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The Safeway Open 2016 Preview
Our golf scribe takes a look at the betting for the Safeway Open.
This tournament - formally the Frys.Com Open - forms the beginning of the new PGA Tour season. Expectations were that iconic figure Tiger Woods was set to return to competitive action this week, only for the golfing megalith to withdraw due to his belief that his game was perhaps not up to it. I believe it’s probably a prudent move as the former world number one aims to return at the Hero World Challenge. The idea of a returning Tiger missing the cut in embarrassing circumstances doesn’t sound like the ideal way to open the tour.
Emiliano Grillo returns to defend his title in a field that is expectedly without many of the key draws on the tour. That being said - this Robert Trent Jones Jr inspired course will still have many exciting players taking it on this week. Silverado is a course that has seen many of the world’s premium names victorious. Jack Nicklaus, Ben Crenshaw, Johnny Miller and Tom Watson have all tasted victory on this course. Paul Casey will be looking to build on his sensational finish to the Fed Ex Cup while Phil Mickelson is likely to draw the biggest galleries.
The course has four par fives and only two crazy long par fours. This should encourage low scoring and the guys who can bomb it down the fairway. At about 11.5 on the Stimpmeter, these greens appear fairly regulation. Avoiding the three inches of Bluegrass and ryegrass rough will prove critical to success. This course was the 33rd easiest on tour last season and the dry Californian weather should leave the fairways nice and firm, encouraging those guys who hit it a mile.
The Safeway Open | Thursday 13 October - Sunday 16 October 2016 | North Course Silverado
2015: Emiliano Grillo (-15) *won in playoff | 2014: Sang-Moon Bae (-16) | 2013: Jimmy Walker (-17) | 2012: Jonas Blixt (-16) | 2011: Brye Molder (-17)
Paul Casey (11/1), Matt Kuchar (14/1), Emiliano Grillo (18/1), Phil Mickelson (20/1), Justin Thomas (22/1)
Roberto Castro To Win (45/1), To Place (99/10)
Castro will be buoyed by the fact that putting won’t be as critical to proceedings this week. He ranks an impressive sixth in fairways hit whilst also ranking 19th in greens in regulation. He also ranks in the top 25 in both par four and par five scoring. He finished in the top twenty-five for the final three Fed Ex Cup events, including an excellent 3rd place finish at the BMW Championship. He has finished in the top twenty-five on ten occasions in 2016 and should be a reasonable bet to place. With many of the top guys absent, 45-1 for a win seems a decent bet.
Kevin Na To Win (25/1), To Place (11/2)
This is one of those ‘horses for courses’ picks. The runner-up to Grillo in a playoff last season, Na’s season was ultimately defined by its remarkable consistency. He had eight top ten finishes on his way to a Tour Championship berth. He had two tied finishes for third whilst also finishing 7th at the U.S Open. He was second overall in approaching the green, which should once again bode well for this week.
Brian Harman To Win (60/1), To Place (66/5)
Harman finished the Fed Ex Cup playoffs with three consecutive top twenty-five’s while narrowly missing out on East Lake with a tie for 13th at The BMW. This selection is more based on his most recent form than anything else, especially at the price. He was actually cut in this tournament last year but should feel fairly confident in this field of a decent finish.
The Man to Beat
Justin Thomas To Win (22/10), To Place (9/2)
Thomas finished in a tie for third here last season having not notched up a bogey on the back nine the whole week. He also ranked second in greens in regulation. He had a pair of top ten finishes in the Fed Ex Cup playoffs while enjoying a trip to Hazeltine with the Ryder Cup winning side. While not a member of the team, Thomas will have no doubt fed off the buzz of essentially being considered a future pick. He is also massive off the tee and will take to the four par fives with some amount of relish. I’m actually going out on a limb and picking Thomas to be one of the breakthrough stories of the year.