No matter how the 2019-2020 season on the PGA TOUR went for your favorite golfers and your fantasy lineups, everyone gets a fresh start at this week’s Safeway Open at Silverado Resort and Spa in Napa, Calif. Since last season was so unconventional with a delay and so many events rescheduled, this season will get off to an unusual start with the U.S. Open and The Masters moved to this fall and the WGC-HSBC in China canceled. This tournament, though, will take place as normally scheduled as the lid-lifter on the new season for the eighth consecutive year. Previously known as the Frys.com Open, the event has seen notable winners since its move to the first tournament of the season including Emiliano Grillo ($9,700), Jimmy Walker ($6,400), Brendan Steele ($10,000) twice and last year’s champion Cameron Champ.
The North Course at Silverado has hosted the event every year since the 2014 edition, so we have six years of course history to examine. The venue is named after the Silverado Mine, which is located nearby, and features a par-72 redesigned by Johnny Miller. Milliken Creek is in play on one hole but for the most part, there isn’t a ton of water to worry about and the course relies on slopes, bunkers and Redwood trees to offer resistance.
The field for this event normally doesn’t have the big names from the top of the FedEx Cup standings, especially since the TOUR Championship didn’t reach its conclusion until Monday at East Lake. There are still plenty of recognizable names, though, led by Phil Mickelson ($10,600), Matt Kuchar ($10,400), Sergio Garcia ($9,900) and Jordan Spieth ($9,800). We’re back to a typical top-65 and ties cut after the second round as well, so you’ll need to pick your value plays carefully, especially if you are paying up for some of those bigger names. Here are the four plays at $7,500 or less that I like the most heading into another great week of fantasy golf on the PGA TOUR.
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Maverick McNealy, $7,300
McNealy made the cut in the first two events in the FedEx Cup playoffs before taking last week off after finishing No. 68 in the FedEx Cup rankings. He also finished in the top-10 twice in July, once at the Barracuda Championship and once at the Rocket Mortgage Classic.
The Stanford native and alum should feel at home back in California at Silverado, where he has made the cut in all three of his appearances. He hasn’t posted a high finish but did post his best score with a -3 at the event last year. The 24-year-old hasn’t won on the PGA TOUR but could get his season off to a strong start with a good finish here.
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Troy Merritt, $7,100
Since the restart, Merritt has also been playing well and posted top-10 finishes at the same two events that McNealy did. He finished runner-up at the Barracuda Championship and T8 at the Rocket Mortgage Classic. While he did miss three cuts in four events during a stretch in late July and early August, he bounced back to finish T59 at the Wyndham and T29 at THE NORTHERN TRUST before being eliminated from the FedEx Cup playoffs.
Merritt is typically a boom-or-bust play and his history at Silverado lines up with that. He has missed the cut in two of the past five seasons but placed T15 in 2016 and T4 in 2018 just one shot out of the three-way playoff won by Kevin Tway ($6,600). Merritt has a higher ceiling than McNealy but he’s also a little bit higher risk as well.
Kristoffer Ventura, $7,000
The 25-year-old Norwegian earned his way onto the PGA TOUR last season with a couple of wins on the Korn Ferry Tour in the 2019 season. As a rookie, he ranked 12th in birdie average and finished No. 156 in the FedEx Cup rankings. He played especially well after the restart, making the cut in four of his past five events with top-25 finishes at the Barracuda and Rocket Mortgage. He also made the cut at the Wyndham and would have finished much higher than his T37 if he hasn’t slipped with a 72 in the final round.
Ventura showed his skill with the flat stick, finishing seventh overall last season in putting. However, he needs to improve his game around the green if he wants to take the next step. While he didn’t have a great week at the Safeway last year, he did make the cut and finished T62.
Aaron Baddeley, $6,400
Baddeley only made 7-of-17 cuts in the 2019-2020 season but did manage to post a top-25 finish at the 3M Open after the restart. Unfortunately for him, it was the only time he played the weekend even at the Barracuda Championship, where a weaker field should have helped him make the cut.
The reason I think Badds is in play as a punt option this week is that he does have a very strong history at Silverado. He has made the cut here in five of his six appearances, including each of the past two years. He finished T33 last year and T4 in 2018 along with Merritt just one stroke out of a playoff. Baddeley does have four PGA TOUR wins in his career but hasn’t taken home a title since the 2016 Barbasol Championship. At this salary, though, all you need is a made cut for him to be a solid part of your lineup for the Safeway Open.
Set your lineups here: PGA TOUR $750K Fresh Start [$200K to 1st]
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is Z.Thompson) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.