Safeway Open Draft Kings DFS Preview
By Rocco Minsk Welcome back PGA, and more importantly, welcome back full cut line as we go forth with our Draft Kings Safeway Open fantasy preview. I missed you both, dearly. After four weeks of exciting FedEx Cup playoff action with either smaller fields or no cut lines at all, we get the first full field event since the Wyndham Championship. This week, the Tour opens the 2017-2018 season at Silverado Country Club in Napa, California.
The course is a par 72 which measures in at 7,203 yards. This is the first par 72 on the course since the Canadian Open in late July. While the distance and the par 72 imply that this course will shape up to be a birdie-fest, the numbers are scoring numbers are middle of the road. Last year’s event was won by Brendan Steele with a score of 18-under. He made a dramatic comeback down four strokes in the final round on a wet course. The year before, Emiliano Grillo won the event at 15-under. The cut line last year was -2.
There are birdie opportunities on this course as all of the par 5’s are reachable in two – the longest par 5 checks in at 571 yards. The difficulty lies once players reach the green as nearly all of the greens have some sort of slope, some dramatically sloped. The two key stats that you should be looking at here are distance on approach from 150-175 and strokes gained putting. There are not too many holes which will require a long iron for the second shot, so the mid-iron game is paramount here. A few feet on the approach shot can make the difference between a birdie and bogey.
Last year, the top two golfers, Steele and Patton Kizzire, gained 6.546 and 9.707 strokes putting respectivelty. Kizzire, the runner-up even lose strokes off the tee, so if you are thinking of starting a Luke List or Grayson Murray type bomber here, this probably is not the spot.
Here are our picks and pans for the week:
Webb Simpson ($11200) Look, I would not advocate paying a large amount of salary for a golfer in this week field, but if you are going for any of the golfers over $10,000, Webb is your man. Simpson was a real threat in the latter stages of the tour playoff as his driver was accurate and his putting actually did not suck and the momentum should carry over here. He has MC’d here the past two years so he may be low-owned
Kevin Na ($9400) Na turned around a lost season late after rediscovering his game. He had a brilliant final round at the BMW Championship after three opening stinkers and I like players coming off a shining final round at their previous tournament. Approaches are the name of the game for Na, who finished 7th here last year. He was 3rd in approaches from 150-175 last season and the best in this field.
Lucas Glover ($9100) There were definite signs of life from the Glove towards the end of last season as he put up decent showings in the playoffs. He had a tough stretch last year, but that coincided with all of the bentgrass events. Glover tends to play well in the early part of the PGA season, but he has 3 MC’s here in 4 events.
Brendan Steele ($9000) While I usually do not have a bias in favor of defending champions because of differences in course conditions and setup from year to year, this is a great price for a defending champ. Steele had a great season last year right up until the wheels came off in July, but his performance on the greens here last year merits him consideration.
Chez Reavie ($8900) Reavie flipped the on switch midway through the season last year. He did not miss a cut after May and posted six top-25 finishes in that span. Chez has made four cuts in a row here too with a 22nd and a 17th in the last two year. Momentum plus course history = play Reavie.
Peter Uihlein ($8,800) For some reason, I keep thinking that Uihlein will be the second coming of Brooks Koepka – American who comes back from Europe to find success. Uihlein is usually good for a made cut and a finish around 30th place, but this season, that number should start to creep up.
Emiliano Grillo ($8500) The amount of options I am recommending in this range should give you a strong hint as to how I am going to construct my lineup. Grillo is the 2015 champ who fell on hard times last season before a partial turnaround in the FedEx Cup playoff. Pre-swoon Grillo would be a great investment at this price if you believe in his revival.
Scott Piercy ($7700) This one is going to require a leap of faith, and it is one that I will be making. Piercy was one of the top golfers on Tour before a meltdown last year that saw him miss 8 of his last 12 cuts. This was attributed to an injury and Piercy took off the latter half of the season. I wish I knew what the injury was, but I also know that when he is healthy, Piercy would be one of the top golfers in this field, as evidenced by his 7th place here last year. I normally play cash games so I play on the conservative side, but this is an uncharacteristic risk I will take.
Kevin Streelman ($7600) Whenever Streelman is playing in a weak field event at this price, he will always make my list. I like Hughes below a little better, but Streelman should contend for a top-20 here. His course history is weak with two MC’s and a 41st, but value should dictate your plays here.
Mackenzie Hughes ($7600) Hughes is a big-time putter who will like these greens and I will be 100% Hughes this week. Hughes served notice that he can compete with the big boys, just missing the Tour Championship with a 36th place ranking. He finished 13th here last year and figures to contend as he was 8th on the Tour in Strokes Gained Putting last year, which makes him the second best putter in the field behind Jonas Blixt.
Martin Flores ($7600) On a course where approaches matter, this is the guy you want. Flores was first on the Tour last year in Greens in Regulation. Flores had a mini boomlet in the weak field events, with four top 20 finishes in a row before finishing 35th in the Northern Trust Open as his putter picked up to match his approaches. It won’t matter here that he loses strokes off the tee.
Richy Werenski ($7300) This is another golfer who served notice towards the tail end of last season that he can compete with six straight made cuts to close the season and he is a safe option in this price range to pair with a golfer in Na’s price range.
Jonas Blixt ($6,700) As mentioned before, Blixt is the best putter in the field which should count for something here. He should get you a made cut, but not likely to crack the top 20.
Colt Knost ($6,700) Those of us who played DFS back in 2016 remember this name well because for an eight week stretch mid-season, Colt 45 was marvelicious. The he had a wrist injury last year whick cut short his season, but this is the kind of course that Knost would play well on due to the lack of distance, assuming that he can shake off the rust,
Tony Finau ($11,500) Having expressed the importance of putting here, it would make sense to be skeptical of Finau as the highest price on the board, especially since his distance is not an advantage. Finau is not as bad with the putter as legend has it, but still, not worth the top price.
Bill Haas ($9,900) Here is a hard and fast rule: When Bill Haas is one of the highest prices on the board, fade him. Here endeth the lesson.
All of the Web.com alums – It is a popular guessing game trying to figure out which of these golfers will hit this year. Personally, I would rather wait a few events to get a sense of this because my fellow pundits have spotted the next Cody Gribble 11 out of the last 10 times. Remember that a lot of these guys are PGA Tour retreads who only dropped down the Web.co tour because of lack of success.