The Safeway Open
So, after a nice weeks break where we got to watch the Ryder Cup it’s back down to our bread and butter as the 2018/19 PGA Tour season gets underway.
The 17/18 season was a pretty successful one as we finished the year with a profit in excess of 65 points.
The 18/19 season promises to be an interesting one with significant changes having been made to the calendar including the addition of two brand new events over back to back weeks at the end of June/beginning of July.
I would like to think though none of this will have an impact on our efforts and hopefully we can improve on last season’s campaign.
So back to this week and we start, as is customary now, with the seasons curtain raiser, The Safeway Open.
The Safeway Open was first staged as The Fry’s Electronics Open in 2007. The following year the event was renamed the Fry’s.com Open.
In 2010 the event then moved from its initial home in Arizona to the CordeValle Club in San Martin, California, before finally arriving at it’s current home, The Silverado Country Club in Napa, for the 2014-15 season.
The event was then renamed The Safeway Open for the 2016-17 season.
This years event represents the first at the course since wildfires hit the surrounding area badly right at the end of last years tournament forcing a hasty evacuation. Fortunately no significant damage was done to the resort.
The field includes one player straight of the plane from Paris, Phil Mickelson, and another player along with Phil who made the Tour Championship, Patrick Cantlay.
At the time of writing Cantlay heads up the market followed by Snedeker and Ryan Moore.
Silverado North Course is a par 72 measuring just over 7150yds.
The greens are Bent Grass with Poa Annua.
The course was originally opened in 1955 before being redesigned by Robert Trent Jones Jnr in 1966.
In 2010 the resort was then purchased by a consortium including Johnny Miller.
At this point Miller, who’s long term goal is to attract a major championship to the venue oversaw a renovation/redesign of the course.
Silverado is a classical, tree lined set up with narrow fairways, which are tough to find. The rough historically however has not been overly penal and this making the course fairly ‘gettable’.
With a bunch of rookies teeing it up on the tour for the first time, mixed in with players who have salvaged there card at the Web.com finals after having had a bad year on tour, inevitably this week is a leap to a certain extent in to the unknown.
On that basis I thought it would make sense not only to look at the recent winners of the event but also the players who have made the frame, to analyse how many rookies/players who came through the web.com finals have won or placed here.
For the purpose of this exercise I have chosen to look at the last four editions of the event, which are the ones which have been played at Silverado.
The players marked in bold are the ones who have obtained their card through the Web.com, whether through the regular season or the finals.
2017. 1st B Steele, 2nd T Finau, 3rd C Hadley, 4th P Mickelson, T5th G Delaet, T5th T Duncan, T7th B Cauley, T 7th A Landry.
2016. 1st B Steele, 2nd P Kizzire, T3rd P Casey, T3rd M Kim, T3rd S Piercy, T3rd J Wagner, 7th K Na.
2015. 1st E Grillo, 2nd K Na, T3rd J Bohn, T3rd J Thomas, T3rd T V Aswegen, T6th K Reifers, T6th J Rose, T6th P Rodgers, T6th C Schwartzel.
2014 1st S M Bae, 2nd S Bowditch, T3rd R Goosen, T3rd M Laird, T3rd H Matsuyama, T3rd H Mahan, T3rd B Molder.
If we work on the basis that the top 7 places constitute the frame, over the past four years 31 players have made the frame including ties.
As we can then see of these 31 players 8 of them have been players who were on the tour having gained/retained there card through the web.com the previous season.
In other words just under 25% of the players making the frame have come through this route.
Now of course one way of looking at it could simply be that with 144 players teeing it up and with approximately 40-50 of them being web.com grads you would statistically expect around 1/3 of those to place to have come from this route, meaning this is no surprise.
On the flip side though with a fare chunk of those players being rookies teeing it up on tour for their first full season you might expect these players to have some nerves and to not perform so well out of the blocks.
In fact though the opposite appears to be the case as of those 8 to make the frame 5 of them, Duncan, Landry, Kizzire, Kim & Grillo were rookies embarking on their first full seasons.
Furthermore, these 5 players have all made the frame in the past 3yrs, which adds testament to the fact that more and more these days players are ready to hop straight of the Web.com and produce the goods on the PGA Tour.
Moving on from this if we look at the recent winners of the event itself since it moved to Silverado, although solid ball strikers Steele[twice] and Grillo have won here, aggressive players like Mickelson, Finau and Piercy have all performed well here as well. In addition 2014 winner Sangmoon Bae is not particularly renowned as the most solid of tee to green players.
