Today's Free Picks for
Posted Wednesday, October 4 at 10:45 AM EST.
The Safeway Open
The dust has barely settled on Justin Thomas’ FedExCup win – achieved partly thanks to Xander Schauffele’s outstanding win at the TOUR Championship – and already attention has turned to the wraparound season for 2017-18. Just three of the combatants from the Presidents Cup are in Napa Valley, with Phil Mickelson joined by Adam Hadwin and Emiliano Grillo, while Tony Finau and Webb Simpson join Hadwin in being the only participants in the TOUR Championship to tee it up this week.
We’re heading to the North course at the Silverado resort this week; the now annual host venue since 2014. It’s a 7,200 yard, Par 72 – the first in what seems like an eternity on tour – with four Par 5s to be attacked. The greens are Poa Annua and fairly slow on the stimp, but sloped in nature which acts as their main form of defense. The fairways are tight-ish and there’s plenty of rough around, but with 12 of the 18 holes playing under par according to the scoring average charts in 2016, clearly this is a stretch that can be attacked. Each of the last five holes played under par with Par 5s at 16 and 18 offering plenty of opportunity for late drama. While length off the tee has not been a pre-requisite, these sloped greens are definitely better attacked with short iron or wedge in hand, so perhaps Total Driving is a key stat to follow in this week.
At this time of year, it’s worth looking at the kinds of players who perform well, and perhaps find reasons why. This is a weak field event with many in the field not picking up a club in anger since prior to the FedExCup playoffs, so what kind of talent tends to thrive during the wraparound. Putting on Poa Annua is a skill in itself with most in the field getting little exposure of the surface outside of the California swing, so perhaps takin a look at relevant stats from the Farmers Insurance Open, AT&T Pebble Beach, and the Genesis Open, where this grass is used, is wise. Four of the top six finishers here 12 month ago – Kizzire, Piercy, Casey and Johnson Wagner – were all in the top four after round one, and all had morning tee times. A fast start is clearly very important at Silverado. Once again, however, we’re going after some long shots because this is a great time of year to do so with so many of the top money earners taking a break. Hopefully one or more of our choices will be on the first page of the leaderboard on Sunday.
Unless otherwise stated, the following bets to win outright will be placed at Bet365 because of their cash-out option during the event.
Brandon Hagy 100-1
At last year’s Safeway Open, Michael Kim bagged himself a T3 finish without really showing any form before or after the event. It was a real headscratcher, and the only thing we could put it down to was his college education at the University of California-Berkeley, which is roughly an hour from Napa Valley. That meant that Kim could scout the course with ease and had probably played it a bunch of times. Brandon Hagy is also a Berkeley alumnus, and his game looks tailor-made to go well at Silverado. He’s long off the tee, and assuming he can find plenty of fairways that should give him plenty of wedges into these sloping greens – it’s a huge advantage to and soft on what are likely to be scorched surfaces under this hot Californian sun. Hagy ranked 49th for Par 4 Birdie or Better Leaders and 7th for Par 5 Birdie or Better last season. Like Kim, there’s a really good chance that he’s played this course many times and like Kim, there’s a really good chance he has a very good event (Risking 0.2 units to win 20 units).
Keith Mitchell 110-1
There are a whole bunch of Web.com Tour guys in the field here, and as we saw in 2016 it should be no surprise if some of them come to the party at Silverado. Of those most likely to, Keith Mitchell has to be near the top of the list – and given that he’s not a big name we’d expect his ownership to be low this week for those of you that are playing DFS. He’s been tearing up the Web.com Tour with four top-10 finishes in his last six starts, plus a T11, and let’s not forget that in his sole start to date on the PGA TOUR, Mitchell finished T11 at the Valspar Championship, so he’s not fazed by the step up in class. Mitchell is a true takent who is not going to stay under the radar for long. On the Web.com Tour he ranked 2 nd in Birdie Average, 11th in Total Driving and 24th in Ball Striking and it would surprise us not if he was close on Sunday and in a position to win. This is a long-hitting under the radar, 25 year-old worth investing in. (Risking 0.2 units to win 22 units).
