Steve Bamford

Steve Bamford's Safeway Open Tips 2019

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The Safeway Open at the classical Silverado Country Club attracts a number of quality players year-in, year-out to Napa Valley in California. 2019 though, in my opinion, sees the very best field in the tournament’s history attracted for the third PGA Tour event of the 2019/2020 season. Justin Thomas, Patrick Cantlay, Bryson DeChambeau, Adam Scott, Francesco Molinari and Hideki Matsuyama headline with a supporting cast that includes Byeong-Hun An, Jim Furyk, Sungjae Im, Marc Leishman, Phil Mickelson, Collin Morikawa and Brandt Snedeker. We also see the return of Graham DeLaet and Bo Van Pelt to PGA Tour action, with Fred Couples and John Daly thrown in for even more character and interest.

Course Guide: Silverado Country Club was purchased in 2010 by a small group of individuals including Johnny Miller who soon set about updating both the North and South courses. Set in the rich wine growing country of the Napa Valley, the North Course had played host to the PGA Tour from 1968 to 1976 and also the Champions Tour from 1977 to 1980. Miller’s goal had always been to attract the PGA Tour back to the North Course with a view to potentially landing the U.S. Open or PGA Championship in the future. So 2011 saw Miller re-design both courses with the 1966 Trent Jones Jnr tournament course receiving a renovation that added 250 yards and saw a host of holes re-routed.

North Course, Silverado Country Club, Napa, California: Designer: Trent Jones Jnr, 1966 with a Miller redesign, 2011; Course Type: Classical; Par: 72; Length: 7,166 yards; Water Hazards: 2; Fairways: Bentgrass with Poa Annua, Kentucky Bluegrass and Rye; Rough: Kentucky Bluegrass and Rye, 3″; Greens: 6,200 sq.ft average featuring Bentgrass with Poa Annua; Stimpmeter: 11.5ft; Course Scoring Average 2014: 71.70 (-0.30), Difficulty Rank 24 of 52 courses, 2015: 71.11 (-0.89), Difficulty Rank 33 of 50 courses. 2016: 70.83 (-1.17), Difficulty Rank 36 of 50 courses. 2017: 71.76 (-0.24), Difficulty Rank 23 of 51 courses. 2018: 71.10 (-0.90), Difficulty Rank 29 of 49 courses.

Silverado Fairway Widths (yards): Below are the fairway widths for Silverado and how they compare to recent courses that we’ve seen on Tour:

  • Silverado: 250 yards from the tee: 27 yards wide; 275:26; 300:24; 325:25; 350:24.
  • CC of Jackson: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:28; 300:29; 325:28; 350:25.
  • Old White TPC: 250 yards from the tee: 36 yards wide; 275:34; 300:34; 325:35; 350:32.
  • East Lake: 250 yards from the tee: 27 yards wide; 275:26; 300:25; 325:24; 350:22.
  • Medinah No 3: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:30; 300:28; 325:29; 350:27.
  • Liberty National: 250 yards from tee: 36 yards wide; 275:33; 300:30 325:31; 350:26.
  • Sedgefield: 250 yards from tee: 29 yards wide; 275:28; 300:26 325:23; 350:22.
  • TPC Southwind: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:29; 300:28; 325:31; 350:25.
  • Montreux G&CC: 250 yards from the tee: 37 yards wide; 275:41; 300:42; 325:40; 350:38.

Course Designer Links: For research purposes, other Robert Trent Jones Jnr designs include:

  • Chambers Bay – 2015 US Open
  • CordeValle – 2010-2013 Open
  • The Mines Resort & GC – 2010-2012 CIMB Classic

Course Overview: The North Course is a classical, tree-lined track that’s set up to be scoreable at the Safeway Open. It’s not overly long at just over 7,150 yards, however the Par 72 features plenty of dog-legs with Napa Valley Oaks and Redwoods strategically placed to block approach shots. Miller re-routed a number of holes, lengthened the course and re-worked the bunkering with the goal of creating an ‘Augusta-type’ feel. Fairways are on the tight side and are difficult to hit – 4th, 3rd and 6th most difficult across 2018, 2017 and 2016 – but the penalty is not massive despite 3″ rough. Green complexes and surrounding rough are the main defence with some fairly severe undulations; with winning totals at -14/274 (last year), -15/273 (3 times) and -18/270, this course is by no means the total resort scoring pushover we often see on the PGA Tour.