In other words many different types of players can get the job done here.
With regards to the winning score in the four years the event has been played at Silverado we have seen -15 get the job done three times whilst it took -18 from Brendan Steele in 2016.
For the first week of the season we look to have four days of sunny conditions. This is what you’d tend to expect for California at this time of year however there is the potential for some showers on Tuesday & Wednesday leading in to the event.
Temperatures look to be pretty nippy for earlier starters on both Thursday & Friday with around 50 showing for 7-8am before it gradually warms up in to the 70s later in the day.
Wind does not look to be an issue on Friday or Saturday however Thursday PM could get above 10mph whilst Sunday PM could see the strongest winds of the week at around 15mph.
As I always say though…this could all change!
I have gone with five players this week as follows;
SANGMOON BAE –40-1 - 1pt e/w 1/5 odds 1st 8 FINISHED MC
My first selection of the new 18-19 PGA Tour season is Korean Sangmoon Bae.
As was well documented Bae missed the whole of the 15/16 & 16/17 seasons as he was completing his two year Korean military service.
Upon his return to the tour this time last year he received the equivalent of a medical exemption allowing him in theory to pick up where he left off, however quite understandably after a two year absence from any kind of competitive golf he found things a real struggle.
Things were such a struggle in fact that in seventeen starts on the tour he only made five cuts with his best result being a 15th place at Pebble Beach.
As a result the 31yr old found himself at the web.com finals trying to salvage his card.
This is where things clicked in to place for Bae as after finishing 35th in the first event he finished 6th in the second before winning the third.
So with the job of locking up his card secured Bae now tees it up for the first time since his win, at a venue which was the scene of his second and most recent PGA tour victory, Silverado.
One course connection that I am keen to pursue this week is between Silverado and Riviera, the home of the Genesis Open in LA, as when the PGA tour first came to Silverado back in 2014 several players drew comparison between the tour courses.
It is therefore good to note that as well as winning at Silverado Bae had three consecutive top 12 finishes at Riviera from 2013 to 2015.
My hope this week is that now Bae seems to have rediscovered his form just when it mattered he can ride that crest of a wave and contend again at a course that clearly suits his eye.
Prior to his sabbatical from tour Bae made it all the way to the Tour Championship and competed in the Presidents Cup. Basically he was on his way to the very top of the game and I am optimistic that he can continue on the road to returning there this week with a strong performance.
PATRICK CANTLAY – 14-1 – 1.5pts E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 7 FINISHED 17th
One of the main reasons I enjoy golf betting so much is the challenge of trying to dig out that 150-1 winner that you come up with every now and then based on the spurious connection of the player in question having once won an event in the same state on the web.com tour 5yrs ago, coupled with the fact that they used to visit the area to see their Grandma when they were a kid etc etc.
There is no doubt that finding one of these winners gives you a great feeling, [never mind a great boost to the bank balance!]. However there is a time and place for this and there is also a time and place for another phrase that springs to mind this week, which is “If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck it probably is a duck”….
The Duck in question this week that I am referring to is Patrick Cantlay, and even at the fairly skinny prices on offer I can’t get away from him.
The 26yr old Californian makes his debut this week at Silverado however I have to believe this will be a course that, if you pardon the pun, he will take to ‘like a duck to water’.
Cantlay ranked 9th on the PGA Tour in 2017/18 in ball striking so he sits very favourably alongside two time winner [& fellow Californian] Brendan Steele and previous winner Grillo who are both very strong in this department.
Then you come to the Riviera connection, Patrick finished 4th in the Genesis Open earlier this year and really should have won that event.
Patrick gained his first PGA Tour win in the fall series last year at The Shriners in Vegas and it is only a matter of time until the second one comes along.
Since that win in Vegas last October he has only missed two cuts and, with all due respect to his fellow competitors this week, this will be the first time that he has teed it up in a field that lacks the real star quality names [If you exclude what must surely be a mentally drained Mickelson who is also struggling hugely for form] since that win.
Basically the event is there for the taking and I think we would be foolish to ignore Cantlay this week.
CAMERON DAVIS – 100 -1 - 1pt E/W – 1/4 odds 1st 5 FINISHED 17th
One rookie I am keen to have on side straight away is Aussie Cameron Davis.
