2019 Safeway Open picks: Our experts have correctly predicted the past two tournaments. Can we make it three in a row?
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The casual fan might not pay as close attention to these fall events. But especially for DFS and betting purposes, you should be. Maybe you know, and you followed four of our experts in correctly picking Joaquin Niemann at The Greenbrier. Or FanDuel’s Brandon Gdula predicting Sebastian Muñoz’s win last week. Our entire panel of experts are elevating their analysis, trying to keep pace with the strong start to this season.
Our expert picks this week, just like every week, include a PGA Tour caddie offering insight from the range and putting green at Silverado Resort, thanks to our partnership with The Caddie Network; picks from Jason Sobel, a senior writer at The Action Network, which is becoming the leader in sports betting and handicapping analysis, and is growing its presence in golf; two of the most respected experts in the daily-fantasy community, Pat Mayo of DraftKings and Brandon Gdula of FanDuel; Lee Alldrick of FanShare Sports, which tracks DFS ownership and sentiment; and Columbia University senior lecturer and Ph.D. Lou Riccio, who uses predictive analysis and modeling to forecast winners in golf.
The Safeway Open has its strongest field in recent memory, which means there's some value to be had further down the betting sheet. We've had some consensus the past two weeks, but our experts are more divided this week. Read on to see who we like.
2019 Safeway Open Picks To Win (Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook)
PGA Tour Caddie Guest Picker of the Week: Patrick Cantlay (12-1) — I think it was a disappointing finish to a great season for Patrick when he finished T-21 at the Tour Championship. That’s going to probably motivate him for some redemption this week. He’s also one of those players when well-rested is always a threat. The course is going to play hard, fast and with a lot of wind. That plays right into Patrick’s hands because of his exceptional ball-striking.
Pat Mayo, DraftKings/Fantasy National analyst: Emiliano Grillo (45-1) — Being a firm supporter of "Team Can't Putt" has us passing over the elite names and checking in with Emiliano Grillo, who rates among the best in the field in strokes gained/tee-to-green. Grillo won this event in 2015 and enters with some of the best ball-striking numbers the field. He’s gained at least two strokes off the tee in three straight starts and is averaging almost four strokes on approaches in that span. The issue is putting. Per FantasyNational.com, Grillo has lost 14 strokes with his putter in his past three events. If he can have an average week on the greens (a big IF), he could win the Safeway a second time.
Brandon Gdula, FanDuel/numberFire editor: Adam Scott (14-1) — The top three in this field—Justin Thomas, Patrick Cantlay and Adam Scott—separate themselves quite a bit in terms of win equity in my simulations. Scott offers the best value of the three at his win odds. Scott leads the field in greens in regulation gained over a 50-round sample, according to FantasyNational.com, and he’s a plus putter on poa.
Dr. Lou Riccio, Columbia University: Justin Thomas (7-1) — The stats are overwhelming in Justin Thomas' favor this week. Other than putting and short game, he is in the top five of every strokes-gained category in the past 50 rounds. We've seen JT start the fall season off with a couple wins in past years, so that might be a trend worth getting behind.
Jason Sobel, Action Network senior golf writer: Harold Varner III (70-1) — I looked at the top names in this field and while I could find reasons each one might win, I could also find reasons why they wouldn’t. Namely, the biggest reason to fade the chalk is that elite players haven’t prevailed here lately. There are plenty of intriguing names further down the board, but HV3 intrigues me the most, with a T-19 in his first start this season and two top-15s in his last three starts at this tourney. Even though he wilted a few times when in serious contention last season, those experiences should have him ready to finally reach the PGA Tour winner’s circle.
Golf Digest editors: Sungjae Im (23-1) — This is a simple, if not. square, handicap. Sungjae has been due for a win for a long time. He got the closest he has all season in a playoff loss to Sebastian Munoz last week. Don't expect him to burn out: He plays SO much golf, he won't be tired. This will be a birdie fest of sorts this week, and few players have as good of control over their golf ball right now than Sungjae Im. Don't second-guess it, just play the hot hand at strong value.
