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Tom Jacobs is back to preview the First Round Leader Market, as the PGA Tour kicks off a new season in Napa, California for the Fortinet Championship.

Fortinet Championship First Round Leader Picks & Predictions: Back Homa For A Fast Start

The PGA Tour is BACK! It may have only been a fortnight since the Tour Championship in Atlanta, but we are now starting afresh on the PGA Tour.

We haven't seen as many departures from the Tour to LIV as it stands, which is a promising result, and now the fresh new talent from the Korn Ferry Tour will look to step up and make an impact.

This event has the responsibility of easing players into the new season, and what better place for pro's to visit than Wine Country, Napa, California.

Lets look at the past first round leaders of this event, plus the weather forecast, to see if we can find any bias when it comes to making this week's selections.

Fortinet Championship First Round Leader Strategy

Here are all the First Round Leaders since the Fortinet Championship (Safeway Open) moved to Silverado in 2014.

  • 2021 – Chez Reavie (-7/65) - Teed off at 7:33 am Local (AM Tee Time)
  • 2020 – Russell Knox (-9/63) - Teed off at 7:04 am Local (AM Tee Time)
  • 2019 – Adam Scott (8:00am), Andrew Landry (13:25pm) (-7/65) - (AM/PM Split)
  • 2018 – Sepp Straka (-9/63) - Teed off at 13:20pm Local (PM Tee Time)
  • 2017 – Brendan Steele (7:50am), Tom Hoge (8:40am), Tyler Duncan (8:30am) (-7/65) - (All AM Tee Times)
  • 2016 – Scott Piercy (-10/62) - Teed off at 8:00 am Local (AM Tee Time)
  • 2015 – Brendan Steele (-9/63) - Teed off at 8:20am Local (AM Tee Time)
  • 2014 – Andres Gonzales (8:45am), Sang-Moon Bae (12:45pm) (-6/66) - (AM/PM Split)

In 5 of the 8 renewals of this event, the first round leader(s) have come exclusively from the morning wave, and in 7 of the 8 at least one co-leader has been from the morning wave. Only in 2018, when Sepp Straka shot a 63, did a PM starter lead alone.

With that in mind then, it is fairly obvious that we should target early starters. On three occasions someone has come from the afternoon wave to either lead alone or at least co-lead, so there is no reason that cannot happen again, but I would just stack the early wave in your favor.

The wind and gusts pick up around 2pm thru to 5pm, and while they won't have much impact given the course design, the early starters do get the better of the weather as well.

Who in This Field Started Fastest on Tour Last Season?

Here are the 10 fastest starters in this field based on last season's Round 1 Scoring Average

  • Matt Kuchar - (6th overall in 2021/22 - Scoring Average 68.50) - Low Opening Round - 62 (Sony Open)
  • Wyndham Clark - (14th overall in 2021/22 - Scoring Average 69.21) - Low Opening Round - 63 (Canadian Open)
  • Jason Day - (15th overall in 2021/22 - Scoring Average 69.22) - Low Opening Round - 63 (Wells Fargo)
  • Denny McCarthy - (16th overall in 2021/22 - Scoring Average 69.25) - Low Opening Round - 65 (Wells Fargo)
  • Patton Kizzire - (23rd overall in 2021/22 - Scoring Average 69.32) - Low Opening Round - 63 (Sony Open)
  • Lee Hodges - (26th overall in 2021/22 - Scoring Average 69.43) - Low Opening Round - 62 (Amex)
  • Joel Dahmen- (30th overall in 2021/22 - Scoring Average 69.52) - Low Opening Round - 64 (Wells Fargo)
  • Davis Riley - (35th overall in 2021/22 - Scoring Average 69.57) - Low Opening Round - 65 (Valspar)
  • Max Homa- (35th overall in 2021/22 - Scoring Average 69.59) - Low Opening Round - 66 (Three Different Occasions)
  • John Huh - (37th overall in 2021/22 - Scoring Average 69.63) - Low Opening Round - 61 (Wyndham)

What Score Is Required To Lead After Round 1?

The average leading score here over the 8 renewals since moving to Silverado, is 64.00. While it is then fairly tempting to say 64 should be the target score, 4 out of 8 times, the leading score has been 63 or better. I would say 63 should be the score you hope your selection hits, to cash your First Round Leader bet.

The Favorites in This Week's First Round Leader Market

Here are the odds for the top-10 in Fortinet Championship, First Round Leader Market. Here we will give you the best price and the implied chance on each of the top-10 in the market.

PlayerOdds Implied Chance
Max Homa+31003.13%
Corey Conners+35002.78%
Hideki Matsuyama+35002.78%
Davis Riley+50001.96%
Maverick McNealy+50001.96%
Sahith Theegala+50001.96%
Taylor Pendrith+50001.96%
Tom Hoge+50001.96%
Emiliano Grillo+55001.8%
Brendan Steele+60001.6%

First Round Leader Selections

Max Homa +3100 (FanDuel)

So he's the favorite in the outright market and in this one to, so I could see why he would make less appeal to many, but Max Homa is a different animal in California.

In his last nine starts in the The Golden State, Homa has missed three cuts, two of which were at majors, and in the other six starts has two wins, two more top-10's and two other top-21 finishes.

One of those wins came here last year, and the other at Riviera, which is another classical course.

Of the 13 occasions Homa has been within two of a first round lead, one came here, one at Riviera, both of which were the year's he won, one came at Pebble Beach and another at the Amex, all Californian events. Add to that, that two came at TPC San Antonio, which hosts the Valero Texas Open, and is considered a comp course, and you suddenly see a picture that suggests he could be the best player on Thursday.

Homa has only posted one first round lead in his career, and that came on the Korn Ferry back in 2014, but he's been within two of the first round lead seven times on the PGA Tour since the start of 2019, and 9 times in total at this level.

Water should find its level soon, and he should post another first round lead and chances are it will happen in his home state of California, where the comfort level is clearly very high.

Last time out, Max finished the Tour Championship with rounds of 62-66-66 and on this course he opened with a 67 last year and closed with a pair of 65's on the weekend to win.

Max Homa will tee off #1 tee at 1:05 pm with Cameron Champ and Michael Kim

Tom Hoge +5000 (DraftKings)

Tom Hoge enjoys playing in California, winning for the first time on Tour this season at Pebble Beach and also finishing 2nd at the Amex.

Add to those two results from this year, two top-6 finishes at the Barracuda, another at the Amex and a top-5 at Torrey Pines and its quick to see where Hoge flourishes on TOUR.

When you add in two to-12 finishes at the Valero Texas Open, which as an event where we have seen some crossover with this one, and it feels like this should be a great course for Hoge.... So has it been?

In seven starts here, Hoge has never finished better than 17th and has missed three cuts, but that doesn't tell the whole story.

Hoge finished 37th in 2017, but opened with a round of 65 to co-lead on day one, and then a year later posted his best finish of 17th. In 2020, he opened 66-68 to sit 8th at the halfway mark before fading, and last year he shot a second round 66 to sit 10th and was 9th going into the final day.

Capable of shooting a low round here most year's I will chance that Hoge, who has returned to form of late, can shine on day one this week.

Hoge opened with three-straight 66's at the Tour Championship last time out, and when 4th at the 3M Open, following of string of missed cuts, he shot rounds of 67-68-66 to open, so he's been in fine fettle in recent months.

I was going to pass up on Hoge, as I already had two in the afternoon wave, and wanted to be stacked in the morning instead, but I can't get away from his chances of a low opening round, and would find it hard to see him take the lead on Thursday and not be on. Of the others considered, Cam Davis and Dylan Frittelli would make sense in place of Hoge, if you wanted to target the morning wave a bit heavier.

Tom Hoge will tee off #1 tee at 12:54pm with J.J Spaun and Trey Mullinax

Brendan Steele +6000 (Bet365)

Brendan Steele is not only a two-time winner of this event, he's also been the first round leader twice here at this course (2015, 2017) and he finished round 1 within two of the leader in 2020, when opening with a 65.

34 times in his career, Brendan Steele has finished within two of the first round lead, 8 of which were first round leads. Three of them came in this event (once at previous course), and another came at the Valero Texas Open which is seen as a bit of a comp course.

All in all, Brendan Steele is clearly very capable of shooting low round here, firing 8 rounds of 67 or better here over the course of his career.

You have to go back to 2017 for his last first round lead, but since 2020 he has been within two of the leader five times, so he's probably due.

Arguably his favorite course, back Steele to start fast here, especially as he ranks 2nd for Ball Striking over the last 3 months, 3rd if you stretch it to 6 months, and still 13th going back a year.

Brendan Steele will tee off #10 tee at 8:17 am with Byeong Hun An and Matt Wallace

Chez Reavie +8000 ($10 Free Bet UniBet)

Chez Reavie led here after round 1 last year and finished 3rd overall in this event in 2019, so there's already plenty to like about Reavie for this one.

In the 8 years this event has been held at Silverado, Reavie has played every time and never missed the cut.

Reavie has broken 70 on the opening day six-straight years here, posting two 67's and last years leading-65 in that time.

He has opened with rounds of 68 or better in 5 of his last 7 starts on TOUR, including the last three-straight, and last time out at the BMW he was 6th after day one, opening with a 67.

37 times in his career, Reavie has ended round 1 within two of the lead, including five times since the start of 2021. One first round lead of his came at Pebble Beach, and on another occasion he was within two of the first round lead at that event. Pebble was also the site of his best ever major finish, when he was 3rd at the 2019 US Open. Add to that his lead here last year and the time he was within two in 2017, and clearly he can start fast in California.

Reavie ranks 4th in this field in SG Approach over the past 15 weeks, and shorten that up to 8 weeks he's 2nd in this field in that span. He is one of the better ball strikers in the field at the moment on current form, and with a win at the Barracuda and a 10th place finish at Riviera in his last two starts in California, he looks set for a decent week.

Chez Reavie will tee off #10 tee at 12:54 pm with Brendon Todd and Lucas Glover

Lee Hodges +10000 (FanDuel)

Lee Hodges has been incredibly consistent in the first round recently on the PGA Tour, and his only first round lead came at the Amex when he opened with a 62 this year, which is a plus given it was also in California.

Hodges has opened with rounds of 68 or better in his 6 of his last 8 events, dating back to the Canadian Open and in his three most recent starts he's opened with a 66 at the Rocket Mortgage, the same again at the Wyndham and then a 65 at the FedEx St Jude.

Past success isn't necessarily an indicator of future results, and this is a volatile market, so just because he's started well before doesn't mean it will happen here but it does show he's been ready when Thursday rolls around.

He missed the cut here last year, but I think this could be a good course for him in his current form, at least on the opening day and considering he's held three first round leads so far in his career, across the PGA, Korn Ferry and Canadian Tour's and been within two a further 8 times, this looks like his forte.

Lee Hodges will tee off #10 tee at 7:00 am with Chris Stroud and Kramer Hickok

Article Author


Tom Jacobs is the host of the Lost Fore Words golf podcast and has been writing betting articles on golf for the past decade. Tom also co-hosts the DP World Tour Picks & Bets show on the Mayo Media Network, so has his finger on the pulse on all the major Tours. A long-suffering Nottingham Forest fan, Tom also enjoys watching Soccer at the weekend, and was delighted to see his Forest team win promotion this season!


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