BELIEVE it or not the Safeway Open this week is the beginning of the PGA Tour’s 2017-18 season.
Brendan Steele clinched his first title here since winning the Valero Texas Open in 2011. He came from behind with three birdies in the last three holes to beat youngster Patton Kizzire by one shot.
The big boys are giving this event a miss but there are still some useful players here at the Silverado Resort and Spa North course.
Two years ago the Frys Open, as it was then, was won by Argentine youngster Emiliano Grillo whom I tipped at 50-1. Another youngster called Justin Thomas was T3 and look how he progressed. So it can sometimes be a look into the future with some kids from the Web.Com Tour stepping up to the PGA Tour. Scrambling, Proximity to Pin and Putting Average could be important statistics.
Kevin Na stands out as the obvious choice for Silverado as he lost in a play-off here two years ago and followed that up with a T7 last year. In both years he finished on 273 (-15) so he knows his way around the North Course. After missing the cut at the PGA he came back strongly with a T4 at the Wyndham Championship and T7 at the Dell. I still can’t believe he has not won a tournament on the Tour since 2011. Hopefully this could be the win he richly deserves. Scrambling: 61.1% (43rd), Proximity to pin: 33’11” (12th), Putting Average: 1.755 (37th).
Ollie Schniederjans maybe didn’t win a tournament like some other rookies on the Tour but showed how good he is. With a T2 at the Wyndham, a T3 at RBC Heritage and a T6 at the RSM Classic he showed he can live with the best. Been watching him closely in the latter part of the season and greatly impressed me. He recorded five top 10s and made it all the way to the BMW Championship. Well worth a gamble. Scrambling: 58.65% (100th) Proximity to pin: 35’ 1” (41st), Putting Average: 1.788 (100th).
Tony Finau was constantly tipped to win last season to follow on from his victor at the Puerto Rico Open in 2016. He made it to the Tour Championship last month and finished T7 – the same as he did in the BMW Championship the tournament before. Looks to be finishing the year with a flourish and could get his second win the week. Scrambling: 59.38% (78th), Proximity to pin: 36’10” (124th), Putting Average: 1.764 (62nd).