Lee Aldrick, FanShare Sports golf expert: Adam Scott (14-1) — Scott has never played this event, but there might be a reason (other than the wine) why he is choosing to tee it up in Napa. Scott ranks first in our course suitability metric and ranks 14th in strokes gained/putting on Poa. Icing on the cake: In the past two months, Scott ranks fifth in strokes gained/tee-to-green and Opportunities Gained. Six top 10s in his past eight events shows us exactly how good his game is right now.
Results from this season: We have predicted the season’s first two winners! Brandon Gdula picked Sebastian Munoz (65-1) at last week’s Sanderson Farms Championship, and four of our experts correctly predicted Joaquin Niemann in the season opener at the Greenbrier (Gdula, Pat Mayo, Dr. Lou Riccio and Lee Alldrick, hitting him at 22-1).
Sleepers/Dark Horses That Could Win at the 2019 Safeway Open (odds from DraftKings Sportsbook)
PGA Tour Caddie: Harris English (75-1) — Harris has figured something out in his very short offseason. He hadn’t had a top-10 finish since January 2018 and now, suddenly, he’s got two in as many weeks. He went down to the Korn Ferry in August and September and figured things out. He’s riding a streak, and he should keep riding it.
Mayo: Harris English (75-1) — If his spotty short game doesn’t let him down, English has the ball-striking acumen, and the poa putting prowess to contend. You always want to ride form early in the swing-season, and English has two Top 10 finishes to his name in the first two events of the season.
Gdula: Jhonattan Vegas (120-1) — Vegas is more of a long shot in some books than he is in others. Overall in 2019, he’s fared well, and he leads the field in strokes gained/off the tee and is 38th in strokes gained/approach over his past 50 rounds. With that profile, he can catch fire and contend.
Riccio: Sam Ryder (140-1) — Ryder held a share of the first-round lead at The Greenbrier two weeks ago. And last year, Ryder finished T-4 at Safeway, so we know his game suits this course. If his game is rounding into form more so than oddsmakers think, this is extreme value.
Sobel, Action Network: Bronson Burgoon (85-1) — Betcha didn’t expect to see this name up here, huh? If you’re playing a season-long one-and-done pool, there’s no reason to jump at using up a stud in the third week. Burgoon has finished 19th or better in each of his past four starts, two coming on the PGA Tour and two in the Korn Ferry Finals, including a T-6 last week.
Golf Digest editors: Kevin Streelman (45-1) — Silverado's North course requires precise target golf, which is the type of golf Kevin Streelman excels at. He has had two top-25s at the Safeway in the past two years. And he shot a final-round 64 last Sunday at the Sanderson Farms. We wouldn't be surprised if he carries that momentum to a place where he has strong vibes and earns PGA Tour win No. 3.
Aldrick, FanShare Sports: Brian Stuard (175-1) — Stuard ranks second in the field this week for Opportunities Gained over the past two months. This excellent tee to-green game has resulted in him making three of his last four cuts and he finished fifth just a. few events ago at the Rocket Mortgage Classic. He has also made his last two cuts here at Silverado.
Players to Fade This Week (who will disappoint)
PGA Tour Caddie: Justin Thomas (7-1) — I’m not so sure about JT this week. He’s coming off a very competitive year, but I think it was a pretty big letdown at the Tour Championship, where he started the week with a two-shot lead and wound up finishing T-3 and missing out on the FedExCup title. He might stumble out of the gate. I don’t think this is a great course for him. When you miss here, there’s a lot of slope and it’s hard to chip it close.
Mayo: Marc Leishman (50-1) — A golfer dealing with back problems? He has a better chance at a WD than a win this week.
Gdula: Bryson DeChambeau (28-1) — Aside from two solid weeks in June and July, DeChambeau’s approach play has been suspect for someone at his win odds, and he lost strokes with his approach numbers at the Greenbrier two weeks ago, a weaker field than this. I still need to see it from Bryson before I can back him at such a low number.
Riccio: Bryson DeChambeau (28-1) — Bryson missed the cut here in 2017 and finished T-17 last year—when he was playing his best. He played poorly at The Greenbrier two weeks ago, and I wouldn't play him over some of the other players with lower odds here.
