After a short layoff, The 2018 PGA season kicks off with The Safeway Open. This event takes place at Silverado Country Club in Napa, California and this will be the fourth year in a row this country club has held this PGA tournament. This course is a Par 72, that is 7,166 yards in length. Brendan Steele started the season with a win here last year, finishing at -18 for the week. All of the three winners here have shot at least -15, and we can expect lower numbers again, with the weather looking perfect for all four of the days in Napa. Being a Par 72, this course is home to four Par fives. These four holes played as the four easiest holes last season and converting birdies on them will be essential, as two of the three winners here ranked T1 in Par five scoring in their wins.
The fairways are tight on this course and distance isn’t a necessity. This is very much a second shot course and we need to target strong iron players who find the putting surface consistently, with the prior three winners sticking 74.5% of the greens during their victories. So, on top of the main stats I always use in fantasy golf (SGT2G, SGP, BOB%), I will be putting a weight on approach games and par five scoring when choosing my players for The Safeway Open. Oh, and just as reminder, after a couple no cut events, we are back to a full field of players, with the normal top 70 and ties making the cut this week. I am excited about having standard fantasy golf back, but just from my own experience, I wouldn’t play your normal amount of bankroll, when considering this an extremely weak field of golfers. But as always, I wish everyone good luck, and if you have any question or if any of these picks help your lineups, let me know via Twitter. @Hunta512.
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Harold Varner III: (8,000) Varner ended his 2017 campaign on a high note, making the cut in seven of his last eight events of the season. He was putting up some solid finishes right end of the year, finishing T10th at The Wyndham, T20th at The Northern Trust, and T47th at The Dell Technologies. His game was coming together during this stretch, and over his last 12 rounds of golf he ranks 12th DK scoring, 42nd in strokes gained putting, 7th in strokes gained total, 8th in strokes gained tee to green, and 11th in strokes gained approaching the green. (via Fantasy National)
He has played here at Silverado twice, making both cuts, with a T15 last season. His stats were very impressive in this finish, ending the week at second in greens hit, and T1 in par five scoring for the week. At the moment, he is listed at 40/1 to win at Silverado Country Club (via Bovada), which are the very good odds for his salary, considering they are the same odds as a player like Jamie Lovemark, who costs $700 more than Varner this week on DraftKings. It is hard to expect him to lead the field again in Par five scoring for the second straight year, but given his form from at the end last season, I think Varner has the potential for a top ten finish in this field.
Smylie Kaufman: (7,400) His finishes haven’t been perfect (12th, 27th, MC), but Kaufman’s game was solid statistically at the end of the year. In his last three events of the season, he ranked 15th in DK scoring, 27th in strokes gained tee to green, 22nd in approaching the green, 8th in birdies, and 3rd strokes gained on Par fives. (via Fantasy National) Also he has put up strong numbers on Par 72s, ranking 6th in DK points over his last 12 rounds at Par 72 venues.
This is going to be his third time playing here in Napa, and he did miss the cut last season, but in 2016, he racked up 22 birdies, was T2 in Par five scoring, and posted a T10 finish. Guessing what Smylie we will see this week, is a very tough task, but if his game is on, there’s no question he can contend on this course that suits his game. No way would I play him in cash, but in GPPs, Kaufman is absolutely worth a dart at this price. (2-4% projected ownership via Fantasy Labs)
Rory Sabbatini: (7,000) His missed at The Northern Trust was a disappointing end to the season, but before this, Sabbatini was on a roll, finishing no worse than 23rd in four straight starts, including a notable T4 at The Wyndham Championship. He was playing the exact type of golf I am targeting this week, averaging a high 71.8% GIR, shooting -7 Par fives, while averaging a great 94.25 DK points per tournament. Also for the whole season, he was one of the better Par five players, finishing the year 12th in par five scoring, and 25th in Par five birdie or better percentage.
The South African has only teed up at Silverado once in his career, missing the cut here two years ago. But in that week he was spraying it all over the place off the tee, only hitting 39% of the fairways. He is now a much more accurate player with his driver, hitting 66.8% of fairways in his last five starts, ending the season at 43rd in DA %, compared to his 64th ranking for the 2016 season. If he can get back to the strong form we saw from a few months ago, Sabbatini has a ton of upside for his price. He should come with an extremely low ownership (2-4% projected ownership via Fantasy Labs) and is a fine GPP target this week.
Also Consider: Martin Flores, Bryson DeChambeau, Trey Mullinax, Vaughn Taylor (made 3/4 cuts recently and finished T15th here last season), Talor Gooch (it’s The Web.com Tour, but in his last five starts, Gooch has finished 24th, 1st, 2nd, 10th, and 11th. He also has a T66 at The U.S. Open back in June, showing you he obviously has the skills to compete at The PGA level), Mackenzie Hughes, Chad Campbell, and Sung Kang.