Welcome back PGA RotoBallers! Another 'Swing Season' event, another first-time PGA Tour winner, as Sebastian Munoz captured the Sanderson Farms Championship last week. Munoz held off a hard-charging Sungjae Im Sunday afternoon and made a clutch 15-footer for birdie on the 72nd hole to force a playoff with Im, the reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, before eventually prevailing at the Country Club of Jackson.
I know the lure of football is hard to ignore on Sundays, but we are seeing some high-quality golf being played this fall, and I look for this week's Safeway Open to be the best 'Swing Season' event that we've seen yet, as a slew of very strong golfers head to beautiful Napa, California.
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Safeway Open Overview
For a 'Swing Season' event, this week's Safeway field is downright star-studded. Justin Thomas headlines a surprisingly-strong turnout that includes Patrick Cantlay, Adam Scott, Bryson DeChambeau, and Francesco Molinari. The reigning Safeway champion Kevin Tway will be back to defend his title and Phil Mickelson will also be coming out of hibernation to tee it up for the first time this season.
In addition to the elite players in the field, we get some fun names this week like rookie sensation Colin Morikawa, teenager Akshay Bhatia, Fred Couples and Tony Romo, though I wouldn't recommend playing the former Cowboys QB in DFS!
All in all, this is a surprisingly-juicy field and a nice little September surprise! From a DFS perspective, I think the field will naturally lend itself to 'Stars & Scrubs'-type roster constructions this week due to the elite players that are available above the $9k DraftKings price tag, but there is definitely enough quality to go with a balanced lineup if that's your preference. This will be an interesting and fun week to dig into PGA, let's tee it up!
You can also find out who the smart money is on by checking out Spencer Aguiar's PGA DFS: Vegas Report every week.
The Course: Silverado Resort & Spa North
Par 72 - 7,166 Yards, Greens: Poa
A small group led by Johnny Miller purchased this Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed property in 2010. Miller quickly orchestrated a fairly extensive re-design which has been well received. This is a classic layout with tough-to-hit, tree-lined fairways that places an emphasis on accuracy off the tee. Elite ball striking is required at Silverado and will be an area that I will target heavily, while iron play will also take its usual prominent place in my research process. I'll also glance at scrambling and around-the-green ability this week. For the first time in a while, we'll see Poa Annua greens. Poa is notoriously tricky and could wreak havoc on some guys in this field - especially young players that have very little experience on the surface. So, I'll definitely be keeping an eye on players that have positive putting splits on Poa.
Justin Thomas (DK - $11,400)
Notable Course History: T8 ('17), T3 ('16)
No big surprises here, as Justin Thomas is without question the class of this week's (strong-ish) field. JT checks all the boxes...he has a strong record in his previous starts on this Silverado layout, he's a great statistical fit, and he closed out the recent 2018-19 season on absolute fire - notching three top-12s, a win, and a T3 in his last five starts.
If you follow golf closely, then you know that (despite his strong finish) 2019 was something of a lost season for Thomas. I strongly believed that JT was primed for a huge year before a wrist injury suffered at the Honda Classic derailed his season in a massive way. He tried to play through it before eventually skipping the PGA Championship and taking some time off to rehab it. When Thomas did return there was a definite readjustment period. However, when things started clicking, he looked like the 'top-five golfer in the world' that we all know him to be.
JT heads to Napa for his first action since the TOUR Championship and - though he lost strokes on approach at East Lake - Thomas is arguably the hottest iron player in the world at the moment. He's averaging a ridiculous 4.3 strokes gained on approach over his last five tournaments and grades out first in this Safeway field in SG: Ball Striking and Total over the last 24 rounds. JT's putter was the last thing to come around when he returned from injury and his struggles on the greens probably kept him from at least one more victory over the last couple months of the season, but the Poa he will find at Silverado North is by far his best surface historically.
Yes, we will have to make some sacrifices at other spots in our lineup in order to roster Thomas at $11.4k, but it's definitely doable. He carries more upside than anyone in this field and is the odds-on favorite to win this week.
Hideki Matsuyama (DK - $10,500)
Notable Course History: T17 ('16), T3 ('15)
If you want to pivot away from JT (or go ultra Stars & Scrubs and pair them together), Hideki Matsuyama is another nice high-end option. It's hard to call the 2018-19 season a disappointing one for the Japanese superstar - as he only missed two cuts all year - but Matsuyama is just so consistently good that it feels like he should win more. In fact, if you're gonna knock Hideki, the fact that his last victory was over two years ago is probably the only argument you can make, as he had another very strong season statistically in 2018-19, finishing at third in SG: Tee to Green and fifth in SG: Approach on the PGA Tour last year.
He brings that strong tee-to-green consistency to a Silverado North course where he's played well in his previous appearances (gaining 16.93 strokes total in two starts). We're all well aware of Hideki's putting woes, but - like the aforementioned Thomas - Poa is his best putting surface. We're sacrificing a bit of win equity by moving from Thomas to Matsuyama, but the legendary ball striker offers a ton of consistency and $900 in salary cap savings.
Bronson Burgoon (DK - $8,000) - Harris English (DK - $7,900) - Harold Varner III (DK - $7,800)
Notable Course History:
I really wanted to touch on this price range, but couldn't decisively choose which one of these guys I wanted to highlight. Then after tinkering around with lineup construction a bit, I realized that these three players can make up a really strong core to build around, so why not list them as a package deal?
All three head to Napa in hot-fire form. Burgoon is fresh off a T6 at the Sanderson Farms, English has logged a third and a sixth in his two Swing Season starts, while HV3 has two top-15s on this course and looked sharp en route to a top-20 at the Greenbrier. All three are fine stand-alone plays, but I do like using this trio as something of a "stack", to borrow an NFL DFS term. Those of you that take the MME (Mass Multi Entry) route can go in tons of exciting directions when you start with these three. With an average salary of around $8.7k remaining after locking these guys in, you can then go up to JT, Cantlay, or Hideki and still have a very reasonable amount of salary to work with for your remaining roster spots.
Jim Furyk (DK - $7,400)
Notable Course History: None Recent
I'm always a little sheepish when I write-up Jim Furyk in this article (which I did several times last season), because I know he's not an exciting, #BreakTheSlate type of play...but I just can't ignore him at this price. I know, Furyk is old and boring, but he also profiles as a perfect fit for this golf course.
The veteran is your man when it comes to fairways and greens. Over his last 24 rounds Furyk ranks fourth in the field in Fairways Gained and sixth in GIRs Gained, in addition to grading out 12th in the field in Proximity. He had a very strong 2018-19 season that included three top-10 finishes, though he did fade down the stretch a bit. The 49-year-old hasn't teed it up since the BMW, so I look for him to show up in Napa well rested and refreshed.
Cameron Tringale (DK - $7,200)
Notable Course History: T46 ('18), T43 ('17)
I'm still kicking myself for not highlighting Cameron Tringale last week, but I let his poor course history at the Sanderson Farms influence me a bit too much. I won't make the same mistake again this week! Tringale's history at the Safeway is similarly underwhelming, but he just sticks out to me as way too cheap at $7.2k.
There's something to be said for a guy simply being a "good golfer" and that's where I am with Tringale this week at this price, as he's perhaps played the best golf of his career over the past year. He's solid in all facets and stands ninth in this field in SG: T2G over his last 24 rounds, while grading out sixth in GIRs Gained and 20th in Good Drives Gained over the same timeframe. This is a player that gained almost 10 strokes T2G last week at the Sanderson and his price went DOWN a hundred bucks!