Sobel, Action Network: Phil Mickelson (70-1) — I think some bettors and DFS players are going to be wooed by the big name and some strong results at this tournament. Mickelson has finished 17-3-8 in his last three starts here, which could draw some interest. What he hasn’t done, though, is show any semblance of any form in recent months. Since winning in February, his T-18 at the Masters remains his lone top-30 finish. I do think Lefty still has some good golf left in the tank as he closes in on 50 years old, but I don’t expect it to happen this week.
Golf Digest editors: Adam Scott (14-1) — We're not ready to commit to Adam Scott carrying his form from months ago to a course he has never played. You danger him truck-slamming in an unproven spot, we're more confident going elsewhere among the favorites.
Aldrick, FanShare Sports: Bryson DeChambeau (28-1) — Not only is Bryson having a tough time of it of late on the golf course, he also doesn’t rank out too well in our course suitability metric. Over the past two months he ranks 63rd in strokes gained/tee-to-green and 81st for Opportunities Gained. Hardly the stats you want to see for the fifth favorite in the field.
2019 Safeway Open: Matchups
PGA Tour Caddie: Sungjae Im (+115) over Adam Scott (Sportbet) — Im has played very well. He’s continued to play very well. Scott knows what he’s been doing and preparing for the season, but he’s behind the curve against Im. Im damn near won last week and had a top 20 the week before. He lost in a playoff and had a top 20. Even though these guys know their game, you don’t know how the season will go until you’re out there – like a football player. He’s feeling great when the season starts, but how’s he going to react when he gets hit for the first time? That’s Scott right now – pumped for a new season, but now he’ll find out where his game is at. Im already knows where his game is at.
Mayo: Lucas Glover (-120) over Marc Leishman (Bodog) — Since there’s no Cameron Smith to bet against this week and line our pockets, may as well pick on the injured Leishman. Glover hasn’t been great in Napa over the years, but good enough. He’s made three of his past four cuts at the Safeway with three Top 30 finishes.
Gdula: Patrick Cantlay (+116) over Justin Thomas (FanDuel) — This has nothing to do with Thomas and everything to do with the value. In 2019, when adjusting for field strength, Cantlay (2.13) has averaged a higher stroke differential than Thomas (2.01) on a per-round basis.
Riccio: Hideki Matsuyama (+110) over Adam Scott (DraftKings) — My model favors Matsuyama and suggests he has twice the win probability as Adam Scott. That's a pretty simple answer to why I'd take Hideki at plus-odds here.
Sobel, Action Network: Cameron Tringale (-145) over Cameron Champ (Sportbet) — I’ve mentioned it plenty of times in this column, but my favorite matchup bets are the ones which cash Friday afternoon, when my guy makes the cut and his opponent misses it. Tringale offers a nice possibility of at least one side of that, having reached the weekend in nine of his last 10 starts. He’s similarly made the cut in four of his last five at this event.
Golf Digest editors: Nate Lashley (-135) over Brendan Steele (Sportbet) — We're OK with fading Brendan Steele at Silverado, despite his two wins here. Lashley is one of the undervalued players in this field, and his recent form is worth laying a big number here in this head-to-head.
Aldrick, FanShare Sports: Brandt Snedeker (-111) to beat Francesco Molinari (Betfair) — Molinari struggles big style putting on Poa greens. He ranks just 121st in the field this week for Shots Gained Putting on Poa greens. He also only ranks 119th in the field this week for Shots Gained Tee 2 Green over the lats 2 months. Snedeker on the other hand ranks 7th for Shots Gained Putting on Poa greens in the all time stats and 28th for Shots Gained Tee 2 Green over the last 2 months.
Matchup results last week: PGA Tour caddie: 1 for 1 (Harris English (-125) over Cameron Champ); Mayo and GD Editors: 1 for 1 (Each was on Brian Harman (-110) over Cam Smith); Riccio: 1 for 1 (Byeong Hun An (-110) over Scottie Scheffler); Alldrick/FanShare: 1 for 1 (Brandt Snedeker (-135) over Joaquin Niemann); Gdula: 0 for 1.