This event has traditionally favoured free-scoring players who can putt beautifully and confidently on greens that have Poa Annua within their structure. As we know Poa Annua is not every player’s cup of tea. Previous to 2015, a winners’ list with Molder, Blixt, Walker and Bae clearly indicated that strong putters, and those with an excellent scrambling game from the rough, had an advantage in Northern California. But in the past 4 renewals ball-strikers in the shape of Kevin Tway, Brendan Steele (x2) and Emiliano Grillo have won here at Silverado. Steele has always had a penchant for putting on the West Coast though having grown up in California.

Set-up wise, the North Course at Silverado is a classical-style golf course – indeed Johnny Miller has a long-term goal of landing a U.S. Open or PGA Championship here. Fairly tight, tree-lined fairways can block approach shots and pin positions can be tucked into areas where accessibility is difficult. To add to the difficulty, 2017 saw 7 green complexes feature closely mown run-off areas which grab wayward approaches. These now feature across the 15th to 18th holes just to add a new variant. The greens themselves, especially on the front side, are described as severely sloping by many, which in turn has placed Silverado in the top-half of difficulty on Tour when it comes to proximity to the pin since its arrival on the schedule. Another insightful statistic is that the course only ranked 14th (2014), 21st (2015), 5th (2016), 17th (2017) and 16th (2018) for Going for the Green. With 5 holes (the 5th, 8th, 9th, 16th and 18th) where Going for the Green becomes a factor, look for players who can be successfully aggressive with their approach shots.

Winners: 2018: Kevin Tway (-14); 2017: Brendan Steele (-15); 2016: Brendan Steele (-18); 2015: Emiliano Grillo (-15); 2014: Sang-moon Bae (-15); CordeValle Winners: 2013: Jimmy Walker (-17); 2012: Jonas Blixt (-16); 2011: Bryce Molder (-17); 2010: Rocco Mediate (-15).

Tournament Stats: We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s event that are well worth a look. Naturally they’ll help to shape a view on players who could go well this week: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader | Combined Stats.

Published Predictor Model: Our published predictor is available here. You can build your own model using the variables listed on the left hand side. Top 10 of my published predictor are Justin Thomas, Scott Harrington, Sungjae Im, Hideki Matsuyama, Kevin Streelman, Sebastian Munoz, Martin Laird, Lanto Griffin, Patrick Cantlay and Phil Mickelson.

