The schedule of this year’s PGA Tour has been ruffled like a bag of chips on a Sunday.
Golfers are not playing the same tournaments as they were this time last year. This is primarily due to the upcoming 2020 Summer Olympics.
I don’t think it’s unrealistic, though, to potentially pick our winners/top placers from how they may have performed early in the season more favorably than just course history.
You hear a lot of people talk about mental strength or the emotional quotient of golfers as well as their physical endurance.
While these attributes are a major predictor of an athlete’s success, what about mental endurance?
What about the ability and drive to heighten your focus from 0-100 after a much-needed 2-3 weeks off when it’s even more imperative that you completely detach from said focus?
At this point in the season, especially for the world’s best who took at least a week or two off work following the Tour Championship, we’re looking for golfers who don’t need much of a warm-up to return to their best form.
Patrick Cantlay and Justin Thomas were at the top of the pre-tee leaderboard as well as the betting board at the Tour Championship one month ago in Atlanta.
Neither were able to take advantage of their starting strokes handicap and get the win. Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy stormed ahead of both men for a convincing and well-deserved victory.
Will either or both be locked in emotionally and mentally at this week’s Safeway Open?
We will see.
At (+650), Thomas’s betting odds aren’t salivatory in the slightest but Cantlay is somewhat more mouth-watering at (+1000).
Joining them at the top are Adam Scott and Hideki Matsuyama; two men from the Pacific who also finished off the season good but not great at the Tour Championship.
Unless you bet on him or are a fan of McIlroy, you have to feel that it was a shame he won by 4 strokes as it could have been much more exciting had Rory scored just a hair higher.
We could have seen a playoff with him, Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele, and Brooks Koepka. These were, mas o menos, the four best golfers of the entire season.
We also get to see the season debut of Chez Reavie who led the PGA Tour in driving accuracy last season and placed 8th at the Tour Championship to finish things off.
There’s also Marc Leishman, Bryson “Slo-mo” Dechambeau, Brandt Snedeker, and Francesco Molinari in this week’s field.
This is a really thick field despite most of the top European stars declining the opportunity to miss playing at the Old Course at St Andrews.
It won’t be too long before Rory, Rahm, and Rose cross the pond but you can’t blame them this week as St Andrews is considered “The Home of Golf”.
BetOnline has the odds for us this week.
We have various betting options at our disposal this week, so let’s go ahead and tee off our first PGA Tour picks of the 2019-2020 season.
Sung Jae Im
- Winner: +2800
- Top Twenty: +110
- Top Ten: +240
- Top Five: +450
- First Round Leader: +3300
At the start of last season, long baller Cameron Champ was the talk of the next generation.
After he faded and his odds returned to planet earth, Collin Morikawa, Viktor Hovland, and Matthew Wolfe.
Without taking anything away from these guys, I feel that the 21-year-old from the breathtaking Jeju Island in the Republic of Korea is clearly better than all of them, at least right now.
Some players need a year or two playing at the highest level of a sport to gain traction and comfort. Mr. Im is just not one of those athletes.
Recently, the Korean superstar added his name to a list of some of the best golfers in recent memory when we won PGA Tour Rookie of the Year for the 2018-2019 season.
John Daly, Vijay Singh, Ernie Els, Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth, and Xander Scheauffele are just a few winners since the award was first given in 1990.
We were focused on the flagship tournament on the European Tour last week, the BMW PGA Championship, when we missed Sung Jae come so very close to his first PGA Tour victory when he fell short to Columbian Sebastian Munoz in a playoff.
Normally, I would shy away from picking a golfer who came within a stroke of winning their first PGA Tour event of their career less than a week ago but I have faith in the South Korean Sung Jae.
He finished top twenty at the Military Tribute at the Greenbrier a week prior as well as 11th and 19th in the final two playoff events of the season.
Okay, so his form is there.
Do his skills rate out well for the Safeway Open in Napa?
He finished tied for 4th here last year at just 20-years-old.
He’s also putting the ball pretty much better than anyone so far this year and I don’t know if you realize this but Napa Valley is historically a very dry place.
We have seen some of the worst wildfires in recent US history roll through there so the fairways and potentially to an even greater extent, the greens, are going to be very fast and unreceptive.
Im is not a small man at 6’1 and 200 pounds, so the power should be there. He drives the ball with a rare balance of accuracy and distance. Both statistics will be important this week as there are several reachable par 5’s but with dogleg designs on dry surfaces.
Sure, he played in more tournaments than any golfer on the PGA Tour last year but just listen to these numbers from the Rookie of the Year.
- 1st rookie in the FedEx era to play in 35 or more events
- #1 in cuts made
- #1 in birdies
- #1 in eagles
- #1 in total hole outs
There may be a slight emotional adjustment period in round one this week so picking him to win or place top 5 may be ill-advised.
