Fortinet Championships differ some from Safeway Open!

The Fortinet Championship, a PGA TOUR golf event and two-night Concert Series, kicks off the 2022-2023 FedEx Cup Regular Season at Silverado Resort and Spa, September 15th through 18th.

The event will provide fans with an authentic Napa experience, featuring the best of Napa Valley food & wine, popular musicians, and a field of 156 of the world’s best golfers — all in one event.

But will it be as big as party as the previously sponsored Safeway Open?

Thursday, July 14, the media, or what remains of the media in Northern California, descended upon Silverado for Media Day, which, was more of a corporate sponsor day with very few media sprinkled in.

This is the second year for Fortinet to be the title sponsor for the event, taking over last year from Safeway just six months out from the tournament.

Safeway had turned the tournament into one of the top party PGA Tour events of the year, arguably trailing only the Waste Management Open in Scottsdale.

It was a case of someone throwing a party at Silverado with a PGA Tour event breaking out. Now with Fortinet as the sponsor, it is turning into more of a corporate retreat for their clients with a PGA Tour event as the backdrop.

The team from Fortinet realizes the fun Safeway unleashed each year, but the emphasis is now more on making it an incredible experience for the Fortinet clients and partners, and if the golf fans have a great time, that’s an added plus.

Example No. 1 is media day. In the past the talk centered more on the golf, and the ancillary part of the tournament, talking about on course activities and what golf fans coming to the tournament could expect, and most important, enjoy. The fans were always the focus during the Safeway Open.

In past media days, there were players on site or live via a video conference call and questions could be asked. One year world famous chef Thomas Keller was on hand, and Johnny Miller was a regular.

This year we had the CEO of Fortinet and the head of their marketing department talking about this the biggest event of the year for their clients.

The two talked about how their clients are going to be wined and dined and how great it would be for Fortinet. The only player involved was defending champion Max Homa, who prerecorded a 30-second video. No questions, no comments.

That is great for the company when they are talking about a week it will be for their clients, but that news does nothing for the golf media or our readers. With no relevant golf news that leaves the gold media to focus on how the tournament is changing.

This leads us into – Example No. 2 – the concerts that come with the tournament.

In the past there were concerts on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at the end of play that day. The concerts, featuring just a headliner, took place on the lawn out in front of the mansion and was a natural flowing area for people leaving the golf, rolling right onto the mansion lawn.

It was an incredible view and vibe, and when the concerts were over, the crowd moved right out to the respective parking areas, be it by bus or by foot.

It was a perfect ending to a great day of watching the best golfers in the world.

This year the concerts are changing and changing in the wrong direction.

Gone are three nights of concerts, the tournament people decided to go with two nights – no Thursday – and with two acts each night.

The reason given for eliminating Thursday was that they were not well attended. Simply, that was not the case. Maybe last year when the world was adjusting to the beginning of relaxing COVID restrictions, but not in the past. Three times I attended the Thursday night concerts and they were packed. Then again, having Sammy Hagar one year, followed by country superstar Jake Owen the next, has a way of bringing in the crowds.

But the number of nights is not the worst change. The concerts are being moved from the mansion lawn – the perfect spot for concerts following the day – out to the second fairway on the Silverado South course.

The organizers are promoting it as a bigger venue – they were talking 10,000 a night. The reality is the move takes people further away from the exits, and if they come anywhere near the 10,000 people they are thinking, it will be a logistical nightmare with all those people funneling back through the clubhouse area and out.

So, why move the concerts? It is because Fortinet has a mobile convention center for lack of a better phrase, that ventures to 18 PGA Tour stops throughout the year. The exhibit will be set up on the lawn area where the concerts had been successfully held for years. Once again, cater to the few rather than the masses.

I will stop there, and I fully admit these are first world problems that I am complaining about.

What can’t be lost is that Fortinet did step up for a 6-year sponsorship deal with the PGA Tour, and the charity arm of the tournament will continue to thrive as Fortinet is committed to doing great things with local charities.

They are writing the checks to keep the tournament local, and at the end of the day if they want to make it a week-long corporate retreat – and who doesn’t want to be pampered in Napa for 3-4 days – that is their right. It’s just depressing for me to see the masses take a back seat.

The fall is a tough time to compete with the sports entertainment dollar in Northern California. Football season is football season and the residents of this area love themselves some football. You have to be all in to win over those still deciding what to do that weekend.

After visiting the Waste Management Open one time, I was convinced that this was the way golf tournaments needed to operate to attract fans.

I am an avid golfer and golf fan. I watch at least part of the tournaments each weekend, but I will also acknowledge that golf can be a bit dry for non-golf fans. But turn it into a party and people will show up!

I think that we are losing some of that with the Fortinet Championships, but at the same time I am thankful they have kept the tournament local.

If you have never been, I highly recommend getting out there to watch some of the tournament. You will still have a good time. We were spoiled by the tournament Safeway put on for the public and I am sure we will adjust moving forward, I just wanted to keep the bigger picture of bringing in all sports fans to this event.

What hasn’t changed is the incredible customer service from the Silverado Resort staff.

Every year I visit the site, the staff goes above and beyond to ensure visitors have the best time possible.

This last time our group was fortunate to have Gustavo as our bartender, as well as Alana as our waitress. If you are lucky to have either of them working an event you attend, you will be blessed!

Here is some information from the tournament.

The Fortinet Championship Concert Series will be held on the South Course at Silverado Resort and Spa immediately following completion of play Friday, September 16 and Saturday, September 17.

Friday night will feature multi-platinum country music star Cole Swindell with special guest Gavin DeGraw. Grammy nominated powerhouse OneRepublic, with special guest X Ambassadors, will take the stage on Saturday night. Concert admission is included in the cost of the daily ticket.

It gets a bit worrisome as a sports fan when the Fortinet brass doesn’t acknowledge the golf fans that will make up the majority that will be attending the tournament and keeping the vendors happy. Even the official statement from Fortinet skips right over the masses attending the event.

“Fortinet is excited to once again welcome our community of partners and customers to another Fortinet Championship event in beautiful Napa Valley, kicking off the start of a new PGA TOUR season,” said Fortinet CMO and EVP of Products John Maddison. “The Fortinet Championship brings together the greatest minds in the industry to double down on the most pressing cybersecurity challenges today. A highlight of our partnership with the PGA TOUR through this event will remain how we benefit our community and customers, as well as local non-profit organizations.”

Charitable Giving

Net proceeds from the Fortinet Championship support Bay Area and Napa Valley non-profit organizations that share the Fortinet vision of building an inclusive and diverse workplace that will close the cybersecurity skills gap.

Fortinet has designated proceeds from the Fortinet Championship to benefit nonprofit organizations in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM); diversity and inclusion; and reskilling programs, as well as local Napa-area nonprofits.

The Fortinet Championship is pleased to pair with the following organizations: Alaina’s Voice Foundation, Cameron Champ Foundation, Eat. Learn. Play. Foundation, Keller Restaurant Relief Fund, Napa Valley Vine Trail Coalition, Queen of the Valley Foundation, WINE WOMEN, and the Travis Air Force Base Reserves.

Last year’s Fortinet Championship included a Security Summit and Technology Vendor Exposition which brought together the Fortinet community of customers, partners, and employees—some of the technology industry’s most accomplished leaders.

Once again, that’s great for Fortinet, as well as their customers, partners, and employees, but what about the rest of us? It is something we will live with, as having the tournament scaled back is still better than not having it all.

For more information on the Fortinet Championship, The Concert Series, and to buy tickets, please visit

By Dennis Miller