she loves, in a season where she's trending, makes for a third win at the Portland Classic.
- I know we've been on the Hye Jin Choi train a bunch recently. I cannot get away from the fact this rookie has not won yet. She's third on the LPGA for hitting GIR's and Par 4 scoring. Her fifth-ranked scoring average on tour shows how consistent she is. All of these courses are new to her and she excels every week. Choi has seventeen Top 25 finishes on tour this season in twenty events. She's never even come close to missing a cut. Excellent off the tee, she has a great combination of power and accuracy. That's the best reason ever to take her this week. Her ability to get the ball in the fairway with length will really give her an advantage. An advantage, I believe will lead to win number one.
Outright winners - AmazingCre Portland Classic
Brooke Henderson (+900)
Hye Jin Choi (+1000)
Pick 3* (+3300)
Pick 4* (+4500)
(*- member content)
7,000 people can't be wrong
If there's a big golf tournament, I'm going! This week, I travelled to Korn Ferry Q-school with a player who I coach to observe the next generation of great players. In a week, I'll be in the media center at the President's Cup. I cannot create the best betting content, unless I see and experience the players as often as possible. That's my commitment to all of you! Of course when I'm there, we have to have some fun on social media at the same time.
Check out this cut from the Tour Championship two weeks ago! Click the picture or button below to watch.
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