WITH the Presidents Cup onslaught marking the official end of the season, we already turn our attentions to a new campaign.
The PGA Tour decided to begin FedEx points at The Safeway Open in 2013 because whilst it was known as the fall series, no one of any note would turn up.
Now you’ll get a splattering of players but generally these are good tournaments for those rookies to secure cards, young guns to get their first win or stalwarts of yesteryear getting redemption.
The North Course at Sliverado opened in 1955 and has been renovated by the likes of Robert Trent Jones Jnr and most recently Johnny Miller.
He took out fairway bunkers and added a bit more width, making it a more resort player’s course. This generally means that whilst the greens will be quick, it’ll see relatively low scoring.
The 7200 yard par 72 requires a general all-round game with a variety of shots needed to find the differing and complex greens.
Last years champion Brendan Steele ranked T23 for driving distance, T5 for driving accuracy, T24 for GIR and T6 for putting average.
That surely proves what a complete game you need to have… The two other champions here, Emiliano Grillo and Sang Moon-Bae are both known to be good drivers of the ball and were inside the top 30 for distance and accuracy in their victories as well.
Interestingly scrambling played a massive part in both of those wins, because of how tough some of the greens can be to hit at times.
Let’s kick off the new season with a win then shall we?
Tony Finau is a player we were backing a fair amount at the back end of the season. He produced each-way returns for us a couple of times in much stronger fields than this and out of all the players is in arguably the best form.
T7 at the BMW and then the Tour Championship is very impressive considering he was an outsider at both. It makes us think he is coming here knowing he’s played OK on this track but now a much more complete player with the view to getting his 2nd PGA Tour win.
He is a ridiculously strong driver of the ball and tee-to-green player (T34 total driving, 17th GIR) and generally enjoys shooting low on these type of courses.
No denying this will probably be some of the lower odds you’ll see for Finau in the short term, but don’t be surprised if you hear a lot more of him next year…
Martin Laird has had a couple of very good outings here, finishing T8 last year and T3 in 2014 where he went into the weekend with a strong chance of winning after 2 67’s but fell up short. It proves that his game is suited to the challenge and when you bring in his stats you can see why.
7th in total driving, T41 for ball striking, 90th GIR and 56th total putting. That is the complete all-rounder and it’s what you think of when you talk about the Scot.
He’ll be coming in off the back of a 67 at the BMW to nearly sneak into the Tour Championship so he won’t be rusty and surely he’ll be in a buoyant mood.
Lucas Glover on paper fits this track perfectly. He is a phenomenal driver of the ball and notoriously solid iron player. However he has had 2 MC’s here. Although he’s also finished T17 before, where he shot a 66, his course form isn’t anything to shout home about.
But we are plumping with him again after a T12 finish last time out at the BMW. He looked good and was hitting the ball a mile and as straight as you like. If he brings anything close to that form here, in a much weaker field, he will be in and around come Sunday.
After Robert Garrigus sneaked into the Playoffs after a scintillating run of 3 straight top 10’s but went on to miss the cut at the Northern Trust. However that previous form encourages us more than enough to think he could be one to watch this week.
We all know his story of fighting back from a very dark place in his life and now he is just one month away from his 40th birthday and still only has 1 PGA Tour win, which is nuts for someone who strikes the ball as well as him.
T39 total driving and T9 GIR show he’s got the ability but as for so many, his putter has let him down in the past. If he can bring that end of season form with him, he’ll be a dark horse.
Any talk of fighting back redemption, look no further than Hunter Mahan. This is a guy still only in his mid 30’s who has finished inside the top 10 in every major and has 6 PGA Tour titles but is now 730th in the world rankings. Mind boggling.
Yes he has also missed the last 2 cuts, but there was something still there in his T16 at the Wyndham several weeks ago. He then followed it up with a T13 on the Web.com and that gives us just enough to take a punt.
He finished T3 here in 2014 and on his day is still one of the best drivers of the ball. A bonkers outsider maybe, but we can see the headlines already…