Recent Player Skill Rankings: These rankings are based on a 8-tournament window that stretches back to the Wyndham Championship and includes PGA Tour, European Tour and Playoff events. Players must have played in a minimum of 2 Tour events to be included and rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Driving Accuracy: 1) Chez Reavie; 2) Ryan Moore; 3) Jim Furyk; 4) Abraham Ancer; 5) Chris Baker / Collin Morikawa; 7) David Hearn; 8) Tyler Duncan / Emiliano Grillo; 10) Pat Perez; 11) Scott Brown / Doc Redman; 13) Henrik Norlander; 14) Francesco Molinari / Brendan Steele; 16) Jason Dufner; 17) Brendan Todd; 18) Corey Conners / Brian Stuard; 20) Lucas Glover.
  • Greens in Regulation: 1) Emiliano Grillo; 2) David Hearn / Justin Thomas; 4) Adam Scott; 5) Hideki Matsuyama; 6) Corey Conners / Bryson DeChambeau; 8) Bo Hoag; 9) Jim Furyk; 10) Abraham Ancer / Harris English / Henrik Norlander; 13) Dylan Frittelli; 14) Scott Harrington / Kevin Streelman; 16) Jason Dufner; 17) Phil Mickelson / Ryan Moore / Chez Reavie; 20) Byeong Hun An.
  • Top 20 Scrambling: 1) Justin Thomas; 2) C.T. Pan; 3) Patrick Cantlay; 4) Fabian Gomez; 5) Bryson DeChambeau; 6) Abraham Ancer / Brandt Snedeker; 8) Byeong Hun An; 9) Bronson Burgoon; 10) Corey Conners / Ryan Moore / George McNeill; 13) Si Woo Kim; 14) Adam Scott; 15) Joel Dahmen  / Sebastian Munoz / Scott Piercy; 18) Jason Dufner; 19) Kevin Na / Cameron Tringale.
  • Putting Average (Putts per GIR): 1) Patrick Cantlay; 2) Sungjae Im; 3) Kevin Na; 4) Adam Scott / Martin Trainer; 6) Bud Cauley; 7) Nate Lashley; 8) Lanto Griffin; 9) Nick Taylor; 10) Hideki Matsuyama; 11) Justin Thomas; 12) Pat Perez; 13) Grayson Murray / Chez Reavie; 15) Ryan Moore / Brandt Snedeker; 17) Michael Gellerman / Lucas Glover / Charles Howell III; 20) Max Homa.

Recent Player Strokes Gained Rankings: These top 20 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the Wyndham Championship, which includes PGA Tour events only. Players must have played in a minimum of 2 Tour events to be included and rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Top 20 SG Off The Tee: 1) Robby Shelton; 2) Harry Higgs / Jason Thomas; 4) Emiliano Grillo; 5) Lucas Glover; 6) Abraham Ancer; 7) Sebastian Cappelen / Harris English; 9) Corey Conners; 10) Jason Dufner; 11) Patrick Cantlay / Adam Scott; 13) Chez Reavie; 14) Vince Covello / Sungjae Im; 16) Doc Redman; 17) Cameron Champ / Sung Kang; 19) Danny Lee / Hideki Matsuyama.
  • Top 20 SG Approach: 1) Justin Thomas; 2) Ryan Moore; 3) Emiliano Grillo; 4) Adam Scott; 5) Jim Furyk; 6) Harris English / Chez Reavie; 8) Troy Merritt; 9) Mark Anderson; 10) Patrick Cantlay; 11) Corey Conners / C.T. Pan; 13) Si Woo Kim; 14) Sungjae Im / Adam Long; 16) Joel Dahmen; 17) Bronson Burgoon / Xinjun Zhang; 19) Nate Lashley; 20) Abraham Ancer / Phil Mickelson / Sebastian Munoz / Robby Shelton.
  • Top 20 SG Around The Green: 1) C.T. Pan; 2) Byeong Hun An / Patrick Cantlay / Adam Scott; 5) Justin Thomas; 6) Kevin Na / Chris Stroud; 8) Phil Mickelson; 9) Sebastian Cappelen; 10) Kevin Tway; 11) Pat Perez; 12) Abraham Ancer; 13) Harold Varner III; 14) Bryson DeChambeau / Lanto Griffin / Matthew NeSmith / Ryan Moore; 18) Sam Ryder; 19) Hideki Matsuyama; 20) Cameron Tringale.
  • Top 20 SG Tee to Green: 1) Justin Thomas; 2) Adam Scott; 3) Ryan Moore; 4) Corey Conners / Emiliano Grillo; 6) Patrick Cantlay / Byeong Hun An; 8) C.T. Pan; 9) Robby Shelton; 10) Abraham Ancer / Harold Varner III; 12) Harris English; 13) Joel Dahmen / Hideki Matsuyama; 15) Bryson DeChambeau / Tom Hoge / Sungjae Im; 18) Lucas Glover / Chez Reavie; 20) David Hearn / Doc Redman.
  • Top 20 SG Putting: 1) Lanto Griffin; 2) Patrick Cantlay; 3) Sungjae Im / Kevin Na; 5) Brandt Snedeker; 6) Adam Scott; 7) Bud Cauley; 8) George McNeill / Patrick Rodgers; 10) Cameron Percy; 11) Chase Seiffert; 12) Sebastian Munoz; 13) Charles Howell III; 14) Justin Thomas; 15) Morgan Hoffmann; 16) Harris English; 17) Robby Shelton; 18) Wyndham Clark / Max Homa; 20) Hideki Matsuyama.
  • Top 20 SG Total: 1) Adam Scott; 2) Justin Thomas; 3) Lanto Griffin; 4) Patrick Cantlay; 5) Sungjae Im; 6) Harris English; 7) Robby Shelton; 8) Byeong Hun An / Brandt Snedeker; 10) Sebastian Munoz; 11) Ryan Moore / C.T. Pan; 13) Corey Conners / Hideki Matsuyama; 15) Fabian Gomez; 16) Abraham Ancer; 17) Mark Anderson; 18) Chez Reavie; 19) Harold Varner III; 20) Vaughn Taylor.

