This time last week we dipped into the European Tour for our preview and betting tips of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship….and came up plucking a 60/1 winner! Yes, Tyrrell Hatton did the job for us (and himself, most importantly) to seal his maiden tour win and some rather tasty profit for us, too. Thanks Tyrrell.
We’ll get straight back onto the horse but head across the pond to the Safeway Open this week, which looks to be a better betting proposition than the cramped British Masters.
The Safeway Open, or the Frys.com Open as it used to be known, is now firmly locked in place as the PGA Tour’s seasonal kick-off tournament, and it offers a steady test of credentials for the 140 players or so in the field.
This tournament was supposed to mark the return of one Tiger Woods to the golfing party after more than a year out with a back injury, but the 14-time major winner pulled out late on Monday citing the ‘vulnerable’ state of his game. As we will note later on in this preview, the North Course at the Silverado resort is not a place for those out of form.
The headline makers in Tiger’s wake are the winning Ryder Cup duo Phil Mickelson and Matt Kuchar, reigning champion Emiliano Grillo and world number 12 – and form horse – Paul Casey. This motley crew is joined by a band of talented youngsters (Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas and Bud Cauley), wily old pros (Charlie Hoffmann, Bill Haas and Chris Kirk) and some first-time winners from last season (Tony Finau, Brian Stuard and Fabian Gomez). In truth, it is a pretty wide-open contest.
The North Course at the Silverado Resort in Napa Valley, California is a steady early season test of credentials: the last two winning scored here have been -16 in 2014 and -15 last year, but don’t be fooled; this is a sturdy challenge.
Tight fairways will punish wayward drives (Grillo ranked eight for Driving Accuracy here last time out), and the extra small greens require pinpoint iron play to ensure that no mischief is made – it will come as no surprise to learn that Grillo also ranked first for Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green.
A windy couple of days are forecast in California too, so finding players with an ability to get the job done in a breeze will also some in handy.
Safeway Open Betting Tips
Justin Thomas (25/1)
After finishing third here in 2015, Thomas will surely have noted the Safeway Open as one to look forward to in his diary, and after coming home in sixth in his last outing at the ultra-competitive Tour Championship, that anticipation will have increased significantly.
Already a tour winner at the sprightly age of 23, the Kentuckian blitzed seven top-ten finishes during the 2015 campaign to complete his shift from ‘talented youngster’ to ‘genuine event contender’, and in a thin field such as this he will fancy the job of adding to his collection of silverware.
Three top-tens in his last six starts show the form is there, and few in the world play Par 5s as effectively as Thomas; an essential weapon in the armoury of any potential champion on a Par 72 track. He also finished tenth at the Barclays Championship this year – an event in which Grillo prospered in – so there is clearly a ‘crossover factor’ to be considered.
Roberto Castro (50/1)
This tournament has proven to be a happy hunting ground for tour maidens in recent times, so let’s get one on board here in the shape of talented youngster Roberto Castro.
The American has ten top-10s to his name in little more than four seasons on the tour, but it was his extra consistency last term – 22/27 cuts made, ten top-25s, four top-10s, a second and a third – that fired him into the FedEx Cup reckoning.
He could have claimed his maiden victory at the Wells Fargo earlier in the year but lost out in a play-off, but the good news is that he hasn’t rested on his laurels: five top-20s have come his way since then. Third at the BMW Championship and T17 at the Tour Championship in his last two starts are testament to his growing confidence.
Colt Knost (150/1)
A new season means a new beginning for many in the field, and Colt Knost will be looking to put some ropey recent form behind him here.
Five missed cuts in his last six starts is a horrorshow, but it has also had the effect of pushing his price right out to a very generous figure given that he recorded a trio of top five finishes as recently as May/June.
Having had more than a month off to find his game, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if the good times returned for a very tidy player who looks well suited to Silverado – as his second round of 66 last year proves.