The Cheat Sheet provides fantasy golf players with course info, player history and the most noteworthy trends of the week to help them with their roster selections.
I hope you enjoy the 48-hour break! The PGA’s 2020-21 season officially begins Thursday with the Safeway Open. The event used to be staged as the Frys.com Open and began as a fixture on the Fall swing back in 2007. Since 2014 it has been played at the Silverado Country Club (North Course). The event this week will feature a full field of 150-plus golfers with regular cut rules applying as only the top 65 and ties will play the weekend. This year’s version of this event is quite unique as it will now act as the final warmup event prior to the U.S. Open, which is being staged at Winged Foot out on the East Coast the following week.
The field this week features an eclectic blend of veterans looking for one final warm-up prior to Winged Foot and lots of younger players eager to get the next season off on the right foot. Jordan Spieth, Matt Kuchar and Sergio Garcia are some of the biggest names in the field this week. Two-time Safeway Open champion Brendan Steele (2017, 2018) will also be in the field, as will 2019 champion Kevin Tway. Akshay Bhatia and Sahith Theegala are two college standouts who got in via sponsors exemptions to keep your eye on as well.
Silverado CC (North) • Napa, CA
7,166 yards, Par 72; Green: Poa Annua/Bentgrass
This will be the sixth year in a row that the players will be teeing it up at the Silverado CC, so looking at results from before 2014 won’t help much in terms of course history.
The Silverado North course isn’t extremely long, but there are several challenging features about it that will likely keep the winning score in the mid-to-high teens. Many holes have tighter tee shots — with a few doglegs thrown in — that require some accuracy off the tee. However, many of these holes can also be challenged by longer hitters who don’t mind taking on some risk and longer hitters have fared well here in past iterations. The smallish greens are primarily Poa Annua and best described as tricky. Johnny Miller — who helped with the redesign here in 2011 — described them as “Augusta-like” in speed and slope and as the most challenging part of the course.
With four shorter par 5s, the course again sets up well for those with length. Overall, the four par 5s at Silverado have played as the four easiest holes on the course and with three of them falling within the 550-600 yard mark, looking at efficiency ratings from that distance isn’t a poor idea for this week. Additionally, there are three par 4s which measure in at under 400 yards in length and only two which measure in at over 450 yards.
Of note is also the fact that recent winners have traditionally averaged much higher in driving distance here for the week with the field also averaging slightly above the Tour average for driving distance. Hitting the fairways here is much more difficult, though, as the field here has typically averaged 8-10% fewer fairways hit than the Tour average.
2020 Outlook: The weather this week looks like it will be a non-issue for the most part. Highs are expected to sit in the mid-80s range for most of the week. The mornings could be cool as temps are likely to start off in the high 50s or low 60s. The cool mornings will also feature less wind as the afternoons look set to feature gusts in the 10-12 mph ranges on all four days. The warmer temperatures could also bake out the greens for the afternoon waves, so expect the morning starters to have an advantage for Showdown purposes. Keeping an eye on the wind here to see if the afternoon gusts increase is the main thing to note for the weather this week.
LAST FIVE WINNERS
2019—Cameron Champ -17 (over Adam Hadwin -16)
2018—Kevin Tway -14 (over Ryan Moore/Brandt Snedeker playoff)
2017—Brendan Steele -15 (over Tony Finau -13)
2016—Brendan Steele -18 (over Patton Kizzere -17)
2015— Emiliano Grillo -15 (over Kevin Na, playoff)
- The last nine winners have all had a finish of T21 or better in one of their past four tournaments.
- The Frys.com/Safeway Open was the first PGA Tour win for five of the past nine winners.
- The past five winners of the Safeway Open have averaged 305 yards, as a group, in driving distance off the tee.
WINNERS STATS AND COURSE HIGHLIGHTS
Cameron Champ 2019 (17-under-par)
- The venue contains four par 5s, three of which are likely to fall in 550-600 yard range for the week, making efficiency from this range important. On a similar note, seven of the par 4s this week will also measure in at 400-450 yards.
- The field here has averaged a couple of yards off the tee in driving distance more than the Tour average, suggesting this is more of a driver-heavy venue.
- Each of the past four winners at this week’s venue has gained at least +1.6 strokes or more off the tee in the week of their win, with the past two winners gaining +2.5 or more OTT.
Odds to win are one factor to think about when picking players (but not the only thing, so be careful of putting too much weight on them). This section is going to detail a few of the players who have the best fantasy value comparative to their odds of winning this week.
Joel Dahmen +3000 and $9,500
- Jordan Spieth +3500 and $9,800
- Emiliano Grillo +3000 and $9,700
- Chez Reavie +3500 and $9,600
Jim Furyk +6600 and $7,700
- Henrik Norlander +6600 and $8,500
- Mark Hubbard +7000 and $8,100
- Charl Schwartzel +8000 and $7,800
HORSES FOR COURSES
1. Brendan Steele (best finishes: win-2017 and 2016): Steele has won this event twice and also finished T17-T21 in two previous years at this week’s venue. The American’s consistency tee to green pays off well for him in Napa. He comes in on a six-event made cut streak this year and is playing solid golf.
