Power Rankings: Fortinet Championship
September 13, 2021
By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM
- Jon Rahm will look to start the season strong at the Fortinet Championship. (Ben Jared/PGA TOUR)
The Fortinet Championship represents the launch of the 2021-22 season as the first of 47 scheduled events, but it’s so much more than that. The narrative of the brief break since the conclusions of the PGA TOUR and Korn Ferry Tour seasons takes a back seat to the opening of new chapters in the careers of the PGA TOUR’s newest membership class.
It’s a moment in time dripping with metaphors. If you want something badly enough, you do whatever it takes. Time and pressure are required to form a diamond. And so on. And you know what, they all apply because it’s the manifestation of the commitment, effort and determination.
Silverado Resort and Spa’s North Course is the familiar backdrop for the tournament. For details on the proper season-opening exam in Napa, California, how the eventual champion likely will be defined and more, continue reading beneath the ranking of projected contenders.
POWER RANKINGS: FORTINET CHAMPIONSHIP
Former winners Brendan Steele (2016, 2017), Cameron Champ (2019) and Emiliano Grillo (2015), and KFT Finals points leader Joseph Bramlett, will be among the notables reviewed in the Fantasy Insider.
If you thought that the super season of 50 events on the PGA TOUR in 2020-21 was something – and it was – consider that the Korn Ferry Tour hosted 46 events in its combined season that started in January of 2020. Two KFT members played in all of them – Dawie van der Walt and Kevin Roy. Of the pair, only van der Walt secured his PGA TOUR card, and he needed the three-event Finals to do so.
That means that 96 tournaments across two tours were required to help set the field of 156 possibilities at Silverado. It also means that, because momentum doesn’t care about what’s positioned in its path, there are several in-form rookies who are eager to make a splash. It happens to some degree every year. It even translated into victory for Emiliano Grillo in 2015 and after just two weeks after he prevailed at the last event of the KFT Finals.
Silverado is a stock par 72 and it stretches to just 7,123 yards. It has hosted this tournament every year since 2014. While it’s always easier to strike approaches from the shortest grass, the premium is on hitting greens in regulation, but then it always is when a course is painted with red numbers.
En route to his title and tournament-record 21-under 267 a year ago, Stewart Cink led the field in GIR. He also paced it in par-3 scoring (typical for him) and finished second in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green. That he also finished second in scrambling (10-for-11) was the difference between his two-stroke victory and, say, merely a top-five finish. The bottom line is that muscle isn’t a prerequisite and missed fairways often are forgiven. (Cink is not defending his title so that he can attend his son’s wedding).
Last year’s field averaged 70.212, so the KFT grads will find Silverado to their liking given their familiarity with low scores on that circuit. Greens are heavily Poa annua but there’s an influence (or lack thereof) of bentgrass as they touch 11½ feet on the Stimpmeter, a customary distance on a resort course. Fairways are not overseeded and the primary rough is trimmed to three inches.
Summertime heat eases for the season opener. After a warm lead-in, daytime highs are unlikely to reach 80 degrees. Wind could confuse at times but it won’t be gusty. Scorers still will pounce. There’s but a chance for light rain on the weekend. All in all, the greatest threat concerning the elements is morning fog that might require additional time to dissipate.
In addition to exemptions into the 2022 editions of the Sentry Tournament of Champions, THE PLAYERS Championship, the Masters and the PGA Championship, the winner will secure fully exempt membership through the 2023-24 season.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM’s Fantasy Insider Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous angles. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
MONDAY: Power Rankings
TUESDAY*: Sleepers; Fantasy Insider
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesday.