2023 Fortinet Championship First-Round Leader Picks: Bet Will Gordon Kevin Yu
Via Orlando Ramirez/Getty Images. Pictured: Will Gordon of the United States plays his shot from the 12th during the second round of the Mexico Open at Vidanta on April 28, 2023 in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco.
After a two-week hiatus, the PGA Tour returns with the 2023 Fortinet Championship.
With the Tour moving to a calendar-year schedule in January, the seven events in the FedExCup Fall are technically still part of the season that “ended” with the Tour Championship a few weeks ago, but you can find more information on that here.
Whether it’s this season or next, the payouts are still the same, and we’re on the hunt to cash a first-round leader ticket on Thursday.
With the Poa-Annua and Bentgrass mix on the putting surfaces this week, golfers in the morning wave figure to have an advantage over their peers in the afternoon.
Consequently, I have targeted a pair of golfers from Thursday's morning wave.
Fortinet Championship First-Round Leader Picks
Kevin Yu +7000 (FanDuel)
First Round Tee Time: 7:06 a.m. PT
The Fortinet Championship is finally here, and I’ve been waiting to bet on Kevin Yu for a month.
If you’ve heard our Links and Locks podcast, you know my co-host Spencer Aguiar and I are very bullish on Yu's upside. We think he should be in the 40-1 range in outright markets, but he’s still available at 75-1.
I’ve bet him for a top-10 finish this week at +700, and I’m also betting him at +7000 for FRL.
I’m making my upside plays at the Fortinet Championship on golfers who are strong off the tee and can dial it in on approach. Yu fits that mold. He ranks third on Tour this season in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee and pairs that with well-above-average Driving Distance (27th) and well-above-average
Driving Accuracy (41st). In SG: Tee-to-Green, he’s seventh on Tour. He's also strong on Approach (61st) and Around the Greens (54th).
Yu will give himself plenty of scoring opportunities this week and, in a relatively weak field, that’s all I can ask for.
However, the PGA Tour rookie has been poor on the greens as he is 178th in SG: Putting. That’s a red flag, but he's shown upside with the flatstick as he led the field in SG: Putting at the John Deere Classic just four starts ago (however, his past three starts have been a nightmare on the greens).
The short par-4s (none longer than 465 yards) that play straight and without penal rough should allow Yu to take advantage of his driver and set up his wedges. There are also a full set of four par-5s this week, and that’s a huge advantage for Yu, who is 10th in Par-5 Scoring Average.
Yu also ranks among the top-20 players in Par-3 and Par-4 Scoring Average, so he is strong throughout the bag. He can make birdies in bunches on any hole as he is among the top 30 in Birdie or Better Percentage on Par-3s, Par-4s and Par-5s. Overall, Yu is sixth on Tour in Birdie or Better Percentage (24.74%).
Hopefully Yu cashes for us this week, but if not, we should have several other spots where he can thrive during the FedExCup Fall.
Will Gordon +9000 (FanDuel)
First Round Tee Time: 7:17 a.m. PT
Like Yu, I’m also targeting Will Gordon because he can go low and take advantage of a potential bomb-and-gouge setup with his length and upside.
Gordon is strong with the driver as he is 23rd in SG: Off-the-Tee. He's also impressive on approach and ranks 66th on Tour. He's ninth in Total Driving and is above average in both Driving Distance (21st) and Driving Accuracy (79th).
One of Gordon’s weaknesses is his poor Par-3 Scoring Average, but three of the four par-3s this week are between 175 and 200 yards (with the fourth listed at 212 yards), which should set up relatively well for Gordon as he's 37th on Tour in Proximity from 175-200 yards.
If Gordon can tread water on the par-3s and hit greens in regulation, he should, despite his poor around-the-green game, have success.
Gordon’s below-average putting and short game scare me away from betting on him to win outright, but he's more than capable of going low on Thursday morning.
I’m also optimistic about him in the long-term, and like this spot to buy low on him after a month away from competition as he's had an underwhelming 2023 season and had his two worst putting tournaments of the season in his past four starts.