The Safeway Open
After a great week to start the 2019/20 PGA Tour campaign at the Greenbrier it was a but like ‘after the lord mayor’s show’ for us at the Sanderson Farms Championship as the majority of our team never really got going and the one who did, Scottie Scheffler, stalled over the weekend.
Even so though it was a really enjoyable tournament to watch on Sunday and all credit to Sebastian Munoz for finding a birdie when needed on the 72nd hole before pinching the trophy from under Sungjae Im’s nose in the playoff.
So onwards we go to 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.
After two weeks of events where the fields have been dominated by Korn Ferry tour graduates, the rank and file of the PGA Tour and of course the ever present Sungjae Im, this weeks field sees several big guns making their 19/20 seasonal bow including Justin Thomas, Patrick Cantlay, Hideki Matsuyama and Adam Scott.
At the time of writing Thomas heads up the market from Cantlay, Matsuyama and Scott.
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’.
So let’s firstly take a look at the winners of the event since it moved to Silverado in 2014.
2014 Sang Moon Bae
2015 Emiliano Grillo
2016 Brendan Steele
2017 Brendan Steele
2018 Kevin Tway
The first thing we should bear in mind when looking at this list is that until this season this event was holding down the spot of the first PGA Tour event of the new season, the slot which has now gone to the Greenbrier, and from that point of view the primary factor to consider coming in to the week was momentum that players had picked up either at the end of the previous PGA season or at the Korn Ferry tour finals.
This is something, which is born out by the fact that ten of the 39 players to make the Top 7 places[& ties] over the past five years were players who had won or regained their cards through the Korn Ferry Tour. These include 2015 winner Grillo who was victorious here straight of the back of winning the Korn Ferry Tour Championship.
This year though we are presented with a different scenario as we are already of course two events in to the new PGA Tour season and from that point of view we have a field which includes a mix of players making their seasonal debut and those who have already found some momentum at the Greenbrier and Sanderson Farms.
Taking a closer look now at the winners here and we see that three of the five winners Steele [twice] and Grillo are renowned for their ball striking prowess from tee to green.
In addition, while this is not necessarily the case for last years winner Kevin Tway as a rule, he did have a great week here off the tee in 2018 gaining more than eight strokes on the field in SGTTG and finishing the week ranked third in that category.
Whilst as noted above with it being the first event of the season this has been a good hunting ground for Korn Ferry graduates the winners themselves with the exception of Grillo have tended to perform here on the back of a steady but unspectacular end to their previous season on tour.
Last years winner Tway…while Steele when winning here for the second time had ended his previous campaign with four missed cuts in seven starts and nothing better than 24th place since June. He did though of course have the benefit of returning to the scene of his victory from the previous year and a course he obviously loves.
Looking back a year further though at Steele’s first win here we see that he had again finished the previous campaign with a whimper posting nothing better than 17th place in six starts since early July.
Finally 2015 winner Sang Moon Bae had ended his previous season with some in and out form, which had included a 14th place at the Wyndham and three missed cuts in his last four starts.
The message seems fairly clear then, don’t be too concerned if your fancy here isn’t in great form coming in or is making there first start after a fairly slow end to their previous campaign.
With current form not being a huge issue the next thing to look at is course form. Bae naturally was getting his first look at the track competitively when he won here as was Grillo the following year. Steele though having grown up in California was 21st and 17th here the two years prior to his two victories while Tway was making his second start here having finished 62nd the previous year. Again then it would seem previous course form is not imperative.
One other line worth looking at though is course form elsewhere in California and particularly at Riviera, a course which several players likened to Silverado when they first got a look at this venue.
Sang Moon Bae had performed well at Riviera prior to winning here including having held the halfway lead and Brendan Steele had made his five previous cuts at Riviera including posting finishes of 14th and 10th. Finally while last years winner Tway has ‘no previous’ at Riviera the two men he beat in the play off Moore and Snedeker have strong records there and of course Sneds is a California specialist full stop.