Winners & Prices: 2018: Tway 66/1; 2017: Steele 33/1; 2016: Steele 50/1; 2015: Grillo 50/1; 2014: Bae 150/1; 2013: Walker 30/1; 2012: Blixt 28/1; 2011: Molder 40/1; 2010: Mediate 150/1. Past 5 Renewals Average: 70/1. Average: 66/1.

Historical Weather:

  • 2018: Thursday: Mostly cloudy with a high of 70. Wind SW 6-12 mph. Friday: Sunny. High of 74. Wind SW 8-15 mph. Saturday: Sunny. High of 78. Wind NW 7-12 mph. Sunday: Sunny and windy, with a high of 84. Wind N 15-25 mph, with gusts to 36 mph.
  • 2017: Thursday: Sunny, with a high of 84. Wind SW 5-10 mph. Friday: Sunny, with a high of 84. Wind SW 5-10 mph. Saturday: Sunny, with a high of 86. Wind SW 5-10 mph. Sunday: Sunny, with a high of 84. N wind 15-25 mph, with gusts to 30 mph.
  • 2016: Thursday: Mostly sunny, with a high of 69. Wind SW 5-10 mph. Friday: Cloudy, with moderate rain showers in the afternoon. High of 66. Wind SW 10-20 mph. Saturday: Mostly cloudy, with a high of 66, with heavy rain in the afternoon. Sunday: Cloudy, with a high of 66. Wind SW 8-15 mph.
  • 2015: Thursday: Partly cloudy. High of 78. Wind SW at 8-14 mph. Friday: High of 79. SW wind at 5-10 mph. Saturday: Mostly cloudy. High of 77. Wind S at 10-15 mph. Sunday: Partly cloudy in the afternoon, with a high of 75. SW wind at 6-12 mph.

Weather Forecast: The latest weather forecast for Napa, California is here. This part of California, famous for its vineyards, is notoriously dry. With little in the way of rain this month and none due in tournament week, we should again see fast fairway conditions. Tournament organisers here have never overly drenched the greens in tournament week here previously as well, so we may well see a scenario where approaches release. Wind here is often a feature, so expect freshening breeze in the afternoons which look likely to affect Thursday and Saturday. Temperatures climb from 23 degrees to 26 degrees Celsius will feel very pleasant indeed.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of Silverado CC winners since 2014 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:

