It’s like the PGA Tour never left! We’re back with the Fortinet Championship as a final event before the Ryder Cup in two weeks. Most sports bettors have moved onto football, but if you’re reading this column, you’re one of us—looking for a nice fall golf sweat for some extra bucks in the sportsbook account.
It’s an interesting week, trying to handicap players who we haven’t seen in weeks. At least we’re at a familiar venue: Silverado Resort’s North Course, which has hosted this event in Napa since 2014. We’ve seen multiple repeat winners here with Brendan Steele going back to back in 2016 and 2017 and Max Homa winning in 2021 and last year. Homa’s back to defend his title—but our experts are going in a different direction.
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Scroll down for picks from our expert panel, which consists of a caddie reporting from Silverado Resort, Pat Mayo of Mayo Media Network and FantasyNational.com, Brandon Gdula of numberFire/FanDuel, Rick Gehman and Andy Lack of RickRunGood.com and these two authors.
Scroll down for the complete analysis of our picks at the 2023 Fortinet Championship.
Fortinet Championship picks 2023: Our Experts’ Outright Predictions
Anonymous Caddie Picker of the week: Cameron Davis (22-1, Unibet) — Cam’s stock should continue to keep flying higher this season. In a field like this, Cam is an elite player. He can get silly hot on birdie-fests, and he’s got the short game to save himself when he misses greens.
Pat Mayo, DraftKings/Fantasy National, Mayo Media Network analyst: Akshay Bhatia (40-1, DraftKings) — The 21-year-old has the same foundation as Brendan Steele—a high-level ball-striker who can’t putt. And this course clearly works for Steele, so Bhatia fits that narrative. He’s a PGA Tour winner already, taking down the Barracuda out West, so it’s time to bag another event. I also like the fact he putts better on slower surfaces, which is the case out here at Silverado.
Brandon Gdula, FanDuel/numberFire managing editor: Stephan Jaeger (22-1, FanDuel) — Jaeger’s game is solid all around, and he tends to gain strokes across all areas. Not a bad start for an event like this. The results at Silverado haven’t been great, but Jaeger is in peak form for his career and leads the field in strokes gained/tee to green over the past 50 rounds, via datagolf.
Rick Gehman, data scientist and RickRunGood.com founder: Stephan Jaeger (25-1, BetMGM) — Jaeger has been consistently great for nearly a full year. He’s currently working on a 13-event cut streak and his advanced metrics are impressive. Over the past 50 rounds, Jaeger has gained 1.04 strokes per round, second to only Eric Cole during that period, per the RickRunGood.com golf database.
Stephen Hennessey, Golf Digest dep. managing editor: Sahith Theegala (16-1, DraftKings) — I like going with the Ryder Cup snub angle this fall, and though Theegala didn’t realistically have a chance with his 2023, he probably thinks he has something to prove. He played better to close out the season with top-15 finishes at the BMW Championship and FedEx St. Jude. And the California kid had a sixth-place finish here last year, so he should get on with these greens, which are a mix of bentgrass and poa.
Christopher Powers, Golf Digest staff writer: Akshay Bhatia (45-1, BetMGM) — After getting shafted out of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, Bhatia should be highly-motivated to get after it this fall, when he can build on his current FedEx Cup standing of 102nd. He also has strong, albeit limited, history at the Fortinet, with a top-10 finish in one of two career starts.
Andy Lack, RickRunGood.com and Inside Golf podcast: Stephan Jaeger (25-1, BetMGM) — I continue to believe that Stephan Jaeger is on the precipice of a breakthrough. While the German has yet to pop at Silverado, I like that he’s played here multiple times. He is a much better player now than he was even this time last year. The 34-year-old ranks top-25 in this field in overall off-the-tee play, approach play, around-the-green play, birdies or better gained, Opportunities Gained, par-5 scoring and good drive percentage. Outside of Max Homa, Jaeger is actually the most well-rounded player in this field from a statistical standpoint. Jaeger finished the year with 13 straight made cuts and six top-35 finishes in a row. He possesses an incredibly high floor due to his ball-striking, and the putter remains the only mild concern. This is one of the first events that Jaeger has played on tour where he is truly one of the class of the field, and I expect him to capitalize.
Past results: It’s Fall Swing time. Our panel finished the 2023 playoffs strong, with our anonymous caddie cashing on Viktor Hovland to win the BMW Championship at 16-1. Before we turn the page to 2024, we still have a few events left in the autumn months, giving our experts a chance to build on the strong 2023 season. As a group, we correctly predicted 14 outright winners, including Brandon Gdula hitting on Wyndham Clark at 85-1 (!) to win the U.S. Open.
Listen to Golf Digest’s weekly betting podcast, “The Loop,” where we interview the industry’s leading experts (and sometimes tour pros) to help you make your bets and pick your fantasy lineups. And be sure to subscribe to “The Loop” wherever you get your podcasts!