Looking at the winning score we have seen -15 get the job done on three occasions and -18 was the number for Steele in 2016. Last year though -14 was enough to make the play off, which Tway emerged victorious from.
The early part of the week leading in to the tournament calls for sizzling temperatures in the high nineties, however things then cool off relatively down to the high 70s for tournament days.
Rain doesn’t look to be an issue and we should see a firm golf course.
Wind could however be a factor with 10-15mph showing on the first three days and 20mph+ gusts potentially on Saturday before a calmer day on Sunday.
As I always say though…this could all change!
I have gone with five players this week as follows;
ADAM SCOTT –16-1 - 2pts Win - FINISHED 17th
I have to be honest I’ve found this a tricky event to get a clear line of thought on with the new slot in the schedule somewhat muddying the waters.
Normally on that basis I would be looking to speculate at bigger priced odds and there will be room for some of that later on, however from those at the top of the market my eyes keep getting drawn back to Adam Scott.
My logic with Scott is a fairly simple one, as noted already this has been an event where over recent years players who excel from tee to green tend to come to the fore and this obviously is Scott’s strength.
Fourth ranked in SGTTG and fourth ranked in SGATTG last season, while Adam is making his debut at Silverado this week, this is a course, which really should be right up his alley.
The other thing that points me in Adam’s direction regarding this is that while this is his first go around here, his record over the years at Riviera, the track that I see this venue most closely aligned to, is really strong, with numerous top ten finishes over the years as well as a win, albeit in a rain shortened event way back in 2005.
Scott finished the 2018/19 season in fine style with three consecutive top ten finishes and while he has now had a month long break he has always been a player who has been able to perform well when fresh.
The Aussie is winless on the tour in over three years, which of course is way too long for a player of his calibre and the fact that he is pitching up here tells me that this is something he wants to put right sooner rather than later and I am happy to side with him to do so this week.
BRANDT SNEDEKER – 33-1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 6 - FINISHED 17th
Another player whose claims I found it hard to ignore this week was Brandt Snedeker.
The obvious angle with Sneds is naturally his record in the state of California. A master on the Poa Brandt has four wins in Cali having won the Farmers twice and the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am twice, so he is a player that always needs to be respected when the tour hits the West Coast.
This time last year Brandt came very close to adding the Safeway Open to his California collection, however having lead the tournament through three rounds he stumbled to a final round of 74 before losing out in the three man play off to Kevin Tway.
Roll the clock forward twelve months and Sneds now returns to Silverado on the back of a quiet 19/20 season debut, which saw him finish 45th at the Sanderson Farms.
While there was nothing in Sneds’ numbers that really caught the eye in Mississippi I am happy to dismiss that showing for what it was, a loosener on a course he had never clapped eyes on competitively before, and instead focus on his strong end to his 18/19 season, which saw him post back to back top six finishes in the first two play off events.
On this basis Brandt’s game is clearly in decent working order and he will be keen to make a big impression over the next few weeks with the Presidents Cup wild card picks still up for grabs.
Not unexpectedly the part of the game that worked best for Sneds last week was his putting and if the outing in Jackson has helped shake the rust of his long game I can see Brandt going very close to adding another tour title to his resume this week.
RYAN MOORE – 66 -1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 6 - FINISHED MC
For my third pick this week I am going to run with the other man who lost out in the play off in this event last year alongside Sneds, Ryan Moore.
Regular readers of this column will be aware that Moore’s is a name that has cropped up here a few times over the last couple of years, however unfortunately to date he is yet to reward us.
This week though I honestly believe this could all change and there are a couple of main reasons for this.
The first of these is the more straightforward ‘golfing based logic’ one and that is simply Moore’s suitability to Silverado.
One of the most accurate players from tee to green Ryan has found this venue one that has really suited his eye on his three visits here and to this end he has posted finishes of 2 17 10.
