One of the best parts about golf is the seemingly never-ending aspect of it. Less than two weeks ago the PGA’s best golfers descended on Atlanta’s East Lake Golf Club to battle it out for all the marbles. Patrick Cantlay overcame his competition’s handicaps, beating out favorite John Rahm by one stroke, and claiming his first career FedEx Cup championship. Just yesterday he was voted PGA Tour Player of the Year.
That’s the thing about golf though. There is no rest… no collective offseason to catch our breath. Just like that, the golf calendar is flipped over and the start of the 2021-2022 season is here. It begins Thursday with the Fortinet Championship.
The Fortinet will be played at the Silverado Resort and Spa (North Course). A gorgeous parkland-style golf course nestled in Napa Valley, California, Silverado North is a par-72 course totaling 7,166 yards.
A long course, lined with trees and hazards, Silverado North favors long-distance drives and accuracy off the tee as well as on approach.
With a fresh start, a number of the world’s best golfers will look to start the new season on the right track. There are a lot of promising long shots in the field and one particularly heavy favorite.
Let’s take a look at my favorite bets for this week.
Favorites to Win Outright
Jon Rahm (+330)
Golf is one of the most fickle sports in the world. Any golfer can step up and shock the world in any given tournament, and there’s never a guarantee in this sport. However, John Rahm in this tournament may be the closest we come to a lock.
The 26-year-old Spaniard is by far the best golfer in this field, and that’s not just an opinion. He ended the 2020-21 PGA season ranked #1 in the Official World Golf Rankings.
From a statistics standpoint, Rahm is the best tee-to-green golfer on tour, number one in Total Driving, and number eight in his approach game. He is a world-class ball striker.
The 2021 US Open Champion finished out his 2020-21 campaign with four top-five finishes in his last five tournaments, and came up just short in Tour Championship, finishing second.
He’s only played one event at Silverado so far in his professional career, a 15th-place finish in 2017, but that should be no cause for concern.
Although the return (+350) is low in golf terms, it would simply be crazy to leave the world’s best golfer off of your bet slip this week. There are some fun/interesting prop plays with Rahm if his odds to win don’t get the blood pumping enough. Rahm is currently 12-1 to lead the tournament wire-to-wire.
Value Picks (Win/Top 5)
Hideki Matsuyama (+2200/+450)
2021 Masters Champion Hideki Matsuyama went through a bit of a rough spell to end the 2020-21 season. After finishing fourth in the Tokyo Olympics and second one week later in the FedEx St. Jude Invitational, the 29-year-old from Japan finished no higher than 26th in his final four tournaments.
You can bet (and I am) that Matsuyama will do everything he can to start his 2021-22 campaign off on a better note than he finished the 2020-21 season. Matsuyama is still ranked 18th in the world.
He is a sniper from 125-150 yards out, placing approach shots from that range 18′ from the hole on average, which is second-best on tour. He has a serviceable tee game to go along with the solid approach that has continued to improve. This all adds up to the fact that Matsuyama has the second-best tee-to-green play in this field over the past six months. He will, however, need to keep his short game mistakes to a minimum, something he has struggled with.
Matsuyama has played three professional events at Silverado including a third-place finish in the 2015 Frys.com Open.
Will Zalatoris (+2200/+450)
Zalatoris was one of my favorite golfers in the early goings of the 2020-21 season and for good reason. The 23-year-old jumped onto a number of radars after finishing 2nd at the Masters, and his ball-striking ability quickly became apparent. He ended the 2020-21 season ranked seventh on approach shots and ninth overall tee-to-green.
Although one of the leaner players on tour (6-foot-2, 165 lbs), Zalatoris brings a lot of power off the tee. His average driving distance sits just above 307 yards. You’ll have that with a clubhead speed over 118 mph.
