The PGA Tour's lengthy offseason has finally come to a close after one week, and the 2021-22 season is officially underway this week in Napa, California. The Fortinet Championship at Silverado Country Club will serve as the first event of the season, and there will be plenty of names in the field competing for the $7 million purse.
Defending champion Stewart Cink unfortunately will not be in attendance because one of his children is getting married, but there's a full (and interesting) field creating plenty of storylines just ahead of the fall's main event next week at the Ryder Cup. Who's going to win and what will it mean for the remainder of the 2021-22 season?
Let's take a closer look at this week's contest with odds provided via Caesars Sportsbook.
Event: Fortinet Championship | Dates: Sept. 16-19
Location: Silverado Country Club -- Napa, California
Par: 72 | Purse: $7 million
Three things to know
1. Mad Rahm? The numbers are almost too preposterous to believe. Jon Rahm is so much better than everyone else in this field, it's almost comical. If you look at strokes gained over the last three months, he's been nearly twice as good as the second-best player (Kevin Na) and three times as good as the sixth-best player in the field (Mito Pereira). Plus, he didn't win the PGA Tour Player of the Year award on Tuesday (Patrick Cantlay did), so we might see Rahm flexing on his way to Whistling Straits next week.
2. Zalatoris "sophomore" campaign: Will Zalatoris, the reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, is now playing his first season as a member of the PGA Tour. If that sentence does not make sense, you're in good company. I'm intrigued by what Zalatoris has in store and where his ceiling will be set. He's among the five most talented players in this field, and after a strange summer (injury, not making the FedEx Cup because of a wonky membership rule), it would be nice to see him start strong this season.
3. New faces: The first event of a new season is always a good opportunity to be introduced to Korn Ferry Tour graduates who are playing either for the first time or the first time in a long time in the big leagues. Guys like Justin Lower, Nick Hardy and Curtis Thompson don't project necessarily well in a tournament with Rahm and Na, but they all have interesting stories and hopefully at least one of the recent grads will emerge as a contender to win this tournament on the weekend.
Grading the field
Rahm certainly elevates this field, which is far stronger this year than it was last year. Other top-50 players in attendance this week include Hideki Matsuyama (No. 17), Webb Simpson (No. 22), Na (No. 25), Zalatoris (No. 31), Phil Mickelson (No. 33), Marc Leishman (No. 41), Max Homa (No. 44) and Si Woo Kim (No. 50). All things considered, this is a really good field with a good mix of stars, big names, newcomers and veterans. Grade: B
2021 Fortinet Championship picks
|Winner (20-1): I like Na for a number of reasons here. First, he's been playing great golf, and this is not a course that will overwhelm his lack of distance. Also, of everyone with at least 12 rounds played on this course in the last decade, only Justin Thomas and Tony Finau have been better than Na. It might not be to a "Hideki in Phoenix" or "Spieth at Augusta" level, but he's historically been the best player in the field on this course, and he also happens to be playing better than everyone in the field besides Rahm.|
|Top 10 (-225): This is the first time I've not picked Rahm to win in the last four PGA Tour events, which of course means that he'll win. You can't make this top-10 number high enough. I didn't even look at it before I slotted him in here. It could have been -800, and I would have done it. That's how overwhelming his numbers are right now and how much everyone is still underrating what he's doing.|
|Sleeper (60-1): Pereira's numbers are exceptional. He's sixth in this field in overall strokes gained over the last three months and seventh from tee to green. If you switch it to last 20 rounds, the rankings don't really change all that much. He won twice on the Korn Ferry Tour earlier this year, and had a nice run into the Olympics, where he finished just outside the medal stand when he lost in a playoff. He didn't end the season as strongly as I would have liked (T39-MC), but I like the number he's on this week at Silverado.|
Who will win the Fortinet Championship, and which long shots will stun the golfing world? Visit SportsLine now to see the projected leaderboard and best bets, all from the model that's nailed seven golf majors and is up almost $10,000 since the restart.