  • 2018, Kevin Tway (-14). 319 yards (14th), 51% fairways (40th), 72.2% greens in regulation (18th), 36″3″ proximity to hole (48th), 80.0 % scrambling (1st), 1.73 putts per GIR (22nd).
  • 2017, Brendan Steele (-15). 328 yards (1st), 67.9% fairways (3rd), 79.2% greens in regulation (4th), 29″10″ proximity to hole (6th), 73.3 % scrambling (7th), 1.81 putts per GIR (60th).
  • 2016, Brendan Steele (-18). 292 yards (23rd), 64.3% fairways (5th), 75.0% greens in regulation (21st), 30″0″ proximity to hole (16th), 72.2 % scrambling (4th), 1.65 putts per GIR (8th).
  • 2015, Emiliano Grillo (-15). 300 yards (37th), 64.3% fairways (8th), 73.6% greens in regulation (16th), 30″0″ proximity to hole (3rd), 73.7 % scrambling (5th), 1.74 putts per GIR (41st).
  • 2014, Sang-moon Bae (-15). 299 yards (26th), 55.4% fairways (45th), 75.0% greens in regulation (6th), 28″5″ proximity to hole (4th), 77.8 % scrambling (3rd), 1.70 putts per GIR (18th).

Tournament Skill Averages:

Driving Distance: 20th, Driving Accuracy: 20th, Greens in Regulation: 13th, Proximity to Hole: 15th, Scrambling: 4th, Putting Average 30th.

Strokes Gained Tournament Trends:

  • 2018, Kevin Tway (-14). SG Off the Tee: 19th, SG Approach: 23rd, SG Around the Green: 7th, SG Tee to Green: 3rd, SG Putting: 18th.
  • 2017, Brendan Steele (-15). SG Off the Tee: 1st, SG Approach: 3rd, SG Around the Green: 48th, SG Tee to Green: 1st, SG Putting: 29th.
  • 2016, Brendan Steele (-18). SG Off the Tee: 20th, SG Approach: 8th, SG Around the Green: 38th, SG Tee to Green: 11th, SG Putting: 6th.

Strokes Gained Tournament Skill Averages:

  • SG Off the Tee: 13th, SG Approach: 11th, SG Around the Green: 31st, SG Tee to Green: 5th, SG Putting: 18th.

So let’s take a view from players as to how Silverado has played in recent years and what specific skills it requires:

Kevin Tway: Yeah, I played in the wind all the time from Oklahoma State, and now I live in Jupiter and it’s windy there, so I’m comfortable why the wind. Got to hit the ball solid and that’s just what I’m trying to do. Yeah, the 2nd hole’s hard, especially when it was cold this morning. I think I hit 2-iron and I don’t hit many 2-irons on par 3s. Yeah, that hole’s tough. If the greens firm up, a couple of pins could be pretty tough, but there’s no wind, so it should be pretty good scoring.”

Brendan Steele: “The difficulty on this course is definitely on the greens. You have to be careful where you leave it. They’re quick and got a lot of slope. A few have tons of slope. Nos. 3, 4, 8, these holes, like if you get on the wrong side you’ve got no chance. As the week goes on it’s going to firm up. If you’re out of position it’s going to be almost impossible to hold the greens, as it was last year. I think even though there are some shorter holes that they’re really good strategically because they have areas where you can’t be always. So you know, okay, if I’m going to lay up here I need to lay up left so I can come in this way or you have the tree in your way or there is a bunker on the other side. If you’re hitting good shots you can score well, and if you’re not hitting good shots it’ll penalized you a little bit.

Emiliano Grillo: “The course asks you to be aggressive a little bit, but you have to be very smart out there. If you play smart you can score well. Out here you got to play well off the tee. You got to play from the fairway. If not, you can get some bogeys out there. I think the main key is staying patient and hitting some solid shots.

Justin Rose: “Yeah, this is a golf course where you have to drive it well. If you do drive it well around here, you set up a lot of birdie chances. The par-5s are all within range and then there are a lot of par-4s where you have wedges into the green. That’s why you see guys going low. Also a tricky course. Has its subtleties. You got to put the ball in play. There are some doglegs. Pretty narrow off the tee. It’s kind of the course if you play well you can go low. It’s going to find out our if you’re not on your game.

