What a better way to usher in autumn than with a visit to wine country.
For the sixth consecutive year, Silverado Resort and Spa's North Course in Napa, California, hosts the Safeway Open. While the stock par 72 is a staple destination, the difference this year is that the tournament doesn't lead off the schedule. Now third in the lineup of 49 tournaments, it's the first time that it's contested in a month other than October.
Scroll past the projected contenders for what the field of 144 faces, how Kevin Tway broke through for victory last year and more.
Defending champion Kevin Tway, two-time winner Brendan Steele, Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau, Marc Leishman and other notables will be reviewed in Tuesday's Fantasy Insider.
Every time something new is introduced, the jury is out until enough evidence is available to form an intelligent position on what's been presented. Suffice it to say that we're probably already there two stops into the 2019-20 season.
Both of the first two tournaments reserved space for 156 entrants, so all Korn Ferry Tour graduates who wanted to compete had the opportunity in either. This wasn't always the case when the season started in mid-October, so that challenge has been addressed and resolved.
Another underrated aspect of the host sites early on is that there's nothing tricky about them. From The Old White TPC to Country Club of Jackson and now to Silverado, tee-to-green precision is rewarded. This is expected on courses with decades of history.
The North Course at Silverado has roots dating back to the 1950s. Robert Trent Jones, Jr. redesigned it in 1966 and Johnny Miller updated it in 2011 in advance of its role as host of the Safeway Open. Accuracy off the tee on the 7,166-yard test is at a premium, but it's not a prerequisite to contend or even prevail. Tway ranked T40 in fairways hit in regulation before outlasting Ryan Moore and Brandt Snedeker in a playoff that went three holes.
While Moore led the field in fairways hit, ranked T2 in greens in regulation and finished sixth in Strokes Gained: Putting, and as Snedeker was second in Strokes Gained: Putting, it was Tway's ability to salvage par 16 of 20 times that gave him a chance. He co-led the field in both scrambling and bogey avoidance.
Focusing on the short game always has merit but it's amplified at Silverado given how stingy the combination bentgrass-Poa annua greens prepped to run no longer than 11-and-a-half feet can be. Annually they're among the toughest on which to connect from inside 10 feet. Tway ranked T40 in the stat for the week, but he buried the ones that mattered most to retain momentum.
The new date means warmer weather, at least in theory. After a couple of readings in the high 90s, if not triple digits, the tournament will begin on Thursday under a cloudless sky and a high temperature in the low 80s. The cooling will extend all the way to the finish line with a daytime high in the low 70s. Rain isn't expected but wind will blow throughout. Scoring should resemble last year's average of 71.103.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM’s Fantasy Insider Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous angles. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
TUESDAY*: Sleepers, Fantasy Insider
THURSDAY: Champions One & Done
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesday.