This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
THE SAFEWAY OPEN
Winner's Share: $1.118M
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the winner
Location: Napa, Calif.
Course: Silverado Resort & Spa (North)
2018 champion: Kevin Tway
After two weeks of glorified Korn Ferry fields to start the PGA Tour season, we now move way up in class to perhaps the most loaded stateside fall-season event ever. Phil Mickelson, Justin Thomas, Patrick Cantlay, Francesco Molinari, Bryson DeChambeau, Hideki Matsuyama, Adam Scott, Marc Leishman, Collin Morikawa, and even fan favorite Fred Couples have descended into the Napa Valley. So what brings them all here, after the season opened with some of the weakest fields imaginable? Well, Napa is nice, especially if you're a wine drinker. And Silverado Resort & Spa sounds decadent. Maybe they all miss Johnny Miller, Silverado's co-owner and the tournament host? And maybe, just maybe, the season starts too dang soon after the previous season ends and the golfers are just now working their way back into action after a bit of a break.
Regardless, we figured more top guys would play in the fall season, with 10 events on the schedule rather than the six or seven events that were held in past years when the playoffs were involved. That's nearly 25 percent of the entire 2019-20 season, and there are just too many points, not to mention dollars, to leave on the table until January.
Besides the aforementioned 10-pack of golfers, there are more guys in the top 50 in the world rankings peppering the 144-man field: Chez Reavie, Brandt Snedeker, Charles Howell III, Kevin Na Sungjae Im (naturally), Byeong-Hun An and Jim Furyk
For a couple of years, Miller had visions of Tiger Woods showing up – mostly because Woods said he would play first in 2016 and then in 2017, only to yank the football away both times just as Charlie Brown was about to kick it. There was no shot of Woods appearing last year, right after the Ryder Cup. Well, it's 2019, and still no Woods. But for the fourth straight year Miller gets the next-best thing in Mickelson, who this year will be playing the pro-am with Stephen Curry. Even Tony Romo has been given a sponsor's invite, and he has graciously alerted everyone well in advance that if he makes the cut he won't join Jim Nantz for his scheduled NFL game on Sunday. DraftKings pro tip: Let's all plan on Romo announcing his game.
This is the sixth year Silverado has been the host course, so there is some good history. A few years back, it underwent a Miller-led overhaul with the hopes of one day attracting a U.S. Open or PGA Championship. It's not long, but with tree-lined and dog-legged fairways, it somewhat mutes the biggest hitters with narrow landing areas. Silverado usually finds itself somewhere in the middle of the pack on the difficulty meter among all courses. Interestingly, three of the four hardest holes last year were par-3s, led by the 240-yard No. 3. Oddly, the finishing trio of Nos. 16-18 were among the five easiest holes, which would be expected when two of them are par-5s. We'll break all that down and more in the key stats and Champions Profile below.
One more thing about Silverado you may recall: Two years ago, just hours after the tournament ended, California wildfires crept onto the edge of the property. The resort was evacuated, and that included players staying overnight until Monday. No one was hurt, and the grounds and golf course were largely unscathed.
Weather-wise, temperatures were very hot at the beginning of the week, but will settle around the 70s-to-80s during the tournament. Although the humidity will be very high, there's not much chance of rain, and winds are forecast to be mostly light.
Fun Safeway fact: Golfodds.com lists Tony Romo at 10,000-1 to win and set an over/under of 78.5 for his first-round score. He's at the very bottom of the DraftKings board at $6,000, although he has some company, with John Daly and the returning Bo Van Pelt, among others.
Key Stats to Winning at Silverado
Note - The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key stats" follow in importance.
• Greens in regulation/strokes gained: approach
• Scrambling/strokes gained: around the green
• Driving accuracy/strokes gained: off the tee
• Birdie or better percentage
2018 - Kevin Tway (Silverado)
2017 - Brendan Steele (Silverado)
2016 - Brendan Steele (Silverado)
2015 - Emiliano Grillo (Silverado)
2014 - Sangmoon Bae (Silverado)
2013 - Jimmy Walker (CordeValle GC)
2012 - Jonas Blixt (CordeValle GC)
2011 - Bryce Molder (CordeValle GC)
2010 - Rocco Mediate (CordeValle GC)
2009 - Troy Matteson (Grayhawk GC)
In the five years the tournament has been played at Silverado, we have seen some really horrible putting rewarded. Bae ranked 45th in strokes gained: putting, Grillo was 61st, and Steele was 29th in 2017 (he was sixth in 2016), while Tway was a decent 18th. Maybe the poa annua baffles a lot of the golfers. Regardless, they overcame that with strong iron play (greens in regulation) and scrambling. The greens are on the smaller side, which, as we like to note, tends to neutralize the better putters. And the poa annua is definitely an acquired taste. With smaller greens come missed greens in regulation and a greater emphasis on scrambling. Tway led the field in scrambling and both Bae and Grillo ranked third, while Steele was seventh in each of his wins. Bae was the rare golfer in the past 15 years to win a tournament without making a putt longer than 15 feet, according to PGATour.com. Despite all the poor putting, the winning score generally is in the mid-teens. Three of the past five years, it was 15-under and last year Tway won at 14-under. Steele's 18-under two years ago was a bit of an aberration.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS (Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)
Tier 1 Values
Justin Thomas - $11,600 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 7-1)
Thomas played the Safeway Open early in his career, and with great success, tying for third in 2015 and for eighth a year later. But he hasn't been back until now. Thomas battled through a wrist injury last season, but recovered to win the BMW Championship in the playoffs and tie for ninth in the Tour Championship. Just two weeks ago, he announced he had a scare with melanoma, and Tweeted a picture of a surgical scar on his left leg.