Sang-moon Bae: “Honestly, I really like this course because it’s like a classic – always classic courses you need really good iron shots for second, really narrow, small greens, a lot of undulation. I think the greens were pretty soft this week, but the fairways were a little firm, but rough is not easy. So I drove it pretty good, but iron shot was really, really good, and that’s why I made a lot of birdies this week.

Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for the past 5 Silverado winners:

  • 2018 – Kevin Tway: Round 1: 22nd, Round 2: 5th, Round 3: 2nd.
  • 2017 – Brendan Steele: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 2nd, Round 3: 3rd.
  • 2016 – Brendan Steele: Round 1: 9th, Round 2: 16th, Round 3: 6th.
  • 2015 – Emiliano Grillo: Round 1: 13th, Round 2: 19th, Round 3: 4th.
  • 2014 – Sang-moon Bae: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 2nd, Round 3: 1st.

Shots From the Lead: Below are the last 5 winners and where they were positioned in terms of shots from the lead during the tournament:

  • 2018 – Kevin Tway: Round 1: 1 5 back, Round 2: 4 back, Round 3: 3 back.
  • 2017 – Brendan Steele: Round 1: level, Round 2: 1 back, Round 3: 2 back.
  • 2016 – Brendan Steele: Round 1: 5 back, Round 2: 9 back, Round 3: 4 back.
  • 2015 – Emiliano Grillo: Round 1: 5 back, Round 2: 6 back, Round 3: 2 back.
  • 2014 – Sang-moon Bae: Round 1: level, Round 2: 1 back, Round 3: 4 ahead.

Incoming form of winners since 2014:

  • Kevin Tway: 43rd Dell Tech/56 Northern Trust/11th Wyndham/23rd Barracuda.
  • Brendan Steele: 44th BMW/56th Dell Tech/MC Northern Trust/MC PGA.
  • Brendan Steele: 64th BMW/72nd Deutsche/22nd Barclays/17th Travelers.
  • Emiliano Grillo: 1st Final/MC Nationwide/2nd Small Business/9th Hotel Fitness.
  • Sang-moon Bae: 15th ANA Open/MC Barclays/14th Wyndham/MC Canada.
  • Jimmy Walker: 11th BMW/MC Deutsche/54th Barclays/MC Wyndham.
  • Jonas Blixt: 3rd Shriners/20th Deutsche/44th Barclays/55th Wyndham.
  • Bryce Molder: 10th Shriners/64th Barclays/56th PGA/10th Barracuda.

First Round Leader Analysis: First round leader(s), their wave (where applicable) and winning score since 2010. For full first round leader stats click here.

  • 2018 – Straka – PM -9/63 – 150/1.
  • 2017 – Duncan/Hoge/Steele – All AM -7/65 – 125/1 100/1 45/1.
  • 2016 – Piercy – AM -10/62.
  • 2015 – Steele – AM -8/64.
  • 2014 – Bae/Gonzales AM/PM Split -6/66.

For the record, here’s the breakdown of pure Poa Annua and Bentgrass/Poa Annua mix PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:

  • 5 – Phil Mickelson.
  • 4 – Brandt Snedeker.
  • 3 – Jimmy Walker.
  • 2 – Bryson DeChambeau, Scott Piercy, Brendan Steele, Nick Watney.
  • 1 – Aaron Baddeley, Sangmoon Bae, Patrick Cantlay, Jason Dufner, Emiliano Grillo, Nate Lashley, Hideki Matsuyama, Collin Morikawa, Chez Reavie, Adam Scott, Chris Stroud, Vaughn Taylor, Justin Thomas, Kevin Tway, Bo Van Pelt.

