After a not-so-lengthy offseason, the 2022-23 PGA Tour campaign kicks off Thursday morning with the Fortinet Championship.
It’s been just two and a half weeks since Rory McIlroy closed out last season with a dramatic — and lucrative — victory at the Tour Championship at East Lake to become the first three-time FedEx Cup winner. But the world’s second-ranked player won’t tee it up at Silverado Resort and Spa.
Nor will any of the other top 15 in the world. The highest-ranked player in the field this week is No. 16 Hideki Matsuyama, who is one of the favorites at Silverado, as is defending champion and world No. 22 Max Homa.
Overall, the Fortinet doesn’t feature a strong lineup. But as this is the last time fall events count toward the FedEx Cup, it’s a shot for these 156 players to accumulate some points. Who knows? Perhaps those points will come in handy come bubble time ahead of the playoffs. Yep, we’re looking at you, Rickie Fowler.
So how will the season-opening Fortinet Championship play out?
2022 Fortinet Championship predictions
Luke Norris: Sahith Theegala
After a fantastic rookie season in which he recorded five top-fives, finished 28th in the FedEx Cup, and earned more than $3 million, Sahith Theegala will come out firing to kick off the new season. Sure, he only tied for 47th at last year’s Fortinet Championship, but Theegala is a far better player than he was even 12 months ago, as evidenced by the fact that he’s nearly 400 spots higher in the world rankings than he was at this time in 2021.
Jack Dougherty: Davis Riley
In his rookie season on the PGA Tour, Davis Riley racked up six top 10s and a runner-up finish in 29 starts. The 25-year-old has some serious talent, but he routinely got bogged down in the stronger fields last season. That won’t be an issue this week with Hideki Matsuyama and Max Homa at the top of the odds board.
Luke Norris: Cameron Champ
Some might not agree with calling a past champion of this event a sleeper. But 2019 winner Cameron Champ isn’t being given much of a chance to win the Fortinet Championship this year as most oddsmakers have him somewhere in the 50-1 range. The three-time PGA Tour winner certainly didn’t have the greatest 2021-22 season, but he finished in the top 20 in two of his last three tournaments to close the year and is due for a bounceback year.
Jack Dougherty: Chris Gotterup
If you’re a casual golf fan, you’ve most likely never heard the name Chris Gotterup. The 23-year-old has only made eight PGA Tour starts in his young career, but I have a feeling he’s going to be a household name by the end of this season. Don’t be surprised if he’s in the mix come Sunday afternoon.
Most likely bust
Luke Norris: Corey Conners
World No. 25 and upcoming Presidents Cup participant Corey Conners is one of the favorites at Silverado this week. He’s one of the best ball strikers on the planet and was second on the PGA Tour last season in greens in regulation, hitting the surface 71.9% of the time. But when he missed, he ranked just 131st around the green and 136th in putting. Conners likely gets his second tour win at some point this year, but I don’t think this is the week.
Jack Dougherty: Hideki Matsuyama
Hideki Matsuyama is coming off a hectic offseason (if you can even call it an offseason) in which he turned down a reported $300-400 million to join LIV Golf. I’m willing to bet those dollar signs will still be dancing in his head when he makes his season debut at the Fortinet, and he might not bring his A game to a weak event with a weak purse.
Luke Norris: No. 17
I think Maverick McNealy would agree that the sometimes-drivable par-4 17th at Silverado is a good choice for a make-or-break hole. In search of his first PGA Tour win, the California native held a three-shot lead late in last year’s Fortinet Championship. But McNealy made a mess of the 17th and made double-bogey, which put him three behind Max Homa, who went the other way and made birdie on the way to a one-shot win.
Jack Dougherty: No. 18
The par-5 18th at Silverado North is a long hole (575 yards) without much trouble besides two reachable fairway bunkers off the tee. Avoid that bunker, and these guys should have a green light to go at this accessible green in two. There’s nothing better than a reachable par-5 finisher when the leaderboard is tight, so let’s hope we get some late fireworks on Sunday.