Safeway Open Preview, Picks & Analysis
ON THE back of a strong finish to the 2018-19 season, Justin Thomas leads the strongest field in the history of the Safeway Open as Kevin Tway defends the title he won12 months ago.
Thomas is joined by Patrick Cantlay, Bryson Dechambeau, Francesco Molinari and Adam Scott, as well as Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk, Brandt Snedeker, Jimmy Walker, CT Pan, Abraham Ancer, Pat Perez, Jason Dufner and Marc Leishman and Champions Tour players John Daly and Fred Couples.
“When the PGA TOUR moved the schedule up this past year, we were hopeful that the result would be more top players playing the Safeway Open presented by Chevron,” said Jeff Sanders, president, Lagardere Sports Golf Events, the company producing the Safeway Open. “We are excited to now offer our fans the opportunity to see top PGA TOUR talent along with one of the very best fan experiences on the PGA TOUR.”
Former NFL Pro Bowl Quarterback and CBS Analyst Tony Romo will also compete in the event via a sponsor invitation as he continues his quest to finally make a cut and reach the weekend.
There will also be considerable interest in the fate of several local players including Cameron Champ, Nick Watney and Ricky Barnes. Although he has struggled of late, Watney has five PGA Tour victories to his name, and Champ is one of the brightest prospects in the game, having won the Sanderson Farms Championship last year.
Champ played in his first PGA Tour event as an amateur at the 2017 Safeway Open via a sponsors Invitation. He returned in 2018 after graduating from the Korn Ferry Tour to play in the Safeway Open as a professional, going on to win the Sanderson Farms event the next week.
Last year, Kevin Tway made a 10-foot birdie putt on the third hole of a playoff Sunday to win the season-opening Safeway Open at windy Silverado for his first PGA TOUR title. The son of eight-time PGA TOUR winner Bob Tway, the 31-year-old former Oklahoma State player beat Ryan Moore on the par-four 10th after Snedeker dropped out on their first extra trip down the par-5 18th.
"It was nice to get hot at the end," Tway said. "I wasn't really in it on the front nine. Brandt made a couple bogeys starting the back. I was kind of right there, but kind of hanging around. Birdied 17, 18 to get into the playoff and then kept it going in the playoff -- and here I am.”
After the wind died down in the late afternoon on the tree-lined North Course, Tway birdied the final two holes in regulation for a 1-under 71, then birdied all three holes in the playoff. "I was just trying to put the ball in the fairway, which was very difficult," Tway said. "I knew the last few holes were a little bit easier, so tried to just keep making pars until then.”
Snedeker, three strokes ahead entering the day and five in front with 11 to play, had four back-nine bogeys in a 74. "Really disappointing," Snedeker said. "Played a really good front nine in tough conditions and made the turn on the back nine and actually drove the ball really well. Had a lot of opportunities, just hit some really poor iron shots, left myself in places you can't do it. Didn't make any putts.”
The nine-time PGA Tour winner bogeyed the first three holes on the back nine, birdied the par-5 16th, bogeyed the par-4 17th and parred the 18th, missing from nine feet. "I'm going to look at that one in a few years and know I gave that one away," Snedeker said. "I had that full control.”
Moore birdied three of the last four holes in a final round of 67. "I didn't even expect to be in this position," Moore said. "When I finished my round, I really didn't think there was a chance of this. Golf is funny and it can work its way out sometimes, so this was a bonus. I hit some good shots in the playoff, birdied a couple holes and today just wasn't good enough.”
Luke List eagled the 18th for a 67 to finish a stroke out of the playoff with Troy Merritt (68), Sam Ryder (69), Aaron Baddeley (69) and Sungjae Im (71). "Obviously, we all kind of knew the wind was going to be crazy warming up this morning," List said. "There was debris flying everywhere. I was just anticipating a really tough day and it was.”
Phil Mickelson tied for 17th at eight under after a 72. "It was challenging but yet very playable conditions," Mickelson said. "Actually, I played pretty good. I hit two balls out of bounds on the fifth hole trying to go for the green, but other than that, I played pretty well."
Couples had a 75 to tie for 41st at five under in what he said would be his final start in a regular PGA Tour event. "For a while I didn't think we were going to play and then when we played, I didn't really play,” Couples said. "Then I just started hitting and hoping for the best.”
Two-time defending champion Brendan Steele had a 75 to finish at three under in what turned out to be started of a wretched year for the American.
It was won in 2012 by Jonas Blixt, in 2013 by Jimmy Walker, in 2014 by Sangmoon Bae, in 2015 by Emiliano Grillo, in 2016 and 2017 by Brendan Steele, and in 2018 by Tway.
Justin Thomas. Back in the old routine
Brandt Snedeker. Has a decent record here
Marc Leishman. One of the good guys
Justin Thomas. Back to his very best
Brandt Snedeker. Still has one of the best short games in the business
Marc Leishman. Has few weaknesses
Patrick Cantlay. A massive talent
Bryson Dechambeau. Looking for a confidence boosting week
Francesco Molinari. Fairways and greens, week after week
Adam Scott. Due another win soon
Jason Dufner. Big season for the former PGA champion
Charles Howell III. Another week, another big pay cheque
Hideki Matsuyama. Wouldn’t be here unless he thought he could win
What do you think? leave your comments below (Comments)