Patrick Cantlay - $11,200 (10-1)
Like Thomas, Cantlay has been idle since the Tour Championship. Unlike Thomas, Cantlay played Silverado last year, tying for 17th in his debut. He was the lass of the field then and more accomplished now – especially having improved his putting.
Hideki Matsuyama - $10,500 (16-1)
We like Matsuyama in part because he really came on strong at the end of last season – and last season wasn't that long ago. As we noted, it doesn't take great putting to win this week, but Matsuyama has improved on the greens, finishing inside the top 100 in strokes gained: putting the last two seasons after coming in a woeful 167th during the 2017 campaign. He also played here earlier in his career, tying for 17th in 2015 and for third in 2014.
Byeong-Hun An - $9,500 (30-1)
An has had a number of close calls in his career, and last week was another. He missed the Sebastian Munoz-Sungjae Im playoff by a stroke at the Sanderson Farms Championship. An has played both events so far this season and, while length off the tee is not a prerequisite this week, he is really pounding the ball. He ranks third in driving distance on the young season, averaging more than 338 yards – and that's ranked only third!
Tier 2 Values
Collin Morikawa - $9,400 (25-1)
Morikawa has been idle since the second playoff event more than a month ago. But this was a predictable return location, as the Cal-Berkeley alum is familiar playing both in Northern California and on poa annua greens. His win last season, albeit in the opposite field Barracuda, came on the same type of greens.
Ryan Moore - $9,100 (40-1)
Moore is one of the bigger names to have played Silverado with some regularity. He played three of the past four years, including a playoff loser last year to Kevin Tway (Brandt Snedeker was also in the playoff). Moore also tied for 17th two years ago and for 10th in 2015. It makes sense, as this course suits his shorter, accuracy-fueled game. Moore has been idle since the BMW Championship.
Scott Piercy - $8,600 (50-1)
We noticed last season that Piercy tended to play better when rested. Playing three weeks in a row at the end of last season, he didn't crack the top 35. Piercy came back after a few weeks off and notched a top-20 at The Greenbrier. Now, he's at Silverado after taking last week off. Piercy is another shorter, more accurate type player. He missed the cut at the Safeway Open last year, but was T17 two years ago and T3 in 2016.
Corey Conners - $8,400 (60-1)
Conners won a tournament last season, but he really had an underrated run. He made it to the Tour Championship and finished top-25 in all three playoff events. Okay, top-25 in the last one is not an accomplishment, but a T7 at the BMW Championship is. He had one of the elite tee-to-green games on Tour last season, finishing ninth in strokes gained: tee to green. Conners missed the cut last week and also last year at Silverado.
Tier 3 Values
Bronson Burgoon - $8,000 (80-1)
We may be seeing the beginning of Burgoon's emergence. He tied for 19th and fifth in two Korn Ferry playoff events to retain his PGA Tour card, then almost matched that in the first two weeks of the PGA Tour season with a T19 at the Greenbrier and a T6 last week. The 32-year-old played Silverado three of the past four years, with a best finish of T17 in 2017.
Harold Varner III - $7,800 (80-1)
Varner opened his season with a top-20 at The Greenbrier then took last week off. He's enjoyed success at Silverado, finishing top-15 two of the past three years while making the cut each of the past four years. Varner ranked 60th on Tour last season in SG: tee to green. That means putting was a problem – he ranked 146th. If he can improve that, Varner could win a tournament this season.
Lanto Griffin - $7,400 (100-1)
The 31-year-old may be another late bloomer, having soared from the 500s in the world rankings all the way up to a career-best 197th. Griffin finished top-15 in the first two PGA Tour events this season. He's played Silverado once before, missing the cut two years ago. Griffin is a native Californian, but way, way north in Mount Shasta, nearly at the border of Oregon.
Jim Furyk - $7,400 (100-1)
Furyk, who turns 50 in May, is still ranked 50th in the world. This is a bit surprising considering the way he finished last season, unable to crack the top 25 in his final seven starts. Still, we like the well-rested Furyk because it's not a long course and one where accuracy counts more than usual. He ranked third in driving accuracy and 24th in greens in regulation last season, while finishing a very respectable 69th in SG: putting.
Robby Shelton - $7,100 (125-1)
The Korn Ferry grad opened the season 62-65 at The Greenbrier. He wound up tied for seventh, then added a T28 last week in Mississippi. Shelton has been fantastic with his driver, ranking fourth so far in strokes gained: off the tee. But he's also been accurate, standing 12th in driving accuracy and 27th in greens in regulation. This will be his Silverado debut.
Adam Long - $6,900 (150-1)
After coming out of nowhere to win the Desert Classic back in January, Long came crashing back to earth, missing the cut in his next five appearances. But he settled down somewhat after that, notching six top-25s over his next 19 events, including his first two this season. Long is really striking the ball well and ranks second on Tour in SG: tee to green in the early stages of 2019-20. He played Silverado last year and made the cut with a T63 finish.
J.J. Spaun - $6,800 (150-1)
Spaun didn't miss many cuts last season – six in 26 in starts, with one WD – and when he did it tended to be in bigger events. Now he's already 2-for-2 playing the weekend on the young season. He may not have much upside – he didn't have a top-35 at The Greenbrier or last week, and he hasn't broken the top-40 in three visits to Silverado – but with 6-for-6 harder to come by this season, Spaun may be a safe, steadier option.
Max Homa - $6,700 (200-1)
Homa is another guy with a good chance to reach the weekend. He missed a boatload of cuts early last season, but beginning with his win at the Wells Fargo Championship in May, he made nine of his last 10. This will be Homa's season debut. He has played Silverado three times and made the cut twice, albeit without a high finish. He was T60 a year ago, but he's a superior golfer now.