The 2020-21 PGA season gets underway this week as the Tour heads to Wine Country for the Safeway Open. This event has become a fixture on the Fall swing for the Tour and will be played at Silverado Country Club in Napa, Calif., for the seventh year in a row. Defending champion Cameron Champ isn’t in the field but 50-year old Phil Mickelson is and he’ll be joined by two-time Safeway Open winner Brendan Steele. The event will feature a lot of up-and-coming stars looking to grab their first win.
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Silverado Country Club plays as a shorter Par 72 venue that is listed at 7,166 yards. The course isn’t long by Tour standards but features quick Poa greens that can play quite fast and make short putts more challenging than usual.
The venue also features tighter fairways and driving accuracy numbers here are often lower than normal. Big hitters have prospered at this venue of late with the past five winners averaging 305 yards off the tee as a group. Three of the past five winners posted scores of 15-under or lower so while birdies will be available, don’t expect any scoring records to be set.
Regardless of how you’re approaching things, I’ve written up my thoughts on this week’s DraftKings Sportsbook pool and have tried to give you decisive picks and strategies to employ at each level. Hope you enjoy.
Who will have the best finishing position? Phil Mickelson, Si Woo Kim or Brendan Steele
Despite now hitting 50 years of age, Phil Mickelson is still hitting bombs off the tee on a consistent basis. Mickelson averaged over 300 yards off the tee last year and has seen his new health regime pay off in 2020. He collected a win in his first Champions Tour start last month and also posted a T2 finish at the WGC Memphis event back at the beginning of August. Phil has a solid West Coast record and has posted top-10 finishes at this week’s venue in two of the past four years. Si Woo Kim has been playing well but has struggled at this venue in two career starts, while two-time champion Brendan Steele has been playing well but feels out of his element here against two more talented players. I’ll roll with Phil to take this group of betting favorites.
Choice: Phil Mickelson
Who will have the best finishing position? Joel Dahmen, Sergio Garcia or Jordan Spieth
Jordan Spieth will undoubtedly be using this week as a barometer for where his game is at. The three-time Tour winner ended last season poorly, posting three straight finishes of T70 or worse to end the year. He’s now lost strokes off the tee in six straight events and feels like an easy fade at this course. The decision here comes down to Sergio and Dahmen who have both flashed upside since the restart. Garcia leads the field in strokes gained tee to green stats over the past 50 rounds but will likely have his sights on next week and has never played this venue before. Dahmen has shown a more complete game of late and put well on the greens at TPC Harding Park to record a T10 at the PGA Championship. Dahmen has posted top-20 finishes in three of his past four starts and feels like he has enough upside in this weaker field to beat the Spaniard and the struggling Spieth for the week.
Choice: Joel Dahmen
Who will have the best finishing position? Harold Varner III, Shane Lowry or Emiliano Grillo
Harold Varner III will be playing this event for the sixth straight year and has made the cut at Silverado every time he’s played here, posting multiple top-20 finishes. His course history here is matched by Grillo, who won the event in 2015. The Argentine has struggled on the greens at Silverado though and is in a tough group here against both Varner and the reigning Open champion, Shane Lowry. Lowry has had trouble putting a complete week together but has been solid tee to green and has gained strokes on approach in six of his past seven starts. The Irishman has the best resume of this group and should be looking for a solid week considering that a major is just on the horizon. He feels like the correct play here.
Choice: Shane Lowry
Who will have the best finishing position? Chez Reavie, Kevin Streelman or Cameron Davis
Both Reavie and Streelman have been solid West Coast players over their careers. Reavie has posted top-5 finishes at both Riviera and Pebble Beach while Streelman has been a contender at both Pebble Beach and Torrey Pines. Neither are playing at the top of their games right now though, as the normally straight-hitting Streelman comes in having lost strokes off the tee in three straight starts. While he could turn things around on the Poa greens at Silverado, the big-hitting Cameron Davis feels like the correct play here. Davis played well down the stretch in 2019-20, flashing near the top of the leaderboard in the first playoff event. He also finished T17 at Silverado on his debut here in 2017. He’s my choice from what should be a very competitive group.