Matchup results this season (assuming each matchup is a one-unit wager: PGA Tour Caddie: 2 for 2 (up 1.95 units); Mayo: 2 for 2 (up 1.91 units); GD Editors: 2 for 2 (up 1.82 units); Alldrick, FanShare Sports: 2 for 2 (up 1.61 units); Action Network: 1 for 1 (up 1 unit); Riccio: 1 win, 1 push (up 0.91 units); Gdula: 1 for 2 (even on year)
Top 10 (odds from FanDuel Sportsbook)
PGA Tour Caddie: Jim Furyk (+900) — I think the style of the course fits someone who can plot around and has a good short game. You can kind of bomb it here, but you’ve got to be accurate—that’s most important. Someone with Furyk’s all-around game—he’s one of the most competitive guys you’ll ever meet—he’s probably itching to play. He’s been off for a while. This is a good fit for Furyk.
Mayo: Mark Anderson (+4200) — Let’s keep going with long shots for the Top 10s. This week, Mark Anderson. Yes, that’s a real person on the PGA Tour. For real. Beyond being a living, breathing golfer in this tournament, he’s actually equated himself quite nicely in his first two starts on the young season. Making both cuts and averaging +2.5 SG: APP over those events.
Gdula: Collin Morikawa (+380) — Morikawa grades out eighth in strokes gained/approach and 10th in greens in regulation gained over the past 50 rounds. While there’s not a ton of value on his price, this field flattens out quite a bit, so I’d rather hitch a top-10 to a golfer of Morikawa’s caliber.
Riccio: Kevin Na (+500) — My model puts Kevin Na in the top 10 of players most likely to win this week. At 5-to-1 odds, you're getting one of the more consistent players on the PGA Tour over the past year.
Sobel, Action Network: Tom Hoge (+1200) — A random pick out of nowhere? Not so fast, my friends. Hoge owns two top-10s in his last four PGA Tour starts (and one in the KF Finals, too). He’s hardly a world-beater, but when he plays well, he plays really well. Finishes of T-17 and T-37 over the last two years at this event should similarly inspire some confidence. At this price, and with precedence, he’s worth a wager.
Golf Digest editors: Dylan Frittelli (+550) — Frittelli's stats were insane last week: The young South African gained 11 strokes on the field on his approach shots, en route to a sixth-place finish. Those are elite numbers. He won the John Deere just two months ago, so Frittelli is worth a play here while he's hot.
Aldrick, FanShare Sports: Bronson Burgoon (+600) — Talk about coming in hot! Burgoon has posted five top-20 finishes in his past six events, including three top 6s. He ranks 12th in strokes gained/tee-to-green over the past two months and fourth in Opportunities Gained over the same period and finished 17th here in 2017.
Top 10 results last week: Aldrick: 1 for 1 (Harris English (+750); Everyone else: 0 for 1
Top-10 results for the year (assuming a one-unit wager): Mayo: 1 for 2 (+15 units); Alldrick: 1 for 2 (+6.5 units); Action Network: 1 for 2 (+2.5 units); PGA Tour Caddie: 0 for 2 (-2 units); Riccio: 0 for 2 (-2 units); GD Editors: 0 for 2 (-2 units)
Mayo: Corey Conners ($8,400) demolished DraftKings lineups last week with his missed cut, but, now he’s $1,200 cheaper. And nothing has really changed. Despite only having two round worth of shots, he still finished sixth in driving and 39th in approach last week. Like Grillo, if Conners doesn't brick putts in the 5-10 foot range, he’ll climb the leaderboard in a rebound week. Toss in some Ryan Moore at the higher end, and some Doc Redman at the bottom and you have the ultimate DraftKings core of "Team Can't Putt" members.
Here's who I'd build my lineups around on DraftKings this week: Ryan Moore ($9,100); Emiliano Grillo ($8,800); Corey Conners ($8,400); Harris English ($7,900); Doc Redman ($7,200).
