This article is part of our DraftKings PGA DFS Picks series.
Winner's Share: $1.512M
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the winner
Location: Napa, Calif.
Course: Silverado Resort & Spa (North)
2022 champion: Max Homa
The 2022-23 PGA Tour season began last September with the Fortinet Championship and continues this week with the, um, Fortinet Championship. Yeah, that's really weird. But it will all make sense momentarily. Probably. Maybe?
For the past 10 years, the golf season had begun in one year and ended in the next. It was a wrap-around schedule, as the PGA Tour called it. Now, they've put a wrap on the wrap-around, just the latest seismic change in a sea of seismic changes in golf the past few years.
The Tour is going back to a calendar-year season starting in 2024.
But until then, the current season continues. It began last September with the traditional lid-lifter in Napa kicking off the nine-event Fall Series. Now, seven of those tournaments will be played again to get the Tour schedule back on calendar track, much like adding a Leap Day every four years to sync up the Earth rotating around the Sun. (Actually, it's nothing like that at all.)
We should stop joking around because these seven events that will constitute the newly named FedEx Cup Fall are vitally important to many golfers. The 125 Tour cards distributed annually to the top golfers in the FedEx Cup point standings will be determined after the fall finale at the RSM Classic in late November; they used to be given out at the end of the regular season in August. Seventy of those 125 cards have already been accounted for -- going to the golfers who made the playoffs -- but the final 55 will be up for grabs beginning this week. For those fighting for position, their points have stayed with them and they'll keep accruing them same as always. For the top-50 who made the BMW Championship, their points are locked and they can't get anymore, because they've already done as well as they can do. Only six golfers in this field played in the BMW.
Not to put a damper on the whole point of FedEx Cup Fall before it even starts, but there aren't any big names even close to dropping outside the top-125, and there aren't any big names looking to get in. Ludvig Aberg, the burgeoning star who won the Czech Masters two weeks ago and will be on Europe's Ryder Cup team in two weeks, sits in 135th place. But as the winner of the PGA Tour University standings earlier this year, Aberg is exempt through 2024.
Now that we've explained all these changes marginally well, let's move on. There's a golf tournament to break down.
Max Homa, who also will play in the Ryder Cup, is back to defend his title for the second year in a row, which is a cumbersome way of saying he is going for a three-peat. He'll try to become the first golfer to win the same event three straight years since Steve Stricker at the 2009-11 John Deere. Homa will head the 156-man field along with controversial Ryder Cup teammate Justin Thomas, who didn't finish top-70 in the standings and didn't make playoffs but is still exempt through the 2026-27 season based on all his past success. Homa and Thomas will be joined by their Ryder Cup captain, Zach Johnson; a vice captain, Stewart Cink; plus Sahith Theegala, Cam Davis, Webb Simpson, Matt Kuchar, Kevin Kisner and Akshay Bhatia. In all, 21 golfers in the top-100 are on hand. Two other golfers of note: The man who finished second in the University standings, Fred Biondi, will make his PGA Tour debut as a professional. He won the NCAA Division I individual championship in 2023 playing for the Florida Gators. Biondi, from Brazil, has made nine Korn Ferry starts since turning pro in May. Also, there's 26-year-old Hayden Springer, who won two of the past three weeks on PGA Tour Canada, wrapped up Player of the Year honors and secured full Korn Ferry status for next year.
Fortinet, a global security firm, is back for a third go-round in its six-year deal as title sponsor of the old Safeway Open, which spawned from the older Frys.com Open. Two years ago, tournament host Johnny Miller and organizers were greeted by then-world No. 1 Jon Rahm in the field the week before the Ryder Cup. Last year, they welcomed perhaps the biggest global get of all this side of Tiger Woods -- Hideki Matsuyama -- the week before the Presidents Cup. This year, they probably couldn't have done better than Thomas, following his highly charged captain's selection to the U.S. Ryder Cup team. All the golf world, including Johnson, will be watching to see whether Thomas can muster a good or even great week of golf to take with him to Italy.
This is the 10th time that Silverado has been the host course. But there have been substantial changes since we last saw it 12 months ago. The course routing has changed. Ten holes are in a different order. Nos. 1-7 and 18 are the same, 8 through 17 are different. The changes were reportedly made to strengthen the finish, with 16-18 previously playing among the easier holes. That's to be expected when two of them are semi-reachable par-5s sandwiching a 375-yard par-4. Now, 16 is a 422-yard par-4 (the old No. 10) and 17 becomes the signature hole, 182 yards over water to a green with multiple tricky pin positions (the old No. 11). No. 18, a par-5, 575-yarder, remains the closing hole. The hardest hole last year was 13, which is now 9, a par-4 at 458 yards. The par-72 breaks down to 35 on the front with one par-5 and 37 on the back with three par-5s.