Fortinet Championship picks 2023: Sleepers/Dark Horses Who Could Win
Caddie: Justin Suh (60-1, Caesars Sportsbook) — It’s smart to bet on talent on weeks like this, when players had extended weeks off. The former University of Southern California golfer likes playing golf in this part of the country, and like Davis, he can get stupid hot with the irons and the putter, which is the recipe out here.
Mayo: Kevin Yu (65-1, DraftKings) — Just like Bhatia and Steele, Yu is a legit ball-striker who can’t putt. Yu is actually one of the best drivers of the ball over the past 24 rounds, per FantasyNational.com, which will be a real weapon this week.
Gdula: Doug Ghim (60-1, FanDuel) — A dominant iron player relative to this field, Ghim is due for positive putting regression at some point in his career. He’s fifth in the field in strokes gained/tee to green over the past 50 rounds, per datagolf.
Gehman: Doug Ghim (60-1, FanDuel) — Ghim is back to producing elite ball-striking numbers, gaining the fifth-most strokes in the field over the last 50 rounds in those categories. That improvement has led to proper results, as Ghim has earned seven top-35 finishes in his last nine starts. This will be one of the weaker fields that he has battled lately with his game as sharp as it has been in quite some time.
Hennessey, Golf Digest: Mark Hubbard (70-1, Caesars Sportsbook) — I burned a lot of money on Hubbard in the outright market at the end of last year, so I can’t get off the train now. He’s top 10 in this field in Birdies or Better over the past 50 rounds, per FantasyNational, and he’s one of the best approach players over the past 36, per RickRunGood.com. He’s also got the course history, boasting top-25 finishes in three of the past four years.
Powers, Golf Digest: Justin Suh (60-1, Caesars Sportsbook) — Suh did not have the best finish to his season but has now had plenty of time to clean up his tee-to-green game. We can almost guarantee that the putter will show up, as Suh has gained strokes with the flat stick in 14 straight starts.
Lack: Nate Lashley (80-1, Bet365) — My numbers are somehow always far higher on Nate Lashley than market, and this week is no different. The former Rocket Mortgage Classic winner should be right at home on Silverado, a course that bears a lot in common with other tracks where he’s had success, such as Detroit Golf Club and Pebble Beach. The 40-year-old is quietly one of the best iron players in this field, and he does an excellent job of taking advantage of par 5s, an incredibly important part of the formula at Silverado.
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Fortinet Championship picks 2023: Players We’re Fading
Caddie: Stephan Jaeger, (22-1, FanDuel) — I understand why the gamblers are on him—the stats look really good. But he hasn’t contended many times, and if he’s going toe to toe with one of the more proven winners here, he doesn’t have the experience to close it out.
Mayo: Justin Thomas (16-1, DraftKings) — All eyes are on Italy … there’s no way I can endorse this short of a number even in this field given what we’ve seen from him over the past six months.
Gdula: Cameron Davis (20-1, FanDuel) — The odds are a bit too short here for Davis, who is trending because of solid overall form. The other favorites have better long-term form or upside in my model.
Gehman: Justin Thomas (16-1, DraftKings) — Either Vegas knows something that we don’t or this is an absolute trap. Thomas has been short on form for months, ranking 26th in this field over the last 50 rounds. His ball-striking was once a super power but that aspect of his game has been reduced to tour average. He just got back from Rome for U.S. Ryder Cup practice and will be headed right back after this event. This feels like a classic look-ahead spot for a golfer who has been struggling.
Hennessey, Golf Digest: Justin Thomas (16-1, DraftKings) — A cop-out pick but a relatively easy one.
Powers, Golf Digest: Justin Thomas (16-1, DraftKings) — At 20-1 or higher, I certainly would have entertained it. But not at this number. Plus, this is likely just for reps purposes for Rome. A mere tuneup.
Lack: Beau Hossler (22-1, DraftKings) — I don’t bet Beau Hossler when he’s 100-1, and I certainly will not be betting him when he’s sub-30-1. While I admit that Hossler can certainly get the flatstick going, his iron play remains a massive concern, and there is absolutely nothing in his body of work that provides evidence for this exuberant outright price. Even in this field, Hossler ranks 127th in approach, and specifically from 100-150 yards, a range where the lion-share of approaches at Silverado come from, the former Texas Longhorn is also one of the worst in the field.
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Fortinet Championship picks 2023: Matchups
Caddie: Sahith Theegala (-120) over Stephan Jaeger (Unibet) — Theegala has the better course experience, but better yet, he has contended multiple times in his young career. It’s a matter of time before he gets that PGA Tour victory.
