This week the Tour heads to Silverado Country Club in beautiful Napa, California for the Safeway Open. The Swing Season is in full effect and this rendition of the Safeway sees a rather stacked field when compared to previous renditions, but who wouldn’t want to go to Napa in the fall?! Thomas, Cantlay, Molinari, DeChambeau and Scott headline an event that will also see Phil’s Calves making an appearance. It is also necessary to mention Brenden Steele as a participant as his entire PGA Tour career has been made at this event as he is a two-time winner. Silverado is set in the wine country of Napa and has hosted a tour event off and on dating back to 1968. Johnny Miller redesigned the course in 2011 and what is left is a classical tree lined track that is ripe for scoring. With that said, let’s dive into the specifics of Silverado.
The North Course at Silverado Country Club is not an overly long Par 72 coming in at just over 7,150 yards. The course’s main defense is the number of doglegs and huge trees placed strategically to block approach shots. The fairways are on the tight side and rather difficult to hit, ranking the 3rd most difficult in 2017, and 5th most last year but the penalty for missing them isn’t massive as the rough isn’t difficult to work out of.
The greens offer a bit of a test as players who are not comfortable on the Poa Annua surface can struggle. For those new to the world of golf handicapping, Poa is a unique grass that is found predominantly on the West Coast. The issue comes in the afternoon, Poa grows unevenly and when it is hit with a little sun a bumpy surface is usually the result. The green complexes themselves are extremely undulated and the greenside rough has been thick in past years.
It is also important to note that wind has been a feature of this tournament in the past and that looks no different this week with winds forecasted from 12-16 MPH. Keep this in mind when capping First Round Leader bets (check my Twitter account on Wednesday for my plays) where AM players have dominated the market and consider backing strong wing players in any analysis
The last three winners here have average a finishing positions of 13th in Strokes Gained Off The Tee and 4th in Strokes Gained Approach which suggests, like most weeks, ball striking will be the path to victory. This will absolutely be reflected in my model. While past putting stats are the least predictive of future success, Poa greens are the exception to that, so I will be looking for players who have shown the ability to putt well on the bumpy surface. Finally, with winnings scores ranging from -15 to -20, birdies will need to be made to be successful so I will look at the Opportunities Gained statistic which credits players for approach shots hit within 15 feet. Onto the Plays!
Collin Morikawa +3300 – Morikawa burst onto the scene in 2019 immediately after turning pro with a 2nd at the 3M Open, a 4th at the John Deere and a win at the Barracuda Championship. His success came on the back of incredible ball striking and he comes in 4th in the category in this field in his last 24 rounds, gaining an average of over 1.5 strokes ball striking per round. I also love the fact that Morikawa is no stranger to Poa greens. Collin played his collegiate golf at Cal, located roughly an hour from Napa, and Poa is the predominant green surface in the Bay Area. Finally, in a field that is relatively void of players who have shown the ability to close a tournament, Morikawa did just that a few short months ago with birdies on the final two holes to capture his first PGA Tour title. All things considered I will gladly back a kid who I think has a chance to be a superstar on Tour at a number this high.
Byeong Hun An +3000 – Benny An is close and I’m not going to miss out on his win. He gained an unprecedented (for him) 4.2 strokes putting last week at the Sanderson and how he didn’t win with that performance is mind-boggling. See, Benny is one of the best ball strikers on Tour, he is also one of the most titling to back because he will miss 4 footer after 4 footer. His form is very solid, missing only one cut since the PGA and finishing 3rd last week while gaining almost 8 strokes ball striking and holding the 54-hole lead. An is also an excellent wind player, ranking 11th in the field when winds kick up above 10 mph on average. All this coupled with a relatively weak swing season field and this is a perfect opportunity for the former U.S. Amateur Champion to come away with his first win.
Cameron Tringale Top 20 +600 – I have to admit, this is one of my favorite bets of the entire year and Tringale at 6/1 to top 20 (ties pay in full) is criminally mispriced. Tringale comes in 8th in my model behind excellent form. He has missed only 1 cut since May during which he has finished in the top 20 in 4 of 9 starts including a 16th last week at the Sanderson. During those same 9 starts Tringale has gained strokes ball striking in every tournament besides 1. 6/1 implies Tringale has a 14% chance to place in the top 20 or better. I’ve backed Tringale at 3/1 and lower at prior events this season and considering the strength of this field, or lack thereof, and the fact that ties pay in full, this number should be far closer to that 3/1. I will gladly take a grossly mispriced number on Tringale here.
2u Adam Scott -1.5 (+105) ov Sungjae Im – Situationally and statistically, this is as good as it gets and if it weren’t for this being a Swing Season event, motivations are questionable and I know for a fact Mr. Scott enjoys his fine Napa wine, this play would garner max wager. First, Im is coming off a heartbreaking loss in a playoff last week. Fading players after near misses is one situational spot that has been very profitable for me as losing in that fashion is extremely draining mentally. Couple this with the fact that Im basically plays every single week and my thought is that he has to be fatigued. Statistically this line suggests Scott and Im are similar caliber players. This cannot be further from the truth. Scott, a multiple winner on Tour, closed the season with 5th, 9th, and 6th place finishes behind his typical insane ball striking. What is surprising is that Scott somehow managed to gain strokes putting in each of those three events. Scott making putts is when you usually find him in the winner’s circle. To me, Im is largely smoke and mirrors. He came onto tour heralded for his ball striking, but his success this season has been found behind his putter. He had a miserable West Coast swing early this season, losing strokes on the Poa greens. Back on this surface I don’t see him able to continue the success with the flat stick that will be necessary to hide what has been very average ball striking and backing Scott at a small favorite over Im is a gift.
That is it for this week’s breakdown! Thank you for reading. My Outright plays are below, look for my full card on Wednesday morning and as always feel free to shoot me any questions on Twitter @jmazzjd!