Safeway Open – Napa, CA
Silverado Resort & Spa North Course (7,166 yards, par 72)
$1,080,000 and 500 FedEx Cup points to the winner
Out with the old season and in with the new as the Safeway Open kicks off the 2017-18 PGA Tour wraparound schedule with many of the newly minted Web.com graduates who just earned their cards on Monday. Formerly named the Frys.com Open, the Silverado Resort North course will serve as the host for the fourth straight year since the event officially became part of the PGA Tour schedule in 2014. Phil Mickelson along with two others from last week’s President’s Cup will tee it up, along with Sang-Moon Bae, who returns from his 2-year mandatory military service to a venue he won back in 2014. The course has proved vulnerable to birdies, yielding at least 15-under to the winner of the event. Look for plenty of lesser-known names from the Web.com graduating class to make themselves known in this opportunistic field.
Prior Decade Champions
2016 – Brendan Steele
2015 – Emiliano Grillo
2014 – Sang-Moon Bae
2013 – Jimmy Walker
2012 – Jonas Blixt
2011 – Bryce Molder
2010 – Rocco Mediate
2009 – Troy Matteson
2008 – Cameron Beckman
2007 – Mike Weir
Key Stats to Winning at Silverado Resort CC
• 2016-17 Strokes Gained Tee-To-Green
• Greens in regulation percentage
• Scrambling percentage
Originally designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. and later renovated by part-owner Johnny Miller, the course plays like an older, classic course with narrow fairways, large bunkers, and smallish greens. The front nine plays slightly tighter off the tee with more trees in play and a premium on positioning for proper angles. The back nine is much more open but requires strategic planning to avoid some difficult fairway bunkers that lurk in the landing areas. All this adds up to putting a premium on tee-to-green ballstriking throughout the course, where Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green leads all major indicators for success in this event. Beyond that, it’s important to get up and down when the smaller greens are missed since bogeys are not too common at this vulnerable venue. One interesting tidbit is that in three of the first four years of the wraparound season, the winner of this event has gone on to make it to the final 30 in the TOUR Championship, so it’s clear that getting off to a good start pays dividends come playoff time.
FanDuel Value Picks
Phil Mickelson, $9,700 – Mickelson will look to claim victory at the only California event he hasn’t won yet. He should find himself in the mix as he was T8 last season and still appears to be the cream of this field.
Tony Finau, $9,500 – Finau has been inside the top-32 in all three trips to Silverado Resort, and his length can be a huge advantage if he can keep it in play on most holes. Finau ranked 10th on the PGA Tour in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green last season, which bodes very well for his chances as one of the top-3 favorites this week.
Webb Simpson, $9,100 – Simpson enters hot off a strong finish to the year and the Fedex Cup playoffs with top-10s in three of his last five starts. Though his record isnt great at Silverado, his form makes up for it easily this week.
Longer Shots Worth a Risk
Kevin Na, $7,800 – Na has performed admirably at Silverado Resort with top-7s in his three starts there dating back to 2014. As one of the more seasoned veterans in the field, Na will look to capitalize on a good opportunity early in the season.
Chez Reavie, $7,600 – Reavie has played as this venue each of the last four years and has yet to miss a cut. His combination of accuracy off the tee and a precision with the irons make him a prime candidate to kick off the new season on a good note.
Mackenzie Hughes, $6,400 – Hughes won the RSM Classic last fall and parlayed that into a strong season where he made it all the way to the BMW Championship in the FedEx Cup playoffs. After that successful rookie season, Hughes now returns to Silverado where he was T13 last season. Look for the youngster to make the cut with upside for a top-10 this week.
Sang-Moon Bae, $6,000 – Fresh off two mandatory military service years in his homeland South Korea, Bae returns to the place he was last victorious on the PGA Tour in 2014. Though he may need some time to polish his game back to what it was prior to his departure from the PGA Tour, Bae is still a solid value at $6,000 this week.
Strategy Tips for this week (based on 60k standard salary cap)
If there is ever a time to take some shots in the dark on trending young players, the first week is it. Many Web.com Tour graduates are hungry to prove themselves early on the PGA Tour, and with much fewer veterans teeing it up, there’s opportunity in the air. There are very few “ironclad” performers given the shallow field and limited course histories at Silverado Resort, so lean on Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green for guys who were on the PGA Tour last year. For Web.com graduates, look to their recent play, total driving, greens in regulation percentage, and scrambling percentage on the Web.com Tour last season.