A whole 11 days after the last PGA Tour season ends the new one begins with the regular start up for the campaign at the Safeway Open in California. This is an interesting tournament as it is the first chance those who picked up their tour card through the Web.com tour have to use it but many of them only secured their passages on tour as late as Monday due to the Tour Championship overrunning.
Silverado is once again the venue for a tournament which is gaining in prestige and importance as the season opener. It gives those teeing it up an early chance to secure playing rights for next year and beyond as well as the points and dollars on offer.
2016 – Brendan Steele
2015 – Emiliano Grillo
2014 – Sangmoon Bae
2013 – Jimmy Walker
2012 – Jonas Blixt
2011 – Bryce Molder
2010 – Rocco Mediate
2009 – Troy Matteson
2008 – Cameron Beckman
2007 – Mike Weir
The North Course at the Silverado Spa and Resort will once again stage this event. There has been no change to the course so it remains a par 72 measuring 7,166 yards which should see the scoring remain low even allowing for the rough to be a little thicker this year.
The staple diet around here is fairways and greens but you need a bit of stamina in what are expected to be energy zapping temperatures. The likes of Grillo winning around here suggests we don’t need the best putters but those who can take care of the par 5s like Steele did last year should have an advantage.
You would have to say the field this week is pretty strong for the first event of the season and that is especially the case when many of the tour will be asked to go and promote the brand in Asia over the next couple of weeks.
Phil Mickelson is in the field this week fresh from helping USA win the Presidents Cup. Emiliano Grillo is in it as well despite being on the losing side. Adam Hadwin was lined up but pulled out. Tony Finau, Zach Johnson, Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson bring a star quality to proceedings.
Tony Finau is the 16/1 favourite to win the tournament this week. His big hitting will undoubtedly be useful here but whether he has the experience to cope with being the favourite to win an event, even one this early in the season, is open to debate. I prefer others I must admit.
It will come to the surprise of nobody that Phil Mickelson is the joint second favourite but after he played four rounds of golf in an emotionally charged atmosphere last week he is easy to pass over this week. Webb Simpson is 18/1 just like Mickelson and offers more but he’s a little on the short side given his putting woes.
Zach Johnson and Kevin Na are next in the betting. Na has done everything here but win and if he can hit the ground running there is no reason why he can’t grind his way into the mix. If Zach has got that putter hot here may be no better fit to this place than him. Both will be popular at 28/1.
Two main bets for me this week. Both drive the ball brilliantly well and are more than competent in the other areas of the game. I’m expecting big seasons from both and expect them to start off well here.
I’m certain Jamie Lovemark will win this season. His game is too good not to and he has an ideal chance first up. His driving will be a real asset this week but he can chip and putt as well and if he can dial in some irons then he could lead this lot a bit of a merry dance on a track where he has a decent enough record for this stage in his career.
Ollie Schneiderjans is another one who will be knocking hard on the door this year. He came close at the Wyndham Championship which amazingly enough was only six weeks ago and if he can drive the ball like he has been over the last three months or so he is going to set himself up with some serious chances to score well this week. 50/1 in this field represents very good value on a solid all-rounder.
This is always a tournament I like to fire some darts at with the Web.com players not necessarily known to the world just yet. I’ll take three at bigger prices.
Sam Saunders is well known at this level. Some of that is for his golf and some of it is because he is Arnold Palmer’s grandson but he showed his golfing side last week when he banged in a 59 to open up the Web.com Tour Championship. He had to settle for second spot in the end but you don’t fire in those sorts of scores if you are not hitting the ball well so that ball striking should serve him well this week.
Andrew Landry shot to prominence a couple of years ago when he stayed in the mix at the US Open for a long period but then he fell away and had to go through the Web.com tour to get back to this level. He was third on the money list on that tour last season which is a decent record so he’ll be bringing plenty of good form into this campaign with him. He was sixth in total driving on the Web.com last season and second in putting average. Those stats should be meaningful here.
Patton Kizzire was runner up on debut here last year and there is no reason why he can’t go better here. He went off the rails for a little while having missed out on the title but he went into the playoffs with three top 25s in four events. I’m not going to hold two missed cuts in the playoffs against him on two tough courses in amazing fields but if he can get back to the form that proceeded the postseason he would be in with a chance here. Few hole putts better than he does.
Back J.Lovemark to win Safeway Open (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 41.00 with BetBright (1/4 1-5)
Back him here:
Back O.Schneiderjans to win Safeway Open (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 51.00 with Coral (1/5 1-7)
Back S.Saunders to win Safeway Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 81.00 with Unibet (1/4 1-5)
Back him here:
Back A.Landry to win Safeway Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 126.00 with Betfred (1/4 1-5)
Back him here:
Back P.Kizzire to win Safeway Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 151.00 with Boylesports (1/5 1-6)
Back him here: