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Fortinet Championship Preview

Sahith Theegala

Sahith Theegala

Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

The inaugural FedExCup Fall will get underway this week in Napa, California.

In recent years, this has been the event that kicks off a new season but things are different in 2023.

With 55 fewer golfers cracking the FedExCup Playoffs this season, that also means there were 55 fewer golfers that have secured their Tour card for next year. Those golfers will be feeling the heat this fall as their performance over the next two months will determine their playing status for the 2024 campaign.

Golfers who finished top 50 in the FedExCup race are still allowed to join the fun with notable names from that bucket in this week’s field including Max Homa and Sahith Theegala. There are three others who made the trip (Andrew Putnam, Cam Davis, Brendon Todd) and they will be able to enjoy a few stress-free glasses of wine this week as their Tour cards are already locked up for next year.

The Course

The North Course at Silverado Resort will serve as the host venue this week.

Checking out the scorecard, we see a par 72 that plays to just 7,123 yards from the tips. That is relatively short by PGA Tour standards and even more so when you dive into the hole-by-hole view.

Only one of the par 4s even plays over 440 yards. The fairways are some of the narrowest and toughest to hit on Tour but the trade-off is that golfers will put a lot of wedges and short irons into their hands on approach.

While the course has been hosting for nearly a decade, there are some changes this year. It’s the course routing in particular that has changed with 10 of the holes being played in a different order compared to previous years.

For gamers wanting to look at putting splits, the poa annua greens are just 5,400 square feet on average which is certainly on the small side of the spectrum. Comfort out West (or in the North) is a positive for being able to deal with the poa.

That comfort out West becomes apparent when looking for crossover success at other events. Some correlated events that popped up were The American Express and Pebble Beach Pro-Am while courses like TPC Summerlin, TPC Twin Cities, and Detroit GC also showed up on that list for me. Some common themes include grass types, regional comfort, and courses with a small penalty for missing the fairway.

Golfers to Watch

Max Homa

He’s the class of the field, easily ranking first in the field in three-month, six-month, and one-year baseline performance. He’s also won back-to-back editions of the event, so he’ll be aiming for a rare three-peat this week. The only potential negative? He just took a quick trip to Rome last week for Ryder Cup prep. Will jet-lag bring him back to the field or will he be riding high on that American spirit?

Justin Suh

He made a surprise appearance in the Swiss Alps for the Omega Euro Masters but he’s put his focus back on the PGA Tour this week. Suh landed at 81st in the FedExCup standings so he’ll have plenty to play for over the next two months. Given his California roots and current Las Vegas ties, playing in this part of the country should be comfortable for him.

Chez Reavie

He stumbled out of the gate in 2023 but found his groove in early April. Since then, he missed just two cuts over his final 14 events played. Now the Arizona State product gets to play on his preferred coast, boasting finishes of T-33 or better in seven of his last eight starts at Silverado Resort.

Sahith Theegala

The Pepperdine product doesn’t need to be here, in terms of securing any playing status but a win would still go a long way for him and his career. Theegala arrives with back-to-back top 15s on his game log and also sports top 15s in two of his three tries in Napa.

Justin Thomas

He’s received a lot of attention in recent weeks for getting a Ryder Cup captain’s pick despite his lackluster performance in 2023. This week would be a good spot for him to remind people of why he received that pick. Thomas is making his fifth appearance at Silverado Resort and he’s bagged finishes of T8 or better in three of the previous four. Of course, short irons and wedges have historically been a strength for him but he arrives having lost strokes on approach in five straight events. Which version of JT will we see this week?

Ranking the Field

1. Max Homa
2. Sahith Theegala
3. Justin Thomas
4. Stephan Jaeger
5. Andrew Putnam
6. Cam Davis
7. Eric Cole
8. Brendon Todd
9. Alex Noren
10. Beau Hossler
11. J.J. Spaun
12. Matt Kuchar
13. Mark Hubbard
14. Chez Reavie
15. Akshay Bhatia
16. Taylor Montgomery
17. Lucas Herbert
18. Christiaan Bezuidenhout
19. Justin Suh
20. Kevin Streelman