Silverado is not long. It is heavily tree-lined with narrow fairways, a few of which are doglegs, though that hasn't deterred the biggest hitters from freely letting fly. Still, hitting the fairways matters here. In the past, there has been a lower percentage of driving accuracy, which leads to lower greens-in-regulation numbers, which ramps up the emphasis on scrambling. Most of the time, putting has not been paramount in determining a winner, notably because most of the golfers have found the going tough on the poa/bentgrass surfaces. The greens are medium size, averaging 5,400 square feet, and run around 11.5 on the Stimpmeter. There aren't many bunkers, just 53, though many of the them deep. Water comes into play on only two holes.
Silverado usually lands somewhere in the middle of the pack on the difficulty meter among all courses. Last September's tournament ranks as the 21st hardest among the 49 so far in 2022-23. Homa won at 16-under last year and 19-under in 2022, a year after Cink took home the trophy at 21-under.
As for the weather, there will be four days of similar conditions -- highs in the 80s, almost no chance of rain and minimal wind. The Golf course Superintendents Fact Sheet noted that the "course had an excessively wet winter" with 50 inches of rain as opposed to the average of 20. "The course flooded multiple times and a bridge washed out." But it goes on to say the "overall condition of the course is very good."
In past years, California wildfires have come a little too close for comfort to the Silverado Resort, though as of now that is not expected to be the case this year. As you may recall five years ago, just hours after the tournament ended, wildfires crept onto the edge of the Silverado property. The resort was evacuated, and that included players staying overnight till Monday. No one was hurt, and the grounds and golf course were largely unscathed. It serves as a permanent reminder that there always is a threat in this area at this time of year.
Silverado history: Miller overhauled the track in 2011 with the hopes of one day attracting a U.S. Open or PGA Championship. He thought getting Tiger to play would help. And for a couple of years, Miller did have visions of Woods showing up -- mostly because Woods said he would, first in 2016 and then in 2017, only to play the part of Lucy yanking the football away just as Charlie Brown was about to kick it. Now, of course, there is no shot Woods will ever play Miller's tournament. But he usually does get enough bigger names to have a decent field for this time of year, and that's the case with Thomas and Homa.
Key Stats to Winning at Silverado
The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key Stats" follow in importance.
• Strokes Gained: Approach/Greens in Regulation/Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green
• Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green/Scrambling
• Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee/Driving Accuracy
• Birdie Average/Birdie or Better Percentage
What we've seen in all the years at Silverado is that ball-strikers excel here, beginning way back with Grillo and Steele. They were/are great from tee to green but are challenged on the greens. In fact, in the nine previous editions of the tournament at Silverado, we have seen some really horrible putting rewarded. Now, part of that is just the difficulty in negotiating poa. Homa ranked 15th last year in Strokes Gained: Putting and 14th the year before, and Cink was 13th -- far from terrible but they won based on the rest of their game. Homa ranked ninth in SG: Off-the-Tee last year, 18th in Approach and seventh in Around-the-Green, which added up to first in Tee-to-Green. As we've seen the past three years, the winner can come from great tee-to-green play with just enough putting to get by. If there's a ball-striker who can putt, all the better. Of course, if someone putts out of his mind, well, there's always more than one way to win on any golf course. The winning score every year at Silverado has been between 15- and 21-under and, if you remove Cink's course record, between 15- and 19-under. The over/under on the winning score on golfodds.com was set at 270.5 -- 17.5 under par.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS
Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap
Our model always considers key stats compiled over a golfer's past 24 rounds. But with the TOUR Championship three weeks ago and most players idle much longer than that, the 24 rounds can extend back two or even three months, weakening their relevance. So, while we still will use our model, we won't be as reliant on it as usual.
Tier 1 Values
Max Homa - $11,000 (Winning odds at the DraftKings Sportsbook: +700)
Homa is the two-time defending champion, he's the best golfer in the field, he played well in the playoffs. He surely will be highly owned, so he's better suited for cash games.
Stephan Jaeger - $10,200 (+2200)
Jaeger is the No. 3 guy on the DK board, behind just Homa and Justin Thomas. Thomas has played well here before, quite well, with three top-10s, though none since his last appearance here in 2019. We expect Thomas to have a decent week, though it could be difficult for him to justify his $10,500 price. Jaeger's season ended after the FedEx St. Jude, which was unfortunate for him because he was on quite a roll. He has had made 13 straight cuts. Six of those were top-25s, including Memphis (T20). Jaeger has never finished better than 30th in four trips to Silverado, but he really turned a corner in 2023.
Cam Davis - $10,100 (+1800)
Davis is one of the six guys in the field -- Homa, Theegala, Andrew Putnam, Eric Cole, Brendon Todd -- who reached the BMW Championship. He had top-10s at the 3M Open, Wyndham and FedEx St. Jude to close very strong. He really seems primed to get to the next level soon, much like what was expected of him at the beginning of 2023 before an illness wrecked the start of his year.