2. Emiliano Grillo (best finishes: win-2015): Grillo won this event back in 2015 and has also posted T26 and T28 finishes here over the past five years. He has lost strokes on the greens at Silverado on all but one of his visits and lost -3.9 strokes on the greens here last year — the only time he’s missed the cut at this event. This is a good track for Grillo but he remains combustible on the greens.
3. Brandt Snedeker (best finishes: T2-2018, T17-2019): Snedeker is one of the best West Coast players in the game and his record at this week’s California-based venue is excellent. He lost in a playoff here in 2018 and has finished T17 or better in his past three visits to the course. He’s gained +4 strokes or more putting in each of his past three appearances here.
4. Harold Varner III (best finishes: T17-2019, T14-2018): Varner has posted some solid finishes at Silverado over the past few seasons and has made the cut here in each of the past five years. He ranks seventh here in strokes gained total stats since 2016 and played well in spurts to end the 2020 season.
5. Martin Laird (best finishes: T3-2014, T8-2016): Laird has had a good go of it at Silverado over his career, posting two top-10 finishes at the venue since the event moved here in 2014. He’s gained strokes putting at Silverado every season except 2019 when he posted his only missed cut at this course in six attempts.
1. Si Woo Kim ($10,800, Recent finishes: T39-T3-T13): Kim flashed some serious form a couple of weeks ago at the Wyndham when he shot a third-round 63 and finished the event in T3. He also landed a T13 at the PGA Championship and has made nine cuts in a row coming in.
2. Cameron Davis ($8,900, Recent finishes: T29-T15-T12): Davis flashed at the year’s first playoff event, landing in the co-leader position after the first round. His distance off the tee should make him a popular target this week.
3. Talor Gooch ($7,300, Recent finishes: T65-T18-T25): Gooch has made the weekend in three of his past four starts on Tour now and posted top-25 finishes in three of his past five starts. He had gained strokes putting in six straight starts before bowing out of the FedEx Cup playoffs at the BMW Championship.
4. Joel Dahmen ($9,500, Recent finishes: T20-MC-T10): Dahmen has finished T20 or better now in three of his past four starts. He recorded his best finish ever at a major when he landed a T10 at the PGA Championship in August and will go searching for his maiden win again this week.
5. Tyler Duncan ($8,400, Recent finishes: T49-T29-T13): Duncan has started to flash more consistency of late, landing made cuts in nine of his past 10 starts. He’s gained +1 or more strokes off the tee now in three of his four starts as well.
Cash Games: The weaker top end of this event makes a balanced approach more appealing. Despite being under $10K in salary, Sergio Garcia ($9,900) might be the best current player in the field and leads the field in SG: TTG stats over the past 24 rounds. Pairing him with the likes of two-time champion Brendan Steele ($10,000), who is overpriced but has been playing well of late, makes some sense. Sam Burns ($8,700-see below) is a definite target in the $8K range and the likes of Luke List ($7,400) and Cameron Tringale ($7,500) both look slightly underpriced in the $7K range. Martin Laird ($7,000) and Scott Stallings ($6,900) are two other players to consider with solid West Coast history.
Tournaments (GPPs): Shane Lowry ($10,200) has played well on the West Coast plenty of times in his career and ranks ninth in SG: TTG stats in this field over the past 24 rounds. The Irishman has gained strokes OTT in eight of his past 10 starts as well. Erik van Rooyen ($9,400) is another international player with a solid pedigree. He can be completely boom or bust but we don’t mind that volatility in GPPs and he’s gained +2.7 strokes or more OTT in his past two starts on Tour. From further down, don’t forget about Patrick Rodgers ($7,600) or Wyndham Clark ($6,800) here. Both players have plenty of power off the tee and are two of the best putters on Tour.
MY PICK: Sam Burns ($8,700)
Burns is a player I featured here toward the end of last year. The 24-year-old has plenty of talent and should be able to showcase the best parts of his game at Silverado this week. Burns ranked 16th in SG:OTT and eighth in driving distance last season and should find Silverado more to his liking on his second visit to the course — he missed the cut here badly last year — as the past four winners here have all been big hitters who average well over 300 yards off the tee. Burns is more than just a bomber though and he started to showcase a more refined approach game toward the end of the 2019-20 season, gaining +1.4 strokes or more on his approaches in three of his last four starts. He’s always had the ability to catch fire with his putter — he’s gained +2 or more strokes putting in six of his 10 starts on Tour — and if his ball-striking stays similar to what he flashed prior to the break, he’s likely just one solid week on the greens away from challenging here. He’s a solid upper-tier value at well under $9K in this weaker field.
MY SLEEPER: Kristoffer Ventura ($7,000)
Ventura’s the type of golfer who should be a good fit for this week’s venue. The 25-year-old had a turbulent start to his PGA TOUR career, missing six cuts in a row at one point but had a strong end to the 2019-20 season, which included three top-25 finishes in his last five starts on the PGA TOUR. The Norwegian brings in a strong off-the-tee game which has seen him gain strokes OTT in seven of his past eight PGA TOUR starts, while finishing the year ranked 29th in Driving Distance. Ventura’s also a solid putter, ranking seventh on Tour last season in SG:PUTT stats and will certainly be looking to get his 2020-21 season off to a much quicker start than the last. With the way Silverado has catered to longer hitters who can catch fire on the Poa greens, Ventura carries lots of upside here and makes for a solid DFS target at just $7K flat.
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