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Seeking fast starts and FRL tickets in wine country as the focus turns to FedExCup Fall

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Seeking fast starts and FRL tickets in wine country as the focus turns to FedExCup Fall

    Written by Brady Kannon @lasvegasgolfer

    The PGA TOUR is back for a seven-tournament run through the fall, beginning Thursday with the Fortinet Championship in Napa, California. And with that, we set our eyes on cashing our first fall ticket in the First Round Leader Market at Silverado Resort & Spa.

    What we’re looking for in finding a FRL standout has not changed. What we have seen in recent history remains true for potential First Round Leaders – they tend to pull away from the pack on Thursday by gaining strokes on the field in approach play and putting. We’ll begin our handicap there and see if we can find other areas to support the cause.

    Alternating scores of 63 and 65 have been good enough to earn the Thursday lead at Silverado over the last five editions of the Fortinet Championship. Three of those rounds have come from the morning wave and two from the afternoon.

    Skill sets that I looked at this week when attacking the entire tournament were Strokes Gained: Approach, Scrambling, Total Driving, Strokes Gained: Putting (Poa annua), and Hole Proximity from 100-150 yards. The North Course at Silverado is a traditional, parkland-style golf course with smaller Poa annua grass greens and narrow fairways. The rough is not especially long, so missing the fairway is not as penal here as it might be elsewhere.

    As for correlated courses, I looked at courses with similar set ups and similar characteristics. Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla requires good Total Driving and also features Poa annua greens. Pebble Beach Golf Links has some of the smallest greens on TOUR and they are also Poa annua. Other courses that I figured had enough similarities to add to the handicap were Memorial Park (Houston Open), PGA National (Classic in the Palm Beaches), Detroit Golf Club (Rocket Mortgage Classic) TPC Scottsdale (WM Phoenix Open), and Olympia Fields where Viktor Hovland just won the BMW Championship nearly one month ago.

    We are hoping to catch lightning in a bottle with a First Round Leader but I also want to look at my macro-handicap too. Even though it is just one round, I still want to land on a player that makes sense for all four days at the championship.

    I ended up making two selections. Here are the players I’m backing to get off to a hot start in wine country, with odds via BetMGM Sportsbook:

    Eric Cole (+4500)

    Cole getting to a playoff at the Honda Classic (PGA National) earlier this year caught my eye, as did his 15th-place finish at Pebble Beach just three weeks prior. Over the last 36 rounds, he ranks 13th in this field for SG: Approach and is 12th on TOUR in SG: Putting. Cole is currently No. 1 on TOUR for rounds scored in the 60's and in Total Birdies. He's 30th in Bogey Avoidance and ranks 13th in First Round Scoring Average.

    Andrew Putnam (+4500)

    Like Cole, Putnam also owns that combination of being good on approach and with the putter. Over the last 36 rounds, Putnam is 12th in this field for SG: Approach and 9th in SG: Putting on Poa annua. He is eighth on TOUR for rounds scored in the 60s, 16th in Total Birdies, fourth in Bogey Avoidance, and 19th in First Round Scoring Average.

    Obviously, I believe in both of these players and their ability to get out to a hot start this week. But I think their chances of being in the lead, or near it toward the end on Sunday, aren't bad either.

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