This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
THE SAFEWAY OPEN
Winner's Share: $1.152M
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the winner
Location: Napa, Calif.
Course: Silverado Resort & Spa (North)
2017 champion: Brendan Steele
Every year at this time we make a joke (or an attempted joke) about the length of PGA Tour offseason. You know, stuff like, "What did you do during the offseason – grab lunch, maybe take a nap?" Or, "We've seen J.B. Holmes stand over his ball longer than this offseason." Well, we're not going to do that this year. Nope, even though the offseason lasted all of 11 days, or four if you want to include the Ryder Cup, there will be no joking around. Here we go with the DraftKings Value Picks for the Safeway Open, the annual lid-lifter for the PGA Tour season.
As you may recall, Tiger Woods had been dancing around this event for a couple of years, teasing Silverado co-owner and tournament host Johnny Miller with visions of Napa Valley traffic jams and running out of beer (or would it be wine here?). Well, Woods for sure is not coming this year, not right after the Ryder Cup. But there's a strong possibility next year, as the PGA Tour season and Presidents Cup will end long before the 2019-20 season begins. Still, Miller will have 12 more months of hoping it will finally happen. Instead of Woods, Miller gets the next best thing for the third straight year: Phil Mickelson. Mickelson has delivered, finishing third last year after placing eighth the year before. But now, it's hard to envision such a high finish the way he's been playing. Heck, we're mildly surprised that Mickelson hasn't pulled out after his Paris disaster. But Mickelson if anything is honorable, so he will tee it up. Other big names/novelty acts in the 144-man field are Patrick Cantlay, Joaquin Niemann, Fred Couples, John Daly and even Mark Mulder. The former Oakland A's pitcher won the big celebrity event in Lake Tahoe three years running before finishing second to Tony Romo this past summer. Unlike the opposite-field exemption Romo got last season, and the Web.com exemptions Steph Curry has received, Mulder has been granted entry into a regular Tour event. With 5,000-1 odds to win, though, look for Mulder pulling out of the parking lot for the final time on Friday evening.
This is the fifth year Silverado has been the host course, so we're starting to get 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. What's really interesting is that we've seen Brendan Steele win two different ways the past two years – first, with marginal tee-to-green play and great putting, then last year with a strong iron game compensating for weak putting. We'll take a closer look in the Champion's Profile below. Steele is going for the first three-peat on Tour since Steve Stricker won the John Deere Classic from 2009 through 2011.
One more thing about Silverado. Last year, 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, but there might be some reminders of it on TV during the week.
Weather-wise, some good news: There are none of the hot, windy conditions that helped to fuel the Central California fires last year. Temperatures will be in the 70s, and there was rain in the forecast earlier in the week. There's virtually no chance of rain during the tournament, though, and the wind will be rather light.
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: tee to green/strokes gained: approach
• Scrambling/strokes gained: around the green
• Driving accuracy/strokes gained: off the tee
• Birdie or better percentage
2017 - Brendan Steele (Silverado)
2016 - Brendan Steele (Silverado)
2015 - Emiliano Grillo (Silverado)
2014 - Sangmoon Bae (Silverado)
2013 - Jimmy Walker
2012 - Jonas Blixt
2011 - Bryce Molder
2010 - Rocco Mediate
2009 - Troy Matheson
In the four 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 last year (he was sixth in 2016, for the record). They overcame that with strong iron play (greens in regulation) and scrambling. The greens are on the smaller side, which, as we have just illustrated, 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. Both Bae and Grillo ranked third in scrambling for the week, 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 Safeway can be a birdie-fest; three of the past four years, 15-under was the winning total, with Steele's 18-under two years ago the outlier. Silverado played as the 23rd toughest course, out of 50, on Tour last season.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS (Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)
Tier 1 Values
Patrick Cantlay - $11,600 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 12-1)
Cantlay is the top guy on the DK board and clearly the class of the field. He's one of only two guys here to reach the Tour Championship, along with Phil Mickelson, and finished Top-25 in three of the four playoff events. Remember, the event East Lake ended just a little more than a week ago, and current form is still, well, current. The big weakness in Cantlay's game is putting, but that won't hurt him as much this week as it would in many others. He ranked eighth in greens in regulation on Tour last season and ninth in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee.
Ryan Moore - $10,700 (20-1)
This is a big number for a guy who didn't even reach the third playoff event last season, but Moore has played well at Silverado – T17 last year and T10 in 2015. Further, he was really hurt last season by substandard putting, which as we just said probably won't hurt him terribly this week. The rest of Moore's game was strong, as he ranked Top-30 in five of the primary strokes-gained stats – all but putting.
Joaquin Niemann - $10,300 (20-1)
Niemann hasn't played competitively since the Wyndham Championship six weeks ago, and very few guys in the field have been idle for that long. When he finally qualified for the rankings late in the season, it became apparent how remarkable his rookie season had been: 12th in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee, 15th in both Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green and SG: Total, fifth in approach. Niemann isn't a great putter, but the 19-year-old's biggest weakness is scrambling – he ranked 201st last season – and that will kill him this week if his irons aren't precise.
Emiliano Grillo - $10,000 (25-1)
Grillo won here three years ago, and was Top-30 the past two years, when his game had fallen off. He recovered nicely as last season went along, just missing the Tour Championship. Grillo's best strokes-gained stat was putting (12th), but he was also well-rounded, ranking in the top 45 on Tour in all the other key metrics.
