After a lengthy three-day offseason, professional golf is back at it this week at the PGA Tour’s Safeway Open. The 2018-19 season kicks off just as the last few have, in Napa at Silverado, and there are more than a few interesting storylines.
Let’s take a look at this week’s season-opening contest.
What: Safeway Open | When: Oct. 4-7
Where: Silverado Country Club — Napa County, California
Ranking the field (odds)
Field strength — C+: As far as post-Ryder Cup fields go, it’s fine. Mickelson gives it a little punch, but it’s not a particularly great field unless you’re deep into the fall events.
Three stories to watch
1. Mickelson’s bounce back: Phil Mickelson is the biggest star in this event by several magnitudes, and two converging trends for him will be interesting to keep tabs on. First, he’s been playing miserably for two straight weeks of the Tour Championship and Ryder Cup (this is bad). Second, he’s been awesome at this event in the last few years, even notching a near-win in 2017 without hitting 30 percent of fairways off the tee (this is good … I think). I’ve never really known what I’m getting from him from week to week in his career (I’m not sure he is, either), and that’s only getting more – not less – true.
2. New guys arrive: This tournament is the first opportunity for a new batch of Web.com Tour graduates to show their stuff on the senior circuit. The biggest names among these include Cameron Champ (superstar potential), Wyndham Clark, Sungjae Im and Cameron Davis. None figure to be much of a factor at Silverado (Im has the best odds to win at 66-1), but all could play a part in the rookie of the year race as the season wears on.
3. Superstar assertion: There are a handful of golfers who have a real chance to assert themselves as stars or superstars this season. That can start here at Silverado. Among those with an opportunity are Cantlay, Niemann, Hossler, Uihlein, Champ, Trey Mullinax, Ollie Schniederjans and Patrick Rodgers. These are all young — or really young — golfers who probably aren’t fully formed and have an opportunity to start inching up the OWGR top 50 toward that top 20, or even into the top 10.
- 2017: Brendan Steele
- 2016: Brendan Steele
- 2015: Emiliano Grillo
- 2014: Sangmoon Bae
- 2013: Jimmy Walker
Safeway Open picks
Winner: Maybe I was a year off. I thought Cantlay would be on the 2018 Ryder Cup team, but maybe this is the season he breaks out and becomes a top-10 player in the world. Regardless, he’s a supreme talent and the best player in the field.
Top 10: I believe in the track record! I don’t think he grabs three in a row (nobody has done it at a single event since Steve Stricker at the John Deere Classic from 2009-2011), but I do think he piles up some more cash at Silverado this week.
Sleeper: This course probably won’t fit his game perfectly, but I am endlessly intrigued by the power and the talent.