In addition Ryan has the correlating form at Riviera as well, having racked up a chunk of good finishes there over the years.
My second and somewhat more leftfield reason for liking Moore’s chances this week is what is known in the trade as ‘the nappy factor’, which as most readers will know is basically when a player produces a strong performance following the birth of a child.
In Ryan’s case he and his wife have recently welcomed their third child, Scout, to the world and the point that grabbed my attention most around this is that the UNLV man has won on tour either just before or shortly after the birth of his previous two children.
To expand further Ryan won the Shriners a couple of weeks before his first son Tucker was born while a win at the John Deere came in 2016 a couple of months or so after his second son Sullivan was born. In a nutshell some players struggle with their game with all of the change that comes with Fatherhood while others, like Moore, seem to thrive on it.
Finally, it is worth noting that this is well and truly Ryan’s time of year with all of his wins on tour having come in the run from August through to the end of October.
Basically there is an awful lot to like about Ryan this week and indeed over the next few fall events and when you throw in the fact that he played solidly in the two play-off events he tee’d it up in after Scout’s birth I am very keen to have him on side this week.
BRONSON BURGOON – 80-1 –1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 6 - FINISHED MC
If we are to see a PGA Tour maiden victorious for the third successive week of the new season it may just be that the man to grab the trophy is Bronson Burgoon.
Burgoon’s 2018/19 season saw him finish 135th in the Fedex Cup standings, giving him conditional status for the 19/20 campaign, however Bronson then teed it up in the first two Korn Ferry finals events and posted finishes of 19th and fifth to wrap up his card.
Following on from this Burgoon has started the new campaign in fine fettle and followed up a 19th place finish at the Greenbrier with a sixth place finish at the Sanderson Farm’s, that’s four top 20s on the spin for the Texan.
In his latest performance in Jackson the stats that really caught my eye of Bronson’s were that he finished the week ranked tenth in SGTTG and second in SGATTG, both key guides for this event.
Aside from his great current form the other thing to like about Burgoon this week is his form in other events on tree lined tracks, which perhaps link in to here, in particular it’s worth noting that his two best finishes on tour have come at the CIMB Classic and the John Deere Classic, events which our previous pick Ryan Moore has on his winners resume.
Finally if we look at Burgoon’s form here we see that he finished 17th at Silverado in 2017, a finish that could have been much higher but for a disappointing closing 74.
In summary Bronson is in the form of his life of late and on a course that seems to suit his game I can see a big week for him ahead.
SI WOO KIM - 150-1 –1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 6 - FINISHED 49th
For my final pick this week I am going to roll the dice at big odds on a player we know can get the job done in this company if the opportunity presents itself.
The man in question here is Si Woo Kim and, as is always the case with Si Woo, this pick comes with the caveat of ‘expect anything’.
My case for Si Woo this week is basically made around the form he showed earlier in 2019 in California, which included a third place finish at the course correlating Riviera, the week after he was fourth at Pebble.
After these back to back top four finishes the remainder of the Korean’s 2018/19 campaign was littered with his customary run of missed cuts book ended by two further top fives.
If we look at Si Woo’s most recent results he has now actually played all four days in four consecutive events [all be it one was a ‘no cut’ event!] with the most recent of these being at the Sanderson Farms last week where he faded in to 61st place after a reasonably strong opening.
So on the face of it not really too much to excite us about Si Woo this week and yet I come back to those performances in California earlier in the year and particularly at Riviera, and my hope is that a return to the West Coast may get his juices flowing again.
In addition of course with the Presidents Cup wild cards still up for grabs he will be keen for a strong run of results.
Finally I can’t help thinking that watching his fellow countrymen Im and An fighting things out at the top end of the leadeboard on Sunday may also inspire Si Woo to step up his game and in a week where as I said at the start it is tricky to find an angle I am happy to take a chance on him at big odds.