Just how good Davis turns out to be only time will tell, however at 23yrs old he has already won the Australian Open fending off a field, which included Jordan Spieth and Jason Day and has gained his PGA tour card through the web.com finals, whilst also winning once in the regular season in the eleven starts he made.
Last time out at the web.com Tour championship he made three eagles in his final round to close out with a 66 for 3rd place finish to wrap up his card.
I mentioned earlier on that several big hitting, aggressive players like Mickelson, Piercy and Finau have performed well at Silverado over recent years and Cameron’s stats would certainly seem to put him in that bracket as he finished last seasons Web.com tour 8th in driving distance and 3rd in putting.
At the prices on offer this week I am happy to take a chance that Cam can get his full PGA Tour career of to a flyer and have a great week.
EMILIANO GRILLO – 33-1 –1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 7 FINISHED 41st
The second former Safeway Open champion from Silverado to make our team this week is the Argentine Emiliano Grillo.
Since securing his maiden tour win here three years ago Grillo has been unable to add a second victory to his tally, however there were plenty of signs over the past season that the second win isn’t far away.
Emiliano notched no less than six top 10 finishes over the past season, the most recent of, which came in his second to last start at the Dell Technologies Championship.
When the 26yr old won here in 2015 there was an argument to say that the win, which came off the back of his win in his previous start at The Web.com finals, was just a case of him riding a ‘hot hand’, however since then he has finished 26th and 28th in two further visits, so the course clearly does fit his eye.
It should also be noted that last year he was only one shot behind eventual winner Brendan Steele going in to the final round, until a 77 saw him tumble down the field.
It is now over twelve months since Grillo last missed a cut in a regular PGA tour solo event showing that he has become one of the most consistent players on tour.
One of the main reasons for this high level of consistency is that in addition to his trade mark ball striking abilities Grillo finished the 2017/18 season 12th in Strokes Gained Putting.
Primed and ready to win again I can see Emiliano going very close to notching that elusive second PGA Tour win this week.
ALEX PRUGH 100-1 –1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 FINISHED 33rd
For my final pick of the first week of the season I am going with 34yr old Alex Prugh.
It’s two full seasons since Alex last fully graced the PGA Tour and there is no denying that his last season out here, 15/16 was a hugely disappointing one.
Whilst 16/17 back on the Web.com tour showed some signs of improvement it is only this year that he has recovered any great level of consistency with four top 10s in the regular season enough to help him regain his card
This is obviously all well and good but what makes Alex standout to me this week is his phenomenal record on the West Coast, specifically in California, when he was previously on the tour.
To be precise Alex has made 16 starts in the state of California over his PGA Tour career and he has finished in the top 10 in 6 of these starts!
When you consider that some of these starts came in seasons when Alex was horribly out of form such as 15-16, it becomes very clear that when he is on his game he loves playing in California.
This season Prugh arrives in California on the back of a very solid run of form, which includes four top 10s and only one missed cut in his last ten starts…and guess what one of these top 10s, a 4th place finish came at the Ellie Mae Classic in California.
Clearly Alex is in good nick at the moment and at the prices on offer I am happy to take a chance that he continues his love affair with the Golden State.
UPDATED 3rd OCTOBER
TRADER - STEPHAN JAEGER FINISHED MC
For my first trader of the new season I am going to return to a name that was featured in my previews on a few occassions over the past season, the German Stephan Jaeger.
Other than the fact that I am convinced Stephan will repay my loyalty at some point in the not too ditant future there are sound reasons for thinking that this could potentially be the week.
Firstly after a shaky time on the PGA Tour this year, which had seen him make only four cuts in his first fourteen events of the calendar year he found some comparative momentum in the latter stages of the season by making six of his last seven cuts. He then went on to secure his card with two top 10s in four starts in the Web.com finals.
In addition this time last year he arrived at Silverado on the back of three straight missed cuts in his final three web.com events before notching a 30th place finish in his first start on the PGA Tour as a full time member.
The final clincher for me this week is that Stephan's greatest moment to date, his astonishing -30 total to win the 2016 Ellie Mae Classic, which included a round of 58, came at TPC Stonebrae in the San Fransisco Bay area, which is basically less than 90 minutes away from this weeks venue.
You would therefore have to think this must be an area that Stephan feels very comfortable in.
I can see Stephan having a strong week and continuing his recent momentum and I am happy to make him our first trader of the new season.
CURRENTLY TRADING @ 300+