Horses for Courses: Safeway Open 2019

Wine Country and golf, two of my favorite things!

Would you like some cheese with your whine?

It’s only week three of the 2019-20 season, but gamers are already grumbling as the TOUR has already crowned a pair of first-time winners in the first two events.

It’s back to Bent/Poa and hilly terrain this week, as the North Course at Silverado Resort & Spa in Napa Valley hosts for the sixth year running, so we’ll have an angle on past performance.

This will be the first time in six years that the TOUR is not kicking off the new season in Wine Country, so gamers will have a better point of reference with two previous events to analyze.

A full field of 156 will have a chance to cash 500 FedExCup points (winner) and grab part of the $6.6 million purse ($1.188 winner).

Silverado’s North Course was redesigned by Johnny Miller (yep, that one) after his purchase in 2010. This track has played host since calendar 2014, so any results from previous host tracks are irrevelant this week.

Stretching to just 7,166 yards and playing to Par-72 (36-36), the North Course plays almost 50 yards shorter than it did during the inaugural visit. The Bent/Poa greens, which are usually in perfect condition, will run just below 12 feet on the Stimpmeter. Bluegrass and ryegrass combine to make a thick, healthy rough, but it will only stand at two-and-a-half inches.

Recent Winners

2018-19: Kevin Tway (-14, 274)

The 30-year-old rallied from a three-shot deficit in the final group with Brandt Snedeker to force and win a three-man playoff which also included Ryan Moore. … Became the fifth consecutive winner to rank in the top three in bogey avoidance (T1) and top seven in scrambling (No. 1). … Ranked third in Strokes-Gained: Tee-to-Green – the fourth-worst ranking out of five winners!

Notables: Ricky Barnes matched the course record with 61 in Round 2, but didn’t break 75 in his other three rounds (T69). … Sepp Straka posted 63 for the first round lead. … Sungjae Im made his first TOUR start and played in the penultimate group on Sunday (T4). … Snedeker led the field with 23 birdies. … Phil Mickelson, who was T2 after 36 holes, circled 21 and cashed T17. … There were only nine rounds above par from the top 24 players. … For the third consecutive year, the cut was 141 (-3).

2017-18: Brendan Steele (-15, 273)

Only man to defend and the only man to raise the barrel twice since the move to Silverado, as he made up a two-shot deficit on Sunday by posting 69 (-3) to win by two. … Dominant performance as he was top four in fairways, GIR, SG: Off-the-Tee, SG: Approach-the-Green, SG: Tee-to-Green, bogey avoidance, Par-4 and Par-5 scoring.

Notables: Chesson Hadley (T3) set the new course record with 61 in Round 2. … Rookie Tyler Duncan (T5) co-led after 18 and had the solo lead after 36 and 54 holes. … Hadley and Mickelson led the field with 23 birdies. … Massive wind gusts allowed for only nine rounds in the 60s on Sunday.

2016-17: Brendan Steele (-18, 270)

Posting the co-low round of the day, 65, Steele chased down a tournament record four-shot lead and posted a tournament record of 18-under to win by a shot. … His ball-striking wasn’t as clinical as his 2017-18 edition but his timely putting was the difference. … Only winner to finish in the top 10 in Birdie-or-Better conversion percentage (No. 1). … Only winner to finish in the top 10 SG: Putting (6th).

Notables: Scott Piercy (T3) opened with 62 and led after 18 and 36 holes. … Patton Kizzire (2nd) held the 54-hole lead over Piercy and carded 64 to open. … Mickelson (T8) and Mackenzie Hughes (T13) only two players with all four rounds in the 60s. … Justin Thomas (T8), in his last visit, played his final 54 holes in 17-under-par. Cool, rainy conditions made for optimum scoring conditions.

Key stat leaders

Golfers around the top 30 or so in each statistic on the 2018-19 PGA TOUR are listed only if they are scheduled to compete this week.

 * – previous top 10 finish here

Bogey Avoidance

3  Patrick Cantlay

4  Charles Howell III

7  *Scott Piercy

8  Jim Furyk

9  Lucas Glover

10 Vaughn Taylor

13 Matt Jones

14 *Sungjae Im

14 *Hideki Matsuyama

16 *Justin Thomas

17 *Bud Cauley

19 Denny McCarthy

20 Cameron Tringale

22 *Aaron Baddeley

26 *Sam Ryder

27 Nate Lashley

SG: Tee-to-Green

2  *Justin Thomas

3  *Hideki Matsuyama

4  Adam Scott (first appearance)

5  Patrick Cantlay

7  Byeong-Hun An

9  Corey Conners

15 *Emiliano Grillo (2016 winner)

19 Kevin Streelman

25 Lucas Glover

26 Jim Furyk

27 *Jhonattan Vegas (T10, 2016)

28 *Ryan Moore

29 Chez Reavie

Par-5 Scoring

(of five winners, three co-led the field)

 1  *Justin Thomas

2  Wyndham Clark

2  Adam Scott

6  *Sungjae Im

10 Denny McCarthy

12 Bryson DeChambeau

12 Matt Jones

12 *Troy Merritt

17 Patrick Cantlay

17 *Jhonattan Vegas

23 *Hideki Matsuyama

23 *Martin Laird

23 *Kevin Tway

Sommeliers

Brendan Steele: The only man in the field this week with three top-10 paydays and multiple victories at Silverado. He’s 53-under over 20 rounds, including a 76 and 75. Four of his five paydays are T21 or better.

Justin Thomas: Getting better with age, Thomas MC in his first trip in 2015, but is 28-under in his last two visits (T8, T3).

Phil Mickelson: 34-under in his last three visits have collected T17, T3 and T8 riches. This will be his fourth consecutive season-opener here.

Ryan Moore: Playing three of the last four here, the Washington native is 32-under with three rounds of par-or-worse and has a pair of top-10 paychecks for his trouble (P2 and T10 ’16).

Kevin Na: He was on track for three straight top-10 checks before a 77 derailed his last visit to T37 in 2017-18 season. He was 30-under in his previous two visits. including a playoff defeat to Grillo and a solo seventh in 2017.

Fermenting

Brandt Snedeker: Spot the trend: T57, T17 and P2 in his last three visits.

Martin Laird: Never missed in five tries and owns a pair of top-10 results in addition to a T17.

Sungjae Im: Seems like he’s in this discussion every week he’s in the field.

Luke List: 26-under the last three seasons. All inside T37, with T4 last year the biggest of the bunch.

Email mikeglasscott@gmail.com for any questions or comments! Thanks for reading!

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