A New PGA TOUR Season Begins ⏤ Safeway Open

Fantasy Golf


The 2019-2020 PGA TOUR season came to a thrilling conclusion last week with Dustin Johnson's victory in the TOUR Championship that resulted in his capturing his first-ever Fedex Cup title. The long-hitting South Carolinian strung together some exceptional golf over the final few weeks of the season. Perhaps more impressively, he rebounded pretty dramatically from an injury-related struggle in mid-July at the Memorial Tournament and the 3M Open. He managed rounds of 80-80-78 across those three events before a WD that left many questions about his future for the rest of the season. 

Johnson answered those questions and more in the weeks to follow. He ripped off an incredible run of five events since then that started with a 12th place finish at the WGC Fedex St. Jude Invitational. He followed that performance with a runner-up finish at the PGA Championship, a win at the Northern Trust, a playoff loss at the BMW Championship and then a three-shot win last week at East Lake. This 2-1-2-1 finish is one of the best months of golf we've seen from anyone since perhaps the runs of Tiger Woods at various points in the 2000s.

With last year's COVID-abbreviated season in the books, the PGA TOUR wastes no time in moving on as the new 2020-2021 PGA TOUR season begins this week with the Safeway Open at the Silverado Resort in Napa, CA. This upcoming season has been described by many as a "Super Season" with the COVID-related shuffle of events leading to the playing of six major championships and a total of 50 events during the 2020-2021 campaign. This will include two servings of the Masters Tournament (one this November and the next in its usual April spot) as well as two servings of the U.S. Open Championship (one next week at Winged Foot and then the next in June at Torrey Pines). This unusually long schedule will culminate with the playing of the TOUR Championship back at East Lake in the first week of September 2021.

Predictably, the field for this week's Safeway Open is a little light on the protein. Most of the best players in the world played two or three times in the last three weeks and are scheduled to compete in next week's U.S. Open at Winged Foot. Accordingly, this week makes for a logical week off to recharge the batteries and prepare for the ultimate test in golf heading their way in Mamaroneck, NY next week. Almost none of the top players in the world are in the field this week (the highest-ranked player is Shane Lowry at 28th in the World Rankings) and so you're going to see some unusual names among the favorites to win.

For what has to be the first time in recent history, the co-favorite going into this week's PGA TOUR event is the winner of last week's PGA TOUR Champions event. Phil Mickelson (+2000) played some incredible golf last week at Ozarks National and shot a 22-under par total of 191 that tied the scoring record on the PGA TOUR Champions and won the event by four over Tim Petrovic. "I really had a great time," Mickelson said. "It’s fun for me to compete. I got to shoot scores and compete, and the competition here is really strong and it was fun for me to get off to a good start and play well."

For what also has to be the first time in recent history, Phil will be sharing the title of co-favorite with (you guessed it) Si Woo Kim. Without meaning to disparage him, this is a curious choice as the co-favorite but when the field is as lackluster as the one competing this week we're destined to see some betting anomalies. It's not like Si Woo has even played particularly well of late. Yes, he finished 3rd at the Wyndham Championship a few weeks ago and yes, he has won this event before. However, his third-place finish at the Wyndham was literally his only top-ten of the entire calendar year. He may be a fine selection from Group B, but we wouldn't recommend too much action on him to win.

Perhaps the most interesting player to watch this week will be Jordan Spieth. It's been a rough ride for Jordan lately and the world of golf is slowly losing hope that the one-time star player will regain the form that made him such a dominant force in major championship play just a few years ago. Let us not forget--Spieth won the 2015 Masters Tournament and the 2015 U.S. Open and came up one shot short of a playoff at that year's Open Championship which would have made him the first player since Ben Hogan in 53' to capture those three crowns in the same calendar year. Now, he finds himself on the outside looking in when it comes to qualifying for the Fedex Cup Playoffs and he needs the start at the Safeway Open just to get some competitive reps in before next week at Winged Foot.

The groupings for this week bring back some names we used to know as well as some names we may not yet know. Group A as always has most of the tournament favorites, but will include two senior players (Mickelson and Jim Furyk) for what is likely to be the first and last time ever. Group B has a crop of six intriguing international players (including co-favorite Si Woo Kim) and Group E includes a group of young stars in the making (including Doc Redman and local favorite Maverick McNealy). The remaining groups (C, D and F) bring us some names we haven't seen in a while as the weak field gives some opportunities to veteran players whose games have been on the decline of late.

Here are our selections for the week:

Group A (Phil Mickelson)

Group B (Si Woo Kim)

Group C (Kevin Streelman)

Group D (Luke Donald)

Group E (Maverick McNealy)

Group F (Harold Varner III)