The Safeway Open marks the beginning of the PGA Tour season. That’s right, folks. The 2020-21 season is here and we haven’t even had the U.S. Open or the Masters in 2020 yet. Like everything else, the golf world has had to change its plans, but the Safeway Open is still being held in California at the Silverado Resort and Spa.
This is the weakest field we have seen since golf returned with the Charles Schwab Challenge back on June 14. It makes sense, as the U.S. Open is next week and the FedEx Cup Playoffs just finished up in Atlanta. Oh, yeah, and this is “only” a $6.6 million purse.
In any event, it’s a golf tournament that we can handicap, so we’ll do that with the odds from MyBookie Sportsbook and our first full-field event in a few weeks.
There not a lot of household names in the field, but enough guys that were playing well going into the FedEx Cup Playoffs to give this event a good bit of intrigue, especially in betting and DFS circles. Odds for the full field are down below our preview:
The field is light on big names, that’s for sure. Guys like Jordan Spieth and Sergio Garcia are on hand in hopes of getting back on track heading into next week’s major. Phil Mickelson also returns from his Champions Tour cameo to play in his home state.
Two-time champion Brendan Steele is once again in the field and so is Kevin Tway, who won in 2018. Cameron Champ, the reigning champion, is not.
Emiliano Grillo is also a past winner here and he was playing well down the stretch of the previous season. These are the types of events where you want to look for some young guys that are emerging, like Doc Redman and Maverick McNealy. This remains the only win for Grillo and was the second win for Champ. Two of Steele’s three career wins are here. This is an event for guys that don’t have a whole lot of wins.
This is a pretty short par 72 coming in at 7,166 yards on the North Course. Historically, this hasn’t totally been a ball striker’s course like most of the ones that we have seen recently. The putter really comes into play here. The shorter distance brings a lot of players into the mix, though there was a higher emphasis on SG: Approach last season. Kyle Stanley led the field in SG: APP, but missed the cut. The next seven guys all made the cut and three finished in the top 10.
The longest par 4 on the course only plays 456 yards, so we have a chance to see some low scores on the par 4s this week. The par 3s are a little more challenging and two of the three par 5s are 16 and 18, so coming home on Sunday could be interesting.
Based on the layout of the course, driving accuracy and putting, with a lot of sloped greens, will be the key metrics this week. These are poa greens and players have complained about how rough of a ride their putts get on the way to the hole. Proximity to the hole looks to be key as well.
Yay or Neigh?
With our horse for course section, let’s look at some guys that have had success here. This event is happening a couple weeks earlier, so the course could play a little different, though temperatures look to be in the 60s in Napa, so that could leave some pretty normal course conditions.
As you would expect with the usual fields of this event, we don’t have a ton of consistency. Phil Mickelson missed the cut last year, but was 17th, 3rd, and 8th prior to that. Brendan Steele has the two wins in 2016 and 2017, but he has finished 60th and 53rd the last two years. Kevin Tway has a win, a MC, a 52nd, and a 62nd the last four years. That’s why he’s 200/1 as past winner.
Harold Varner III has played well here and had a pretty good end to the season after the restart. He’s finished in the top 20 in three of the last four years, including 17th and 14th the last two years.
It’s California, so you know Brandt Snedeker has played well. Sneds was the runner-up in 2019 and was 17th last year. He was also 17th in 2016 before a two-year hiatus from this event.
Troy Merritt missed the cut last year, but was 4th in 2019. He was also 15th in 2017. Similarly, Luke List missed the cut last year after finishing 4th in 2019. Martin Laird was a MC victim last year and was 46th in 2019, but he was 17th in 2018, 8th in 2017, and 3rd back in 2015.
Hunter Mahan was 17th in 2019 and 13th in 2018 but skipped last year’s event. Like I said, not a whole lot of consistency here on the whole.
This is a flawed field, but we are seeing some guys here that don’t really play here that will be interesting to say the least. Sergio basically never plays this event. He’s in pretty poor form, though. Jordan Spieth hasn’t played the last five years here. Erik Van Rooyen, who was a popular pick for some events prior to the playoffs, is also making his first start here. Shane Lowry also doesn’t play this event and he is here. Course form is up for debate most of the time anyway, but this week, it seems to matter even less.
We’re starting a new season, so everything gets wiped clean, but we can still look back at the 2019-20 season to see what happened. There isn’t a ton of equity in shortening the course here, but the rough is also pretty thin, so not hitting the fairway won’t hurt the big bombers all that much. Still, these are narrow fairways and the short grass is always preferable to the thicker cuts.
Harold Varner III is on the card this week. He’s played well at Silverado and was a top-10 player in SG: T2G during the last PGA Tour season with names like Xander Schauffele, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, and Scottie Scheffler around him. Varner did not putt well at all last season, but he’s had good finishes here, which would imply that he’s done well enough on the poa to be dangerous. He was also T-56th in proximity to the hole, so maybe he can make life easier on himself.
Doc Redman makes the card this week at 35/1. Redman was tied for seventh in proximity to the hole last year. He’s one of the best ball strikers in the field. The problem has been his putter and that worries me on these poa annua greens, but Redman can go flag hunting at an event like this and make life easier on himself. He was T-13th in driving accuracy during the last PGA Tour season. He was also top 40 in SG: Tee-to-Green. So long as he can sink a few putts, I like him a lot here in this weakened field.
Redman will be the shortest play for me. Without elite players in this field, this one is ripe for a long shot. Lucas Glover is an interesting player at 66/1. He really fell apart late with four missed cuts, including an exit from the playoffs in The Northern Trust, but the stats looked good for a while. I don’t think I can trust him this week after losing some money on him in matchups and outrights when he was playing better, but I think he’ll be a popular pick.
Instead, I’ll look at a couple different guys in that range. Chesson Hadley is one of them at 80/1. Hadley was 22nd in driving accuracy last season and T-4th in proximity to the hole. He struggled badly with the putter, so he didn’t take advantage of those good iron and wedge shots, but he was third here back in 2018 and 23rd last year. Maybe he likes the poa. Maybe he likes the course. Whatever the case, he fits the profile for me as a guy that can hit fairways and get close to the hole.
Two putters I’m looking at this week are Troy Merritt at 80/1 and Kristoffer Ventura at 90/1. Merritt was 23rd in SG: Putting during the season, but also 41st in driving accuracy. Ventura was fourth in SG: Putting. He isn’t the most accurate driver, but this is an event where you can be pretty average in a lot of categories but putt well and come away win some good finishes.
Varner, Redman, Hadley, and Merritt are the guys that make the cut as pre-tournament wagers for me.
Coverage of the Safeway Open will be on Golf Channel and PGA Tour Live this week.
Odds to win the Safeway Open from MyBookie Sportsbook on 9/8 at 6 p.m. ET:
|SI WOO KIM||+2000|
|HAROLD VARNER III||+2800|
|ERIK VAN ROOYEN||+3300|
|RAFAEL CABRERA BELLO||+8000|
|J B HOLMES||+10000|
|C T PAN||+16000|
|TED POTTER JR||+40000|
|D J TRAHAN||+50000|
|BO VAN PELT||+50000|
|D A POINTS||+100000|
|STEVE WATANABE JR||+200000|