Tier 2 Values
Beau Hossler - $9,300 (+2200)
Hossler rides three straight Silverado top-25s into this week. He also was playing some of his best golf last month and into the playoffs, which ended for him with a tie for 20th at the FedEx St. Jude Championship. At No. 58 in the standings, Hossler is assured of keeping his card, but he still has plenty to play for in the seven fall events -- Nos. 51 through 60 in the final FedExCup Standings automatically qualify for the first two Signature Events at Pebble Beach and Riviera.
Andrew Putnam - $9,100 (+3500)
Putnam played well all year, including at longer tracks, but he is among a handful of guys who we like this week because Silverado lets shorter hitters into the conversation. He's made the cut here in his past four visits, though nothing better than 30th. Putnam not only is playing better now, but the field is not what it usually is. Putnam landed at No. 7 in our model.
Alex Noren - $9,000 (+4500)
In his age-41 season, Noren did not have a good year. But it got better later, with top-10s at the Rocket Mortgage and 3M and a top-25 at the Open Championship. He is ranked top-10 in our model in Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green and Putting over his past 24 rounds, and is 15th overall in the model.
Mark Hubbard - $8,300 (+6500)
Hubbard loves him some Silverado, with top-25s in three of the past four years. That makes sense for a guy ranked 14th on Tour in SG: Approach this season. Hubbard had a great two-month stretch with four top-10s from late May to late July, then bowed out after the first playoff event in Memphis.
Doug Ghim - $8,000 (+5500)
Ghim had a brutal start to 2023, one in which he didn't crack the top-60 in any tournament until mid-March. He turned it around thereafter, though he was in too deep of a hole to get to the playoffs. Continuing strong play in the fall will be critical, as Ghim sits 117th in the standings. His accuracy -- off the tee and from the fairway -- were exceptional down the stretch. His difficulties have always been from 100 yards and in. Ghim tied for 14th here in 2020.
Tier 3 Values
Davis Thompson - $7,900 (+4500)
Thompson just missed the playoffs at No. 73 in the standings, giving it a good run with a top-25 at the Wyndham. His strength is off the tee, hitting it far and fairly straight. Thompson ranked 22nd in our model, and was 19th in birdie or better over his past 24 rounds. He tied for ninth here last year in his Silverado debut.
Austin Eckroat - $7,800 (+6000)
Eckroat made a strong summer run to try to get into the playoffs, highlighted by a tie for 10th at the U.S. Open, only to run out of gas with missed cuts in his final two starts to come up just short at 74th in the standings. He ranks top-25 in this field in fairways hit, SG: Tee-to-Green and SG: Putting over his past 24 rounds.
Dylan Wu - $7,600 (+7000)
Wu resided in the $6000s almost all season and generally over-delivered with seven top-25s. At 86th in the standings, Wu's card is secure, but he surely has eyes on moving up into the 50s by the end of FedEx Cup Fall. He's ranked inside the top-60 on Tour in both SG: Approach and Tee-to-Green.
Charley Hoffman - $7,300 (+10000)
Hoffman has played this season out of the 126-150 category, something he'd like to avoid next season. But right now, he's still there, at 137th in points. It won't take much to get inside the top-125. It might be perplexing as to why Hoffman is ranked so low, since he's currently 19th in SG: Approach and 40th in Tee-to-Green. But the answer lies on the green -- he's 173rd in SG: Putting. Hoffman is ranked 20th in this field in birdie or better over his past 24 rounds and landed top-20 overall in our model.
Zach Johnson - $6,900 (+15000)
Wouldn't it be wild if the Ryder Cup captain (Johnson) finished higher than one of his star players (Thomas)? It probably won't happen, and it's even a surprise Johnson is here just two weeks before the matches begin in Italy. At 47, he's playing on the first of his two career-money exemptions, and not doing half-bad. Johnson has made 13 of 20 cuts this season, including all three majors he played in -- Masters, PGA, Open Championship. The Fortinet field is a little less robust than those.
Zac Blair - $6,800 (+11000)
Blair successfully fulfilled the terms of his major medical extension, tying for 13th at the 3M Open after finishing second at the Travelers -- two tracks where accuracy counts more than usual. Blair ranks 11th on Tour this season in fairways hit. He's often played the Fortinet well, tying for 12th last year and for fourth in 2019.
Russell Knox - $6,800 (+25000)
Knox is ranked in the top-100 in only one strokes-gained category. The good news for him is, it's the most important one. He's ranked 25th in SG: Approach, and also seventh in greens in regulation. It's really hard to succeed like that, but the Scotsman did make six of his last seven cuts before the playoffs (he didn't qualify). Knox has made the Silverado cut the past three years, with a top-25 last year and a top-10 in 2020.
Kelly Kraft - $6,400 (+40000)
We struggled mightily to find one $6500-or-under golfer. Kraft landed inside the cutline in our model, so he's the choice, even though he's made only nine of 26 cuts this season. Kraft is top-25 in driving accuracy and top-50 in SG: Putting, and that's his blueprint to make it to the weekend in this very weak field. Kraft tied for 33rd his last time out at the Wyndham.
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