The new PGA season is officially here and it starts off with the Safeway Open in Napa, California. The Silverado Country Club North Course will be hosting the event. It is a 7200+ yard Par 72 originally designed by Robert Trent and then completely revamped by Johnny Miller in 2011.
The course is a good test for the golfers and includes several water features, changes in elevation, fairways that can be tight at some points and are lined by redwood, pine, and oak trees. There are quite a few holes that are doglegged and so require the golfers to be able to draw or fade the ball with precision.
The green complexes are pretty generous in size but can be a bit tricky thanks to some undulations to keep things interesting.
The weather has been forecast to be in the mid to late twenties (centigrade) and even though some showers may be seen on Thursday, the rest of the weekend should be absolutely fine.
Brendan Steele won the tournament last year and in 2016 as well, Emiliano Grillo won it in 2015, Bae Sang-moon in 2014, and Jimmy Walker in 2013. The field for the tournament is pretty weak as can be expected just after the completion of a rigorous PGA season so pretty much anyone can win and making a few far-out choices may not be such a bad idea.
Winning this tournament requires striking the ball cleanly and getting some decent distance off the tee. The length of the refurbished course is enough to lend a small advantage to the bombers of the field. The layout of the course is also such that it finishes with a Par 5-4-5 which provides scoring opportunities and clubhouse leaders are on tenterhooks till the very last hole is played out.
Grabbing an early lead is not always the most important thing at this tournament because it allows for some remarkable late comebacks.
Stats the Matter
The Wolf is going to be looking at the following stats this week:
- Strokes Gained: tee to Green
- Bogey Avoidance
- Par 4 Scoring
The course record here is a score of 18 under Par that has been achieved three times. The most recent was during Brendan Steele’s first win at this venue. The last five years have seen scores of between -15 and -18, which is the range we expect the winning score to land in this year as well.
Brendan Steele was 1st for Driving Distance, 3rd for Driving Accuracy, and 4th for Greens in Regulation when he won here last year.
The Wolf’s favorite to win this week lines up with the bookmakers. Patrick Cantlay at $15.00 to win this tournament is a very attractive bid especially considering the weak field he is a part of. Cantlay had an excellent season last year and was very consistent towards the end. He finished in the top-25 in all but two of his last eight starts.
He is 9th for Strokes gained: Tee to Green, 27th for par 4 Scoring, 47th for Bogey Avoidance, and only 86th for Proximity. The Wolf thinks this tournament could be an early opportunity for Cantlay to build on last season’s momentum.
The value bet this week according to the Wolf is Joaquin Niemann at $26.00 for the outright win. At just 19 years of age, Niemann is one of the most talented golfers on the Tour and would have learned immensely from a good first season last year. He has the game to be able to get the necessary distance and get to the greens in regulation. If his putter is running hot then he could easily win this tournament.
For the long shot, the Wolf likes Chris Kirk at $51.00. Kirk played three rounds of the FedEx Cup Playoffs just concluded and missed playing at the Tour Championship narrowly. He was T11 at the Wyndham Championship last season as well.
His stats are also excellent. Kirk is 10th for Proximity, 9th for Bogey Avoidance, 15th for Par 4 Scoring, and 37th for Strokes Gained: Tee to Green. At the price he is being offered, Chris Kirk is well worth a punt.
Best: Patrick Cantlay ($15.00)
Value: Joaquin Niemann ($26.00)
Roughie: Chris Kirk ($51.00)
Tournament By Country
Top Aussie: Aaron Baddeley ($4.00)
Top European: Jonas Blixt ($13.00)
Top Rest of World: Joaquin Niemann ($9.00)
Cantlay vs Moore: Patrick Cantlay ($1.72)
Snedeker vs Mickelson: Brandt Snedeker ($1.80)
Grillo vs Niemann: Joaquin Niemann ($2.00)
Top USA: Tony Finau ($12.00)
Top European: Rory McIlroy ($3.20)
Top Rest of World: Cameron Smith ($6.00)