Harold Varner III 50-1
It was roughly at this time of last season that HVIII claimed the first big title of his career: the Australian PGA Championship, and he’s another player who would have added to that collection if he could just putt a little more consistently. But as we’ve said countless times before, that little hot streak can come at any time, and with exceptional ability to make birdies, HVIII has to come into the reckoning this week. He ranked fifth from tee-to-green here 12 months ago on his way to a T15 finish, so all we’re asking for is a steady week with the short stick and a repeat (or better) of that performance. He actually ended the season in decent enough fashion with T10 at the Wyndham Championship and T20 at the Northern Trust, before bowing out of the FedExCup with T47 at the Dell Technologies where he posted two rounds of 67 (Risking 0.2 units to win 10 units)
Rory Sabbatini 125-1
The last three months of the season were outstanding for Rory Sabbatini, who really was approaching his best form by the end of the campaign. Five top-25s in seven starts was a handy way to finish, and he crashed into the top 125 of the FedExCup standings based on that alone. The standout was clearly the T4 at the Wyndham Championship. It’s easy to forget that the South African is a six-time PGA TOUR winner with a whopping 70 top-10s to his name, and make no mistake he will hit plenty of fairways this week and tackle the Par 5s with gusto. He brinks some nice peripherals with him too, as he ranked 1st ON TOUR in Approaches from 125-150 Yards, 12th in Par 5 Scoring Average and 39th in Total Driving. This is a definite overlay (Risking 0.2 units to win 25 units).
Chesson Hadley 55-1
Peaking at any time to set up one's year is always valuable, but when it occurs over the summer, it's even better. The former PGA TOUR winner and 2013-14 Rookie of the Year entered June at 57th on the money list. He then lost in a playoff in his next start to lay the foundation for a blitz and a bonanza down the stretch. Two wins, another T2, a solo third and a 10th-place finish evidenced his renewed outlook on his craft. Interestingly, and perhaps not coincidentally, he turned 30 years of age just before lighting fire. As a result, he swept both money lists used to rewards exemptions into the 2018 PLAYERS, so he's also exempt from the reshuffle in 2017-18. Hedley is ranked second in the all-around on the Web.com Tour this year and he has to be coming into this even feeling extremely confident (Risking 0.2 units to win 11 units).
Head-to-head Matchups for The SAFEWAY OPEN
HEAD-TO-HEAD MATCHUPS for thye PGA CHAMPIONSHIP
Featured head-to-head matchups of the week.
Mickelson backers should be a tad worried about possible burnout from Liberty National but his prowess around the dance floors along with his pedigree has him overvalued almost every time he tees off. This week is no exception, as Webb Simpson has a great chance to win this event, let alone finishing ahead of Phil. Simpson was in as good as form or better than anyone in the field down the stretch of last season (which was only two weeks ago). His ball striking remains excellent and he has greatly improved his putting since changing his grip last spring. Additionally, his game around the greens remains much underrated. A poor course history has him evenly priced against Phil keep but these two are not even and we’re going to trust Simpson’s form, the superiority over Phil and his improved putting stroke (Risking 2.16 units to win 2).
We’re going to continue are attack against Mickelson until the market adjusts to his age and while we seriously respect his game and ability, he’s in danger of a big letdown this week. Even if that does not come to fruition, we’d still be on Kevin Na to beat him here. Na saved some of his best form for last season to the very end, and that momentum is very handy heading into an event he has enjoyed in recent years. Na was T4 at the Wyndham Championship and T6 at the Dell Technologies, and while a flaccid showing at the BMW meant he missed out on the FedExCup curtain call, there are still enough positive signs here to get pumped about a guy who has finished T2 and T7 on his last two trips to Napa. The 34-year-old has ranked 12th and 2nd for SG: Tee to Green at Silverado on his last two visits, and with recent form in hand another strong showing is likely. He also ranked 3 rd ON TOUR in Approaches from 150-175 Yards and 8th ON TOUR in SG: Approach-the-Green (Risking 2 units to win 2.1 units).
Emiliano Grillo has missed the cut in four of his last eight events. While he’s long off the tee, he’s not in the best form and one could even use the word erratic in describing his play this past year. Even when he’s made the cut recently, his finishes left much to be desired, as he’s finished T43, T50, T29, 22 and T58 in his last five cuts made. Grillo’s 22nd place finish at the Dell Technologies Championship looks pretty good but that was all because of one very good round with the other three being as ordinary as he’s been over the past six months. Meanwhile, Laird is excellent off the tee and tends to putt well on Poa Annua. It’s no wonder he’s bagged a pair of top-10 finishes at Silverado in his last trio of visits. Laird ranks seventh on tour for Total Driving in 2017 and has posted top-10s on the Poa Annua here and at Riviera (the Genesis Open), which is a pair of handy angles in. He qualified for the FedExCup and made a decent fist of things – a T20 at the Northern Trust propelling him all the way to the BMW Championship, where he just missed out on a place at the TOUR Championship. We love his chances to put Grillo in the distance (Risking 2.16 units to win 2).
4 golfers to win outright @ 0.2 units each = - 0.8 units (Hagy withdrew before tee-off).
#7006 W. Simpson -108 over P. Mickelson = -2. 16 units
Kevin Na +105 over P. Mickelson = -2 units
TOTAL = 4.96 units
#7023 M.Laird -108 over E. Grillo = + 2 units
Therefore 4.96 units - 2 units = a total net loss of 2.96 units
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PGA Wagers (Risking 7.32 units - To Win: 0.00)