The Safeway Open – previously the – produces some interesting trends. Although the tournament has had various schedule slots across the ‘Fall Series’, all winners have been at 150/1 or less across the past 8 renewals. All of these players arrived in California having seen recent competitive action, although Brendan Steele and Kevin Tway of late highlight that immediate top 10 form here is no requirement for victory. Steele, Bae, Molder, Blixt and Walker had previous main Tour top-10 finishes ‘out west’ to their names. Grillo, on the other hand, was quite simply playing exceptional golf after winning the Tour Championship on his previous outing. This tournament in recent times has undoubtedly promoted maiden Tour winners – Molder, Blixt and Walker at CordeValle; Grillo became yet another in 2015 at Silverado at 50/1, with Kevin Tway winning his first PGA Tour title here 12 months ago at 66/1. Sang-moon Bae had won at TPC Four Seasons in 2013 prior to winning here in 2014 and Brandon Steele had only tasted PGA Tour victory once, a distant 4 years prior to lifting the trophy here in 2016. A veritable melting pot in reality.

When it comes to scheduling – 3rd event of the new season – I’ve taken a look at the last 6 years since the PGA Tour moved to the wrap-around season concept and have looked at tournament winners to see what trends, if any, there are:

  • 2013 CIMB Classic – Ryan Moore, week before finished 9th TPC Summerlin
  • 2014 McGladrey Classic – Robert Streb , week before finished 10th TPC Summerlin
  • 2015 CIMB Classic – Justin Thomas, 2 weeks before finished 3rd Silverado
  • 2017 CJ Cup – Justin Thomas, week before finished 17th TPC KL
  • 2018 CJ Cup – Brooks Koepka, 2 weeks before finished 7th Dunhill Links

2016 featured the WGC-HSBC Champions and the alternate Sanderson Farms Championship across the same week:

  • 2016 HSBC Champions Hideki Matsuyama, week before finished 2nd TPC KL
  • 2016 Sanderson Farms Cody Gribble, 2 weeks before finished 8th Silverado

My selections are as follows:

Byeong Hun An 2.5pts EW 28/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

Surely due a first PGA Tour title, Byeong Hun An is my first bet this week. A deeper field and no course experience has saved his price after 3rd at the Sanderson Farms Championship last week, but saying that he’s as short as 22/1 elsewhere at the time of writing.

Seriously in the mix for a Presidents Cup Captain’s selection from Ernie Els for the International team with the likes of Joaquin Niemann, Sungjae Im and C.T. Pan, in all likelihood one of An, Im and Pan won’t make it as Day and Niemann look pretty lock selections, so he can’t afford a backward step with the WGC HSBC Champions just over a month away.

Silverado Country Club in my view will suit An down to the ground, with Bentgrass/Poa Annua mix greens, classical tree-lined aspects and old-style routing where ball-striking and aggressive play is rewarded. 10th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, 7th at the Valero Texas Open, 17th at The Memorial, 16th at the U.S. Open (his best Major finish), 3rd at the Wyndham Championship and 3rd last week, Byeong Hun, who went to the University of California, Berkeley and grew up in Orlando, Florida, is maturing nicely on the PGA Tour.

6th for Strokes Gained Tee to Green, 20th for Greens in Regulation, 2nd for SG Around the Green and 8th for SG Total across my 8-week skill set trackers (see above), Byeong Hun showed plenty of character last week in Jackson, finishing a shot shy of the total required to make the play off. What was noticeable at the Sanderson Farms was his putting – which tends to be his weakness – as he ended the week 2nd for Putts per GIR. Whilst the flat stick remains hot, that’s the green light for me to back him this week on Poa Annua-based greens where he’s had success in the past at Wentworth, Muirfield Village and Glen Abbey. Result: MC

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Dylan Frittelli 1pt EW 66/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Unibet

Dylan Frittelli started his new season very nicely with a fast-finishing 5th place at the Sanderson Farms Championship last week, and I think he’ll like his second visit to Silverado Country Club. 25th here 12 months ago when making his PGA Tour debut, the powerful South African has settled in well to life on the biggest Tour on the planet. Remember the Johannesburg-born 29 year old attended the University of Texas and played alongside Jordan Spieth in the 2012 NCAA Championship winning team, so he’s no stranger to the United States.

