An unforgettable 2020-2021 PGA Tour season ended two weeks ago, highlighted by several incredible individual performances in major championships, and a FedExCup Championship title for Patrick Cantlay.
The 2021-22 season kicks off this week in its traditional place: Silverado Country Club in Napa, California, for the Fortinet Championship. Most of the interest on the PGA Tour has been focused towards next week’s Ryder Cup, but it would be foolish to overlook this event, which has had some thrilling outcomes in recent years, and has never once in its 14-year history been decided by more than two strokes.
There are just four players in the field who rank in the top 30 of the world rankings. All four get a high position in our power rankings this week, but they’re far from the only players to keep watch on.
Here is who we like most for the week:
15. Phil Mickelson
Before thinking that the 51-year-old can’t win this tournament, remember that last year’s winner was 47 and had not won on Tour in more than a decade.
At 33rd in the world rankings, Phil is surprisingly the sixth highest-ranked player in the field, but yeah, we know that number is slightly inflated by one event.
He does have a strong history at Silverado though, stringing together results of T8, T3, T17 from 2017-2019.
Statistically, the six-time major champion was horrific last season, finishing in the negative in all six strokes gained categories, and placing 173rd in scoring average.
World Rank: 33
Odds To Win: 66-1
14. Maverick McNealy
A 25-year-old who starred at Stanford, McNealy appears close to his breakthrough, finishing the 2021 season by making his last eight cuts, with seven of those being finishes of T30 or better. He also finished solo-second to Daniel Berger at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and was T4 at the RBC Heritage.
His game is very well-rounded, and it would be very surprising if this new season was not his best yet.
World Rank: 113
Odds To Win: 50-1
13. Adam Hadwin
It was a bit of an all-or-nothing 2021 season for the 33-year-old Canadian. He missed six cuts in his last ten starts, but he also placed in the top 10 in three of the four events in that stretch where he did make the cut. He also has played well at Silverado before, finishing runner-up in the 2019 edition after playing the weekend 67-67.
Hadwin saw a considerable drop in his iron play in 2021, but that could easily prove to be a fluke, as he has typically been at least capable in that regard in the past. He should feel encouraged after shooting three rounds of 66 or better at last month’s Wyndham Championship.
World Rank: 127
Odds To Win: 100-1
12. Kiradech Aphibarnrat
One of the more interesting personalities in professional golf, we were happy to see the Thailand native go on an absolute birdie binge in a T2 at last week’s BMW PGA Championship, the European Tour’s flagship event.
The tremendous showing may have gotten Aphibarnrat out of the career tailspin he has been on the past three years, improving his world ranking from 516th to 195th.
From 2015-2018, he appeared on the verge of becoming a top 20ish player, and he has to be extremely encouraged going into the PGA Tour season opener. He tends to run hot and cold.
World Rank: 195
Odds To Win: 100-1
11. Cameron Champ
The very long-hitting Sacramento native was awful for most of last season, but finished strong, and notched his third career Tour victory when he took the 3M Open.
Champ sat this event a year ago, meaning his last trip to Silverado was a victory in 2019, where he was the only player in the field to shoot four rounds in the 60s.
Champ tends to be streaky, so it is difficult to tell exactly where he is after three weeks off, but he did make his last five cuts, and has that win here two years ago to aid in his confidence.
World Rank: 69
Odds To Win: 40-1
10. Emiliano Grillo
The 2016 Fortinet Championship winner was in a great position to become the event’s second two-time winner, shooting a third-round 65 that had him two strokes off the 54-hole lead, but he sputtered on Sunday to finish T29.
Still, Grillo put together a 2021 season where he was tremendous in everything that wasn’t near or on the green, finishing third on the Tour in greens in regulation, and had 11 finishes inside the top 25. It was a very nice bounce back season after a disappointing 2020.
World Rank: 74
Odds To Win: 50-1
9. Max Homa
The 30-year-old had an excellent start to his 2021 calendar year, highlighted by a victory at The Genesis Invitational. However, Homa has sputtered badly since last May, with just one result of better than T25 in his last ten starts.
Most recently, he finished T63 among the 74 players in the field at the BMW Championship. Homa’s best finish at Silverado was a T9 in his 2014 event debut. After having the past two weeks off, he figures to challenge that tournament personal best.
World Rank: 44
Odds To Win: 50-1
8. Charley Hoffman
The 44-year-old San Diego native put together his best season in four years in 2021, making the weekend in 24 of 29 starts, and at one point had six consecutive results of T18 or better. He even finished solo-second in an event where he opened with a 75.
Statistically, he was dead solid, placing inside the top 25 in four of the six strokes gained categories.
Silverado has not been kind to him, however, as he has failed to place better than T56 in three starts.