Tier 2 Values
Adam Hadwin - $9,400 (30-1)
Hadwin has never had any success at Silverado – a T41 was his best showing in three visits before skipping last year – but it's hard to ignore his very strong finish to 2017-18 – Top-25s in three straight playoff events that left him pretty close to reaching East Lake. That surge gave Hadwin a whopping 10 Top-25s on the season. He ranked 31st in SG: Approach, 44th in SG: T2G and 39th in SG: Total, numbers that should deliver a high finish in this field.
Beau Hossler - $9,100 (30-1)
Hossler had a really impressive rookie season before seemingly running out of gas after the Fourth of July; he played only five times thereafter. Still, Hossler made 24-of-28 cuts, with five top-10s and eight top-25s. He would've/should've won the Houston Open if not for that dagger of a putt from Ian Poulter to force a playoff. Hossler ranked Top-50 in SG: Off the Tee and was an elite fourth in SG: Putting. His biggest trouble spot was finding the fairway.
Ollie Schniederjans - $8,900 (60-1)
Schniederjans took a bit of a step back – not a big one – from his rookie to sophomore seasons. He was best in the 2017 fall season, which included a tie for 17th at this tournament. His biggest issue was driving accuracy, which really hurt his greens in regulation, but that likely will improve this week if he clubs down like many golfers do at Silverado. Schniederjans was at his best closer to the hole – 24th in strokes gained: around the green and 36th in putting. And despite all the inaccuracy with his irons, he still ranked 20th in birdie or better percentage.
Peter Uihlein - $8,200 (40-1)
Uihlein had a pretty good 2017-18, one that would've been better had he not been so inconsistent, missing 10 cuts. In his 16 cashes, though, Uihlein finished Top-25 in half of them, with four Top-10s. He tied for 12th in the second playoff event before bowing out after the third. Uihlein ranked 64th in greens in regulation and 42nd in SG: Around the Green.
Tier 3 Values
Cameron Davis - $7,900 (60-1)
The Aussie could be one of the emerging youngsters on Tour this season. Davis just lit up the Web.com Finals to gain his card, finishing third in two of the four playoff events and T16 in another. He was seventh on the Web Tour in greens in regulation, third in putting average and second in birdies. His claim to fame so far in his brief 23 years is winning the 2017 Australian Open, taking down Jason Day, Cameron Smith and Jordan Spieth in the process.
Chez Reavie - $7,600 (40-1)
Reavie hit a wall in the middle of last season, missing five cuts in a row and six of seven. But he got a second wind, tying for 12th at the PGA Championship and 20th in the first playoff event, ultimately missing a trip to East Lake by just four spots. So now, he's obviously well-rested. Reavie ranked third last season in driving accuracy and 20th in strokes gained: approach. He's been Top-25 three years running at Silverado, including T13 last year.
Bronson Burgoon - $7,500 (80-1)
Burgoon had three stellar finishes over the final two-plus months of the season, including a tie for 11th in the first playoff event. He qualified for the second but didn't reach the third. Burgoon ranked Top-50 in SG: Off the Tee and SG: Approach, and he was an impressive 37th in birdie or better. He tied for 17th at Silverado a year ago.
Sam Ryder - $7,400 (80-1)
Ryder had a so-so rookie season on the PGA Tour. He finished 101st in points, just missing qualifying for the second playoff event. But he gave it his all in the Northern Trust, tying for 28th in that stellar field to fall oh-so short. Ryder finished second on Tour in greens in regulation and 50th in SG: T2G. His problems were mostly on and around the green; still, he ranked 40th in birdie or better. Ryder missed the cut in this event last year.
Bill Haas - $7,100 (80-1)
It's hard to evaluate Haas' 2017-18 season. On one hand, he endured immense tragedy when he was a passenger in a fatal car crash in February. The rest of his season was largely lost. On the other hand, he's 36 years old and wasn't playing great before the accident. But Haas has cashed top-20 the past two years at Silverado, and he never lost his deft touch last season, finishing 13th in strokes gained: around the green. At this price, Haas is worth a play.
Sungjae Im - $7,000 (80-1)
Yeah, he will be a popular pick. The top guy on the Web.com Tour last season, Im is only 20. The young Korean won twice and had three runners-up last season, spreading them out over the course of the season. Im is not especially long off the tee, averaging only 300 yards, but he was Top-25 on the Web.com Tour in driving accuracy, greens in regulation and putting. A nice, well-rounded player with plenty of upside. Let's throw him in the game and see what he's got.
Sam Saunders - $6,900 (100-1)
Saunders made the playoffs for the first time last season, but he was one-and-done. Interestingly, he did not compile the bulk of his numbers in the fall season, as a lot of weaker golfers do. Instead, Saunders started to gain traction in tougher fields after the calendar flipped to 2018. His four Top-10s and five Top-25s all came after the new year. Saunders ranked 22nd on Tour in birdie-or-better percentage last year.
Wesley Bryan - $6,500 (Field, 15-2)
Bryan retained his card thanks to his win at the 2017 RBC Heritage and only because of that. He played just horribly last season, with only one Top-25. He had one of the poorest driving seasons imaginable, combining a lack of distance with a lack of accuracy. So, why pick him? Well, we're thinking he can't be that bad again, and his short game and putting are really among the best on Tour. On a short course, in a weaker field, he might be able to find his way. And if he delivers at this price, that would be a steal.