Safeway Open: Silverado Country Golf Club, Napa, California
The new season of the PGA Tour gets underway with the Safeway Open at the Silverado Country North Course in Napa, California. This course was designed by Robert Trent Jones and is regarded as an excellent golf course by most observers.
It is not the longest course at just over 7200 yards and has fairways that are a little tighter than what is usually seen on the tour. The roughs are pretty forgiving, about 3 inches maximum, allowing bombers to go for their shots but the variety of elevation changes, doglegs, water features and challenging green complexes will ensure that accurate players have an advantage too.
The greens are poa annua grass which can be quite quick and even unpredictable as the day wears on. Overall, this is a golf course where no one kind of player has a definite advantage. The weather at Napa is pretty dry and is expected to remain that way for the duration of the tournament.
The first tournament of the season is always tricky because the field has a lot of new Webb.com players which people know very little about. It also allows for some left field picks to come good as the odds have not quite caught up the players.
Emiliano Grillo was one such winner back in 2015 when he won on his rookie debut. Brendan Steele birdied his last three holes to win by one stroke in 2016 while Sangmoon Bae won the tournament in 2014. Bae is back on the PGA Tour for 2017/18 after completing his military service in South Korea and could be one of the players to keep a close eye on.
This recent winners list suggests that it is the accurate players that will get themselves in excellent positions to attack the holes and score birdies that end up winning the tournament rather than the biggest hitters of the golf ball.
Stats That Matter
This is a course where scoring is going to be key and so the Wolf has identified the following statistics to help narrow down the picks:
– Birdie Average
– Strokes Gained: Putting
– Ball Striking
The winning scores look almost certain to be between 15 under to 18 under since you have to look as far back as 2007 for a winning score outside of that range. Steele finished 18 under last year, while both Grillo and Bae finished 15 under in 2015 and 2014 respectively. The weather conditions are also expected to be much closer to those years and the scoring could follow suit as well.
The Wolf’s has Webb Simpson at $17.00 on top for this week. Simpson is a class player in a relatively weak field and could start the year with a win quite easily. His form ending the previous season was excellent as he recorded a T13 at the Tour Championship and a T9 at the BMW Championship.
He has good knowledge of the course as well and finished T13 here in 2009. Statistically, Simpson is 61st in birdie average, 4th in scrambling, 88th in strokes gained putting and 87th in ball striking. The Wolf also like Tony Finau, a big hitter of the ball, but his inconsistencies down the stretch have Wolfy looking elsewhere.
Jamie Lovemark at $34.00 looks a great bet at the price. He did not have the breakout season everyone was expecting but he did put in some solid performances. Lovemark was almost always around the T25-T30 mark in strong fields and could take advantage of some less fancied opposition in this tournament. He ranks in the top half of the tour for most statistical categories and is well worth the gamble at this price.
Now for the long shot. There were many potential options but the Wolf like Scott Brown at$71.00. He may have been inconsistent in 2017 but with runner up finishes at the Genesis Open and Zurich Classic he could make an early season run. Has the ability to shoot a low number as we saw with his final round 60 in New Orleans! He can definitely go on a birdie blitz and at $71.0, the Wolf says to have something on.
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