World Rank: 62
Odds To Win: 40-1
7. Harry Higgs
The affable Higgs saw considerable ups and downs in his sophomore season on the PGA Tour. He missed 15 cuts, and at one point from May-July, he had a six-start stretch where he shot 76-84 in the only weekend he qualified for.
However, he was tremendous in a T4 at the PGA Championship, played well in the FedExCup playoffs, and most relevant to this week, he was solo-second at the Fortinet Championship, shooting a second-round 10-under 62.
Higgs has shown a liking to Silverado and finished last season well, giving us confidence that he will be a factor this week in Napa.
World Rank: 123
Odds To Win: 80-1
6. Harold Varner III
Born at the same hospital as Lebron James and Steph Curry, Varner III would be an immensely popular winner if he were to take his first Tour title this week, and he arrives at Silverado in good form, having finished between 11th and 15th in four of his last six starts.
Impressively, he played his last two events, both FedExCup playoff events, in a combined 29-under-par.
The East Carolina product placed inside the top 100 in all six strokes gained categories, including 33rd in strokes gained: tee-to-green. He also has some positive course history, with finishes of T17 or better in three of six starts.
World Rank: 80
Odds To Win: 40-1
5. Webb Simpson
It was a somewhat underwhelming 2021 season for the accomplished Tour vet, who never really contended anywhere, although he did have 13 finishes inside the top 25, and had the Tour’s 10th best scoring average.
Simpson dropped from sixth to 20th in the OWGR, and was passed over for a spot on the Ryder Cup team, despite having played in three Ryder Cups and three Presidents Cup, and the team being largely inexperienced.
The 36-year-old hopes to add to his seven career Tour wins this season, and will be playing the season opener for the first time since a T17 in 2018.
World Rank: 22
Odds To Win: 14-1
4. Hideki Matsuyama
It is difficult to rate Hideki’s 2021 season. The 29-year-old had just three top 10s on the year, the fewest of his career, despite making 27 starts, which was the most of his career.
However, when he did get into contention, he made it count, winning The Masters, and notching two runner-ups. He played well at The Olympics and impressively finished T2 at a WGC event the very next week, but has not quite found his footing since.
In his last four starts, his only top 40 was a T26 in the 30-man Tour Championship. At East Lake, Matsuyama imploded with an opening 77 before bouncing back with a 65 in the second round. He does have some positive course history, finishing T3 in the 2015 edition of the Fortinet Championship.
At 17th in the world rankings, Matsuyama is the second highest-ranked player in the field.
World Rank: 17
Odds To Win: 20-1
3. Will Zalatoris
The presumptive PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, Zalatoris arrives at Silverado fresh off a remarkable season where he posted eight top 10s, bested by just five golfers, including a runner-up finish in his Masters debut.
With three top 10s in major championships last season, the first career Tour victory for the Wake Forest product appears imminent.
Zalatoris should be fresh after having the past month off, a product of being ineligible for the FedExCup playoffs as he was not an official Tour member. Now he is, and he looks to get his sophomore campaign off to a stellar start.
The 25-year-old showing startling proficiency with his irons last season, ranking 7th in strokes gained: approach-the-green and 9th in strokes gained: tee-to-green.
World Rank: 31
Odds To Win: 25-1
2. Kevin Na
After finishing third at the Tour Championship, his fourth top 10 in his last six starts, there was a lot of chatter that Na could snare one of the Captain’s Picks for the upcoming Ryder Cup.
Na ended up being passed over despite his hot recent play, but he should be motivated to keep going, as Brooks Koepka’s injured wrist may end up requiring him to be replaced.
If that were to happen, Na would have to be considered a prime contender for the open spot, along with BMW PGA Champion Billy Horschel, and “Captain America” Patrick Reed.
The 37-year-old was runner-up in this event in 2016, losing in a playoff to Emiliano Grillo.
World Rank: 25
Odds To Win: 22-1
1. Jon Rahm
There is only one member of the OWGR top 10 in this week’s field, but fortunately, it is the No. 1.
Rahm arrives at Silverado having posted top 10s in each of his last five Tour starts, including a win at the U.S. Open, a runner-up at the Tour Championship, and a solo-third at The Northern Trust. That streak would very likely be seven, given that his last non top-10 was at The Memorial, where he had to withdraw after snagging a six-stroke 54-hole lead.
Rahm’s 15 top 10s last season was six more than the next closest golfer. He also led the Tour in strokes gained: total, strokes gained: tee-to-green, birdie average, and scoring average. There is really no justification for having anyone other than Rahm in the No. 1 spot this week.
World Rank: 1
Odds To Win: 4-1
Next Five: Brendan Steele, Troy Merritt, Luke List, Sebastian Munoz, Chez Reavie