Dylan won the John Deere Classic back in July, becoming a dual main Tour winner after he won the 2017 Lyoness Open on the European Tour, where Frittelli has finished 4th (2017) and 7th (2018) at the DP World Tour Championship and 2nd at the 2017 Turkish Airlines Open. He can undoubtedly mix it at the top level.

A strong ball-striker, Dylan shot 67-66 to grab a share of 5th place last week, a performance fired by ranking 1st for SG Approach and 1st for SG Tee-to-Green. 1 Eagle and 23 Birdies was the best in the field and he ranked T-5 for par-5 Scoring in Jackson. The sort who carries forward great performances to a second week, I think Frittelli could be within the upper echelons of the leaderboard for a second consecutive week come Sunday. Result: T7

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Harold Varner III 1pt EW 70/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

Harold Varner III is next up for me on a course where top-notch ball striking is rewarded. 2 top-10s and 5 top-25s during last season showed a level of consistency we have seldom seen from Harold in what was undoubtedly his best season on Tour.

6th at El Camaleon and 10th at TPC Scottsdale were his best efforts prior to arriving at the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black back in May; there he contended after middle rounds of 67 boosted him into the Sunday final round with one Brooks Koepka. It all got way too much for the 500/1 chance in windy, tough conditions, which was all to be expected, but our cards had been marked as the 29 year-old eventually finished 36th. Fast forward to Liberty National Golf Course and The Northern Trust last month, where amidst a Major Championship strength field, Harold shot 67-67-68-68 to finish 3rd – indeed if a few more putts had dropped on the back-9, he would have set a very stern target for eventual winner Patrick Reed.

The point here is that HVIII is undoubtedly progressing and maturing on Tour with every passing event, and that interests me greatly as he arrives in Napa Valley for his 5th consecutive visit to Silverado. 4th after 54 holes here in 2015 as a rookie (he eventually finished 48th), 15th in 2016, 11th after 54 holes in 2017 (he finished 59th) and 9th after 54 holes last year (he finished 14th), it’s clear that Harold’s game suits Silverado very nicely indeed. That makes sense as he’s a high-class ball striker when on his game and he warmed up for this week nicely at Old White TPC a fortnight ago, finishing 19th. However the Greenbrier is more of a putting contest and I fancy Varner to contend this week on a course where tee-to-green play dominates. Result: T17

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Sung Kang 1pt EW 125/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

I’ll close with Sung Kang who under the radar has again had an impressive 2019. 10th at Waialae, 20th at Torrey Pines, 14th at Pebble Beach, 6th at Bay Hill, 18th at Copperhead, 1st at Trinity Forest and 7th at the Bethpage Black-hosted PGA Championship (his first Major Top 10), saw the South Korean jump from 203rd in the OWGR to best ever 61st before the close of May. From that point his season went backwards, but there have been signs across the past 2 weeks that he may well jump into contenting circles again very soon.

47th at Old White TPC saw him fire an opening round 65, good enough for T7 on the day. He then flew back to his homeland last week to play the well-respected Shinhan Donghae Open which has seen the likes of K.J. Choi, Paul Casey, Sangmoon Bae, Whee Kim and Byeong Hun An victorious since 2007. Played now on the Jack Nicklaus Bear’s Best at CheongNa Golf Club, a 65 on Saturday saw Kang jump into 2nd spot, eventually finishing 4th behind victor Jbe Kruger. When he’s hitting fairways and greens Sung is undoubtedly a player who can compete and as we know from his Byron Nelson Championship victory in May, he can beat the likes of Aphibarnrat, Koepka, and Piercy in a straight fight. 1 top-10 and 6 top-20 finishes in California encourage as they include strong finishes across classical Torrey Pines, Pebble Beach and Riviera Country Club. Result: MC

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 17:50BST 23.9.19 but naturally subject to fluctuation.