Jon Rahm Is the Overwhelming Favorite at the Fortinet Championship
We’re using the advanced FRACAS model to project the winner for the Fortinet Championship
After a long, grueling offseason, the PGA Tour is back with the first event of its 2021-2022 season.
For the first time in two years, there is a significant changing of the guard in terms of who owns PGA Tour cards. A huge percentage of the field this week are names unfamiliar to PGA leaderboards, with dozens of players graduating from the Korn Ferry Tour. From now until the end of the calendar year is considered the “swing” season on tour, where some of the lower-tier players will work to accumulate points to get invitations to some of the bigger tournaments that kick off 2022.
The Fortinet Championship kicks us off. Hosted by Silverado Resort in Napa, California, the Fortinet Championship is a 7,123-yard par 72 where scoring is generally easy. Wind has made the course play more difficult in the past, but, with almost no wind in the forecast this week, we can expect to see a winner around 20-under par. The ease of the course is reflected in the hole types, assigned from our clustering algorithm using par, yardage, and average score on the hole on a round basis over the last four years.
There are no long/difficult par 4s or difficult par 5s, so the course’s defense will come from the five short/difficult par 4s. These aren’t difficult in terms of expected score (as a whole they’re projected to play under par), but they’re not the super easy short holes where coming away with a par is a disappointment.
The field is not particularly strong, as is the case with most swing-season events, but it’s projected as almost an exactly tour-average field. It’s buoyed by the presence of the best golfer in the world, but many of the PGA card-earners this year are good players, and it should be a competitive event outside of the top place. While none provide good values, the new card-earners we’re high on this week are Taylor Moore, Chad Ramey, Mito Pereira, Aaron Rai, and Alex Smalley.
The FRACAS Picks
It will come as no surprise that our projected winner for this event is Jon Rahm. Rahm is more than a stroke better than the second-best player in this field, per FRACAS, and is coming off a memorable playoff run. While Cantlay took away player of the year honors for 2021, Rahm was a positive COVID test at The Memorial and a few holes in the Tour Championship away from taking two wins away from Cantlay. At 7-2 in the markets, he’s no real value this week for us, and he’s certainly the consensus favorite.
The FRACAS Value Plays
When there’s a 4-1 favorite in our modeling, it’s tough to find good outright values. This week, there is just one player who pops in our models. Pat Perez finished the year in fine form with four top 20s in his last six starts. Additionally, Silverado is a great course fit. Perez’s best performances come on easy par 5s and short/difficult par 4s.
Half of this course falls into those two clusters, and the result is his FRACAS increasing 0.265 strokes gained per round. It might not seem like a lot, but it moves him from 10th in the field to sixth in the field and increases his projected win percentage by almost a full percent.
While we do see some value in his outright consensus of 76-1, where we really like him is in the top 5/10 markets. Using consensus odds he’s 12-1 and 6-1, respectively, while our modeling thinks his chances are more like 13-2 and almost 4-1. It’s a strong value and we’ll be following Perez this week.
Patton Kizzire has a very similar profile to Perez and really thrives when courses are short. He comes in around tour average on both types of long par 4s, but is significantly better than tour average on both types of short par 4s. While not the incredible value we see for Perez, Kizzire’s 16-1 and 13-2 odds in the consensus top 5/10 markets are solid values. Our models project numbers around 12-1 and 6-1, respectively.
Further down the board, there are a couple of players we love as top 20 options. Kevin Chappell is coming off an extended absence due to a back injury, but he’s a specialist on short/difficult par 4s, and that will play well at Silverado. Chappell’s top 20 odds in the consensus markets are hovering around 7-1, and our modeling thinks it should be 5-1. Denny McCarthy is our other longer-odds golfer to watch this week.
He’s also 7-1 in the top 20 markets and our models like him at 11-2. McCarthy is one of the best putters on tour, and, while the rest of his game is always a little frightening to watch, he can catch absolute fire on the greens.
DraftKings GPP Value Plays
We evaluate players at the percentage of time they appear in the top 10% of DraftKings in our simulations, while also setting a floor on which players qualify. Additionally, we’re comparing simulated appearances in the top 10 vs. expected, relative to salary, in order to pick which players we are interested in.
It’s a true stars and scrubs week for us this week. Rahm, Simpson, and Na are playing at a different level than the rest of this field, and, with a lot of value in the lower salary ranges, we’ll try to jam in as many of those top guys as we can.
- $12,100 – Jon Rahm
- $10,800 – Webb Simpson
- $10,000 – Kevin Na
- $9,100 – Harold Varner III
- $8,900 – Emiliano Grillo
- $8,800 – Charley Hoffman
- $7,900 – Pat Perez
- $7,700 – Taylor Moore
- $7,600 – Harry Higgs
- $7,500 – Patton Kizzire
- $7,300 – Joseph Bramlett
- $7,300 – Adam Schenk
- $7,300 – Lanto Griffin
- $7,300 – Nick Taylor
- $7,100 – Hank Lebioda
- $7,000 – Chad Ramey
- $6,800 – Sam Ryder
- $6,700 – Denny McCarthy
- $6,700 – Kyle Stanley
- $6,600 – Vincent Whaley
- $6,500 – Mark Hubbard
- $6,500 – Kevin Chappell
- $6,400 – Dylan Wu
- $6,300 – Seth Reeves
- $6,300 – Kurt Kitayama
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