Riccio: I'd suggest starting most lineup builds with Justin Thomas this week for the overwhelming win equity, as there are values in the upper $6,000 price range. Sam Ryder finished in second place here last year and has had a couple strong finishes in his last handful of events. Some might choose to fade Phil here, but I'm thinking he wants to prove people wrong in his event of the season. I also like the consistent Molinari here, despite playing at the BMW PGA last week.
Justin Thomas ($11,600); Francesco Molinari ($9,700); Phil Mickelson ($8,200); Austin Cook ($7,000); Sam Ryder ($6,800); Henrik Norlander ($6,400).
Alldrick: Here's a lineup I like for this week: Adam Scott ($10,700); Brandt Snedeker ($9,600); Bronson Burgoon ($8,000); Vaughn Taylor ($7,600); Jim Furyk ($7,400); Brian Stuard ($6,700).
Golf Digest Editors: If there's a lesson we've learned over the years with optimal DFS lineups, it's that leaving money unused isn't a bad thing. This balanced lineup includes two of the hottest players in the top half of the field, and includes four other players who should hover around the top 20 and certainly make the cut (famous last words).
Sungjae Im ($10,100); Byeong Hun An ($9,500); Dylan Frittelli ($7,900); Harold Varner III ($7,800); Nate Lashley ($7,600); Adam Long ($6,900).
FanShare Sports' Under The Radar DFS Pick of the Week — Vaughn Taylor (FanDuel: $9,300; DraftKings: $7,600) — Taylor finished 15th here in 2016 and ranks 24th in our course suitability metric. Our FanShare Pro Dashboard Research Tool highlights that Taylor ranks 2nd in the field this week for Average DraftKings Points Scored on par-72 courses with poa. greens. Taylor’s form of late has been very good, too: He ranks ninth in strokes gained/tee-to-green and 15th for Opportunities Gained over the past two months. He also has two top-10s in his past seven events.
Gdula: This week, there’s a mispriced Ryan Moore ($7,000) and a really cheap Scott Piercy ($8,300) to build your lineups around and play almost any stud you want. Outside of the top four studs (Justin Thomas ($12,200), Patrick Cantlay ($11,900), Adam Scott ($11,700), and Hideki Matsuyama ($11,500)), I like Collin Morikawa ($10,600) and Dylan Frittelli ($9,700) as tournament differentiation pieces.
Riccio: Here's who my model favors this week:
Justin Thomas ($12,200); Patrick Cantlay ($11,900); Kevin Na ($10,300); Phil Mickelson ($9,700); Sam Ryder ($8,400); Cameron Percy ($7,000).
About our experts
Dr. Lou Riccio, a PhD senior lecturer, teaches rational decision making at Columbia's Graduate School of Business and has served on the USGA's handicap research team for three decades. His predictive analysis and modeling helps him make expert picks for our column.
Pat Mayo is known as one of the pre-eminent experts in daily-fantasy sports and golf handicapping specifically. Mayo is a 17-time fantasy sports-writers association finalist, the most of any writer this decade, and Mayo won the 2019 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and Podcast of the Year awards, along with the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Best Video award. Mayo is on the board of governors at www.fantasynational.com. Here’s a link to watch his complete DraftKings preview of the 2019 Wyndham Championship.
Brandon Gdula, a senior editor and analyst for NumberFire, a FanDuel daily-fantasy analysis company, recently won the 2018 fantasy sports-writers association Golf Writer of the Year (congrats, Brandon!). Gdula also co-hosts the DFS Heat Check podcast.
Jason Sobel is a senior writer for The Action Network. To read The Action Network's full betting breakdown for this week, click here.
Lee Alldrick of FanShare Sports started out writing an article highlighting the best bargain plays for fantasy golf under his twitter handle @DKGolfBargains. His success at this prompted FanShare Sports to enlist him as a guest writer, which evolved into him writing the weekly Under The Radar article. As a UK based expert, Alldrick’s insight into European Tour regulars and low priced, low owned plays has provided an invaluable edge for readers when it comes to DFS GPPs.
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