I love the plus money for him to secure his 5th straight top twenty finish, though.
Tony Romo: +75000
Kidding! This choke artist…
As a Cowboy hater, I am missing him, though.
Come back and blow some games, Tony!
If I have to hear Colin Cowherd praise Dak Prescott one more time…
- Winner: +1000
- Top Twenty: -175
- Top Ten: +120
- Top Five: +275
- First Round Leader: +2000
A top-five player on the PGA Tour last season, Patrick Cantlay, is making his first start since the Tour Championship where he had a rough go of it finishing 21st out of only 20 players competing for the FedEx Cup.
This was even including his 2nd place start with the handicap strokes system the PGA used last in last season’s final tournament.
It was a disappointing performance for the Long Beach, Cali native. He had an incredible year making the cut in 18 of the 21 tournaments in which he played.
Only FedEx Cup Champion Rory McIlroy had a better scoring average throughout the season.
The statistic that stands out to me the most for Patrick is his top ten finishing percentage of 43%.
This is on par, if you will, with his (+125) payout which has an implied probability of 44%.
Cantlay is coming off of a month “vacay”. He has entered his late twenties, though, so I expect that the time was well spent.
2 weeks of doing nothing followed by 10 days or so in NorCal preparing for this week’s tournament in Napa would be ideal.
Hit the links at the Silverado Course in the morning and sip the best wine in the world with a pretty lady by the early evening…
It sounds like a solid day to me.
That’s living your best life right there.
JT is awesome, yes, but we can’t sit here and argue that he had a better season than the UCLA grad.
If we look back to last year’s tournament which took place in October, Pat looked good with a 17th place finish in which, not unlike this week, was his first tournament of the year.
I would throw a first-round leader bet on him this week but he has an afternoon tee time and historically, it’s been a morning starter that leads after Thursday.
Instead, I am eyeing his top ten finish for plus money.
First Round Leader
Byeong Hun An
Yes, another Korean golfer!
Mr. An, a week removed from his 28th birthday, was only one stroke behind his countryman Sung Jae Im and Sebastian Munoz at last week’s Sanderson Farms.
He had another third-place finish the previous month at the Wyndham Championship once again finishing just two strokes back from the winner.
Byeong Hun, another big guy, has an average driving distance of 338 yards.
Couple that statistic with his uncharacteristic superb putting from last week (2nd in strokes gained), and I think we have a strong bet on our hands.
He’s also going to be one of the first men to tee off which should be to his advantage in first-round scoring.
When you have someone whose strength is in line with course requirements as well as a weakness (his putter in this case) is hot, a second look isn’t a bad idea.
We gave that look and his recent form is as good as anyone, so why not throw a few bucks on the Cal State Berkeley grad playing close to his alma mater.
- Winner: +6600
- Top Twenty: +250
- Top Ten: +600
- Top Five: +1400
- First Round Leader: +6600
The Valdosta, Georgia native sounds like a Brit but a country boy by birth is a Dawg not short on any bite as of late.
You don’t get much better than 6th and 3rd in the past two weeks.
Sure, the season is infantile at this point but check out Harris’s statistics thus far.
- 30th in driving distance
- 4th in driving accuracy
- 9th in greens in regulation
- 4th in birdie average
- 3rd in scoring average
- 9th in putting
He’s only 30-years-old so the third tournament in 3 weeks of late Summer shouldn’t slow him down very much.
The only question here is top twenty or top ten? The top five is tempting at (+1400) but let’s pick him to eke out his third straight top ten for a 6 to 1 payout.
The PGA Tour has been back for a couple of weeks now but the Safeway Open marks the return of many of the best Americans including the disappointed Justin Thomas and Patrick Cantlay.
After the way last month’s Tour Championship played out, the men who went into the tournament with the biggest advantage each fell short.
I imagine both men will be on their games this week with the taste of a copper and kale milkshake still resonating on their tongues.
Both men also putt at a high level on the Bentgrass/Poa Annua mix we will see this week in Napa Valley.
I was actually in Napa Valley at this time last year following being blown away by the Olympic Peninsula and the Redwoods.
I can’t lie. It wasn’t very easy on the eyes, especially right after driving through a couple of rainforests.
It was SO DRY in Napa. I don’t know how those grapes can grow but a green thumb, I am not.
Most are certain that the golf ball will be bouncing on the fairways and the greens are expected to do the same.
Aggression will likely be rewarded this week with several scorable par 5s and 4s.
Each is in excellent form and I expect it to continue through this week’s Safeway Open.
If you want to pick some football games as well, I guess it’s okay. Golf is fun, but sometimes it’s just not enough.
Don’t let all the pregame shows cloud your judgement.
Get your golf picks in early, and spend your mornings watching the gentleman’s game.