Mayo: Davis Thompson (+100) over Garrick Higgo (DraftKings) — Higgo can get hot in birdiefests, and though it’s true he can thrive on courses where there’s not too much penalty for erratic driving, there are a fair number of trees lining Silverado, so he can get in trouble. Davis Thompson has shown he likes playing out on the West Coast, and he’s also a birdie-maker.
Gdula: Ryan Palmer (-115) over Webb Simpson (FanDuel) — There’s a cavern between these two in tee-to-green play over the past 50 rounds, and the putting advantage for Simpson isn’t enough to put the value on him in this matchup.
Gehman: Cameron Davis (+110) over Sahith Theegala (Bet365) — The North Course at Silverado is going to reward inaccurate bombers who can dial in their wedges. That sounds exactly like Davis, who made a great run at the end of last season, earning top-10 finishes in his last four starts. The game is sharp and this should be one of the better spots on the schedule for him.
Hennessey, Golf Digest: Nate Lashley (-120) over M.J. Daffue (DraftKings) — The disparity here on approach play makes this a value play for me: Lashley is 12th in this field over the past 36 rounds, whereas Daffue is 117th in weighted SG/approach, per RickRunGood.com.
Powers, Golf Digest: Brendon Todd (-120) over Alex Noren (DraftKings) — Both Todd and Noren had solid finishes to the season, and they each had their irons dialed in. Will lean with Todd, though, because he lost nearly eight strokes putting in his most recent start while Noren gained nearly six. I smell a regression to the mean for both.
Lack: Cameron Davis (-110) over Beau Hossler (DraftKings) — This is an easy one, as I have high hopes for Cam Davis this week, while Beau Hossler has already been addressed in the fade section. I cannot understand why these players are matched together to begin with, let alone at even odds. Davis is a far better ball-striker, both on approach and off the tee, and he finished the season playing much better golf. The Australian ended the 2023 campaign with three top-10 finishes in his last four starts, making it all the way to the second round of the FedEx Cup playoffs. The 27-year-old is also a top-five birdie maker and par-5 scorer in this field, whereas Hossler will need an incredibly hot putter to even sniff what Davis is capable of.
Matchup Results from the Tour Championship: Lack: 1 for 1 (Fleetwood (-120) over Fowler); Hennessey: 1 for 1 (McIlroy (-115, Round 1) over Scheffler); Mayo: 1 for 1 (Im (-120) over Conners); Powers: 0 for 1; Gehman: 0 for 1; Caddie: 0 for 1; Gdula: 0 for 1
Matchup Results from last season (Wins-Losses-Pushes): Powers: 23-18-2 (up 4.81 units); Lack: 19-13-1 (up 3.66 units); Hennessey: 23-18-2 (up 3.49 units); Gehman: 23-18-2 (up 3 units); Caddie: 21-18-4 (up 1.65 units); Mayo: 17-21-2 (down 4.66 units); Gdula: 17-25-2 (down 9.32 units)
Fortinet Championship picks 2023: Top 10s
Caddie: Justin Suh (+500, Bet365) — This is a nice number on one of the most talented players in this field.
Mayo: Davis Thompson (+450, DraftKings) — Here’s to hoping Davis Thompson is the new king of California. The 24-year-old finished ninth here last year and was runner-up to Jon Rahm at The American Express last season.
Gdula: Andrew Putnam (+400, Bet365) — Putnam most recently finished T-10 at the BMW Championship in mid-August while ranking third in the field in SG/approach. He’s a great iron player and putter, giving him access to a high-end ceiling.
Gehman: Beau Hossler (+275, DraftKings) — Hossler has earned three straight top-25 finishes in Napa and piled up three top 20s in his last four starts to finish the season. He’s routinely gaining strokes off-the-tee and has improved on approach over his last few months. The putter is always a strength and now he looks to put it all together this week.
Hennessey, Golf Digest: Chez Reavie (+550, DraftKings) — Chez leads this field in Opportunities Gained over the past 50 rounds, per FantasyNational.com, and he has five finishes of top-25 or better in his last 11 starts here, including a T-3 in 2020.
Powers, Golf Digest: Webb Simpson (+650, DraftKings) — I know it was just one start and it came at the Wyndham, which he owns, but Simpson finally showed some life and they’re still giving us a solid number on him against a weak field. And while his Fortinet record isn’t quite as similar as his Wyndham record, Simpson has fared well at Silverado, with two top-30 finishes in his last three trips.
Lack: Kevin Streelman (+500, DraftKings) — While I have my doubts that Kevin Streelman can be the last man standing on Sunday, I’m expecting a strong performance this week. Streelman ranks top-15 in this field in overall approach play, around-the-green play and good drive percentage. He’s got a solid resume at Silverado as well with three top-25 finishes and third in 2020. With prior success at similar courses such as Pebble Beach and TPC Deere Run, Streelman is an excellent under-the-radar candidate to surprise this week.
This article was originally published on golfdigest.com