Choice: Cameron Davis
Who will have the best finishing position? Luke List, Doc Redman or Brandt Snedeker
Snedeker didn’t finish out the 2019-20 season very well, missing the cut in his last start at the Northern Trust, and hasn’t recorded a top 10 on Tour at since the Farmers in January. The veteran is well known as one of the best Poa putters on Tour and did finish T2 here in 2018, losing out in a playoff to Kevin Tway. List also has a good record at Silverado, landing a T3 here in the same year that Snedeker nearly won. He’ll need a big week with his putter but the big hitter’s distance off the tee is a pretty big plus at this shorter Par 72. Doc Redman is a great young player but missed the cut here badly in his only visit to the course in 2019 and doesn’t have List’s distance. List looks like the play to me here.
Choice: Luke List
Who will have the best finishing position? Erik van Rooyen, Talor Gooch or Mark Hubbard
Mark Hubbard had a solid 2019-20 season and comes into this week on a nine-event made cut streak. The American has finished T13 at Silverado before but doesn’t challenge for a top 5 very often. Talor Gooch is similar in terms of his consistency but hasn’t managed anything better than a T54 in two attempts at Silverado. Erik van Rooyen is the highest-ranked player in this group at No. 48 in the OWGR and also has some appealing recent form. The South African has gained +2.7 or more strokes Off the Tee in his past two PGA Tour events and should set up well for the tight fairways of Silverado this week. While he can be a streaky player on and around the greens, van Rooyen feels like he has the most upside of this group.
Choice: Erik van Rooyen
Who will have the best finishing position? Denny McCarthy, Sam Burns or Bud Cauley
Burns is a player I highlighted for DFS purposes this week in my Cheat Sheet on DraftKings Playbook. The 24-year-old was 16th in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee stats and eighth in Driving Distance last season. Despite missing the cut here last year, he should set up very well for this week’s venue long-term. He carries a pretty significant distance advantage over both Cauley and McCarthy this week, too. McCarthy has now gained strokes on his approaches in four straight starts, which makes him a dangerous player given how well he putts. Cauley has collected three missed cuts in his past six starts and feels like an easy fade. While McCarthy could pop for a decent week here, Burns is the better long-term player and the venue this week should give him an even greater advantage.
Choice: Sam Burns
Who will have the best finishing position? Tyler Duncan, Henrik Norlander or Keegan Bradley
Henrik Norlander went on a solid run near the end of the 2019-20 season but his lack of distance off the tee could hurt him this week. He also doesn’t have great Poa putting splits. Bradley is easily the most accomplished player from this group and gained +6.1 strokes on his approaches in his last start of 2019-20 at THE NORTHERN TRUST. It’s admittedly a very tough decision here between Bradley and 2019 RSM Classic winner Tyler Duncan for me but I’ll lean toward the more consistent Duncan. The 31-year-old has only missed one cut in his past 10 starts and finished T5 at this venue back in 2017.
Choice: Tyler Duncan
Who will have the best finishing position? Lucas Glover, Cameron Tringale or Charley Hoffman
Cameron Tringale played well to end the 2019-20 season, collecting a T3 at the 3M Open back in late July. The American is typically not great off the tee, however, and has only managed to finish inside the top 30 once in six previous visits to Silverado. Lucas Glover ended last year on a bad note, missing four straight cuts. He’s typically been a solid West Coast player but his recent form leaves tons of question marks. That leaves Charley Hoffman. He’s missed the cut at this event twice in two starts but ended last season with top-15 finishes in two of his last four starts. A good week off the tee here and he could take this group rather easily.
Choice: Charley Hoffman
Who will have the best finishing position? Branden Grace, Jim Furyk or Troy Merritt
This is an eclectic group without any real favorite. Merritt is a two-time Tour winner and often cleans up in these weaker-field events. He is going up against two pretty quality players though in Grace and Furyk. Grace would normally be the choice here for me but he’s really had issues in pretty much every facet of the game of late and has missed five straight cuts coming in. That leaves Furyk as the only other option. He did finish T17 here last year (first time playing) but has now missed his past two cuts on the PGA Tour. Merritt wins by default here for me as his putting of late has been solid and that club can always carry him to a big week.
Choice: Troy Merritt
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