Zalatoris has not played in a tournament since August 15th, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. He withdrew from The Open Championship in July after injuring his back hitting out of some deep rough. After a few weeks off Zalatoris played again in the FedEx St. Jude Invitational (8th place) and Wyndham Championship (29th place). He was, however, open about the fact that he was still playing through some back pain.
With a solid month of rest, Zalatoris should be back at full strength. He got a taste of success in the 2020-21 season and is sure to come out hungry for more.
Charley Hoffman (+3500/+600)
35-1 odds for Hoffman in this field really caught my eye. The 21-year pro was 24th-best on tour last season going tee-to-green and turned in five top-ten finishes on the season.
His stats look even more impressive when compared just to this week’s field. Over the past six months, only two golfers (Rahm and Matsuyama) have been better tee-to-green than Hoffman. His accuracy off the tee can be spotty, but his driving distance and approach game are solid.
Hoffman has played Silverado North three times, but has never finished higher than 56th and missed the CUT twice here. I think he has the game to get that monkey off his back, but if course-trends are a concern, a 6-1 wager on a top-five finish would be a nice addition to a bet slip.
Long Shots (Win/Top 5/Top 10)
C.T. Pan (+10000/+2000/+900)
Haling from Miaoli, Chinese Taipei, C.T. Pan had a solid under-the-radar 2020-21 PGA season. He turned in two top-ten finishes including a 7th-place finish at the rescheduled 2020 Masters. And although not an official PGA event, he put on a great showing at the Tokyo Olympics, finishing third.
Pan can struggle off the tee at times with a driving accuracy of just 61.1%, but I like his ability to recover from mishaps. Pan is number three on tour when it comes to success hitting out of the rough, a skill that will play well at Silverado.
I’m also a big trend guy, and few golfers have trended in the right direction better than Pan over the last year.
|Time Frame||Tee-to-Green Rank|
|Last 12 Months||26th|
|Last 6 Months||18th|
|Last 3 Months||12th|
Pan has clearly been working on his ball-striking, and it shows. If he can continue this consistent level of improvement you could easily see him start turning in top-ten or better finishes.
Luke List (+13000/+2000/+1100)
It’s curious to see a golfer with five top-ten finishes a season ago getting such long odds, but that’s the case with 36-year-old Luke List.
List turned in back-to-back top-fives in the John Deere Classic and Barbosal Championship back in July, but couldn’t replicate that success over the final three tournaments of his season.
List certainly has the power to succeed at Silverado. He drives the ball consistently over 310 yards which has helped propel him to 8th-best in true strokes gained off the tee. For him to be consistent though, he will need to improve his driving accuracy which was a paltry 55.5% last season.
What I love about List is his fearlessness when it comes to going for the big shots. List is 3rd on tour in the Going For the Green metric, a measurement of how often a player will shoot for the green instead of laying up. What’s more impressive is that when he does go for it, he is 5th-best on tour in success rate. This approach obviously has make-or-break consequences, but that’s what I like in a long shot.
List also has just as much, if not more, experience on this course than anyone. He’s played in five straight Safeway Opens at Silverado and turned in a 4th-place finish in 2019.
Kyle Stanley (+15000/+3000/+1300/+550 Top 20)
There’s a lot to like about Clemson-alum Kyle Stanley. His finish to the 2020-21 season is not one of those things.
After recording two top-ten victories early in the season, 33-year-old Stanley missed four straight cuts to end his campaign. It’s a big reason he is getting such long odds. But make no mistakes, Stanley can play.
Every part of his game leading up to the green is good. His driving accuracy is nearly 67% and he’s 14th on tour when it comes to reaching greens in regulation (69.9%). He also places the ball on the green with the best of them on approach. The problem is that his short game has been extremely poor, losing nearly a full stroke per round between chipping and putting.
Overall though, in this field, Stanley is top-ten in true strokes gained tee-to-green, and he’s getting 13-1 odds just to finish top-ten. For even more risk aversion, bettors can dig deeper and play +550 odds for a top-20 finish, something that would be a great compliment at the bottom of a bet slip.
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