2023 Fortinet Championship Matchup Picks: Bet Matt Kuchar vs. Martin Laird on Thursday

2023 Fortinet Championship Matchup Picks: Bet Matt Kuchar vs. Martin Laird on Thursday article feature image

Ben Jared/PGA TOUR via Getty Images. Pictured: Matt Kuchar.

The shortest offseason in professional sports experienced its two-week hiatus ahead of this week's return in Napa at the Fortinet Championship, but it won't come without some changes from the norm when we look at what to expect in the fall.

There will still be tournaments in September, October and November, so don't worry, but the fall events will no longer be included as part of the chase for the FedExCup. The new purpose of this part of the season will be for golfers to try and improve their position for the 2024 season and chase status on Tour.

It remains to be seen how these moves will alter the events moving forward, although it's exciting that players like Sahith Theegala, Cameron Davis and a few additional non-Ryder-Cup choices decided to tee it up with very little to play for in Napa. We may still get those random talents in the field over the next few months, but it should add some interesting betting boards to dive into since we won't be looking at only the top names in golf. For someone like me, that is always a positive.

If you haven't already, you can find me on Twitter (@TeeOffSports). There, I provide a link to my pre-tournament model, a powerful and interactive data spreadsheet that allows user input to create custom golf rankings. That sheet is released every Monday, so be sure to check it out and construct your own numbers from my database of information.

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Fortinet Championship Thursday Matchup

Matt Kuchar -125 Over Martin Laird (DraftKings)

I talk a lot about finding opponents to fade in these matchups against golfers whom I want to wager on for the day/week, and we get a perfect example of that here when attempting to back Matt Kuchar against Martin Laird on Thursday.

Kuchar was not a golfer who was massively on my radar for any particular betting market. My model had no real take on his projected going rate to win this event or the $8,100 price tag on DraftKings. It doesn't mean the American graded as an option who fit the fade narrative, but there wasn't much thought in either direction for wanting to gain good or bad exposure.

There is probably a legitimate reason he has drifted from 45/1 into the 80s at some shops in the space when diving into his inability to score on these par-four holes between 400-450 yards. Still, you need to ask yourself, "At what point does the inflation become too much against a golfer experiencing a decrease in pricing on the other end?"

Martin Laird has received a ton of support at these books because of his three consecutive made cuts before the break and multiple top-20 finishes during that time. Nonetheless, there are some red flags that show why he has missed three straight weekends at this tournament in as many years.

Laird's putting is projected to fall from 79th to 138th on these Poa Annua greens, and additional problems arose when diving into his Weighted Strokes Gained: Total that moved outside of the top 125 because of a secondary problem with his wedges and short irons from 0-150 yards.

There may be some white-knuckle clenching throughout this wager because neither golfer delivers the kind of safety you would hope to see for a daily matchup. However, those are the head-to-head battles I often find myself on for the day for various reasons.

Fortinet Championship Full-Tournament Matchups

We won't spend too much time on either of these two wagers because you can tune into Links & Locks to get a more extensive breakdown of each play, but let's start with Nate Lashley over MJ Daffue and go from there.

Nate Lashley -120 Over MJ Daffue

If you dive into the data at the course last year, you will see that last year's performance from Daffue unraveled because his putter lost 7.2 shots to the field.

That is not something I would expect to happen again. However, it comes down to this combination of poor Weighted Proximity since he loses most of his better ranges from outside 150 yards, causing a fall of 59 spots in his projection, and his long-term return of faulty performances on easy courses.

The latter part of that answer isn't necessarily highly indicative from venue to venue because there are more factors to consider, but I was happy to back a player like Lashley at the price after making nine of 11 cuts and grading as a top-20 option throughout all iterations of my model.

J.J. Spaun -120 Over Lucas Herbert

I think this goes one of two ways for Lucas Herbert.

The upside is there for him to find success if he can combine his top-notch distance and putting into one quality return. That makes outright and top-10 markets more of where I would consider the Aussie if forced to place a wager on him this week, but I couldn't get myself to look past some of his glaring concerns, including the paltry ranks of 145th for Weighted Proximity, 107th for Weighted Scoring and 111th from tee to green.

Let's not underrate Spaun's 18 consecutive rounds of par or better when trying to take on Herbert, giving us multiple paths to find success.

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