Betting Analysis
September 09, 2020

Safeway Open 2020 picks: Can Phil Mickelson really win on the PGA Tour again?

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Keyur Khamar

Cue up all the jokes about the PGA Tour offseason lasting about 12 hours. We’re officially in the 2020-’21 season with a mega-offering of 50 tournaments and six majors. It is going to be non-stop golf for months and months, and we couldn’t be more pumped.

Ahead of the U.S. Open next week, we have the 2020 Safeway Open, where Phil Mickelson is a co-favorite ahead of his return to Winged Foot and his ’06 U.S. Open collapse. Phil owns two top-10s and a top-20 in his past four appearance at this week’s course, Silverado’s North course, and he’s coming off his debut senior tour victory.

Our experts are split on whether Phil’s a good pick this week. He’s a fun narrative and course history play, but he also has some recent form on his side, with a runner-up finish to Justin Thomas at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude. Scroll down to see what our panel—comprised of a PGA Tour caddie reporting anonymously from one of the bags at Silverado and some of the brightest analysts in the game—says this week. The panel finished last season up 225.30 units collectively with outright winners; top-10s and match-ups. That’s a tough act to follow this season, but we have the sharpest guys in the industry making picks, so we’re confident.

Safeway Open 2020 Picks To Win (Odds from Bet365)

Anonymous Caddie Picker of the week: Will Gordon (67-1) — Silverado has had a recent history of winners who BOMB it. Will Gordon fits that description. He’s coming off a great run late in the season, and I think his confidence and determination gets it done this week.

Pat Mayo, DraftKings/Fantasy National, Mayo Media Network analyst: Cameron Davis (36-1) — The Aussie has the length, the strong iron play, and he makes the most birdies of any player in the field. He’s reeled off four straight top-35 finishes after a disastrous start coming out of hiatus and is primed to challenge in Napa.

Brandon Gdula, FanDuel/numberFire managing editor: Harold Varner III (29-1) — Varner is a big question mark on the greens, and putting has mattered a ton at Silverado the past two years (around 40 percent of scoring is explained by putting here, according to datagolf.com. Varner, though, is perhaps the best tee-to-green golfer in this field, and Poa is his best putting surface (though he’s still a negative on such greens, per FantasyNational.com).

Rick Gehman, data scientist and RickRunGood.com founder: Joel Dahmen (26-1) — The top of the betting board consists of almost entirely “name value” golfers who haven’t flashed much recent form. Dahmen, on the other hand, ended his 2020 season with three top 20s in his final four starts in some of the deepest fields. That includes a T-20 at the WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational, a T-10 at the PGA Championship and a T-20 at the BMW Championship. Now he enters a much weaker field where he is one of the class players. Per the RickRunGood.com database, he ranks ninth in this field when it comes to strokes gained/tee-to-Green, arguably the most important stat in golf.

Stephen Hennessey, Golf Digest dep. managing editor: Doc Redman (36-1) — As Rick Gehman points out in his matchup pick, Redman has gained 0.75 strokes per round on approach, which is the third-best mark of any golfer in this field with at least 20 rounds, per his RickRunGood.com database. We've seen young guns with elite approach play break through in Napa before, and even though these odds are low for Redman, there's still a little value here.

Christopher Powers, Golf Digest assistant editor: Jordan Spieth (31-1) — I’m closing my eyes as I click ‘confirm bet’ on this one. As bad as he looked during the restart, he did still manage to pick up a 10th at Colonial and a 13th at the Memorial. He should be no lower than 50-1 until further notice, but in this field, 30-1 is still a big number for the three-time major winner. He’s had plenty of time off to work on whatever has been plaguing him off the tee, and his approach play was just beginning to improve before his season ended. I hate this bet more than I hate going to the dentist, but screw it. Let’s go Jordy. I’m fully prepared to deal with the consequences.

Lee Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Phil Mickelson (21-1)— Everything lines up perfectly for Phil this week. He’s the third-best putter in the field on Poa greens, and he ranks 17th in strokes gained/tee-to-green on corollary courses. That senior tour win, sure, wasn’t against this type of field, but it should give him the confidence to let him know he can do it.

Results from last season: Golf Digest's betting panel predicted 14 winners correctly last season, and we’re looking to build off that success. Collectively on outright winners, top-10 bets and matchups won and lost, our panel went up 225.30 units (the equivalent of being up $2,253 if you wagered $10 on all of our bets) last season. Be sure to check this column every week for picks from the hottest betting panel in golf!

Safeway Open 2020 picks: Sleepers/Dark Horses (odds from Bet365)

Caddie: Harry Higgs (81-1) — Not sure he’s a real long shot with his recent play. Higgs had a great run in the playoffs, and I look forward to him keeping it going.

Mayo: Scott Stallings (111-1) — Always a better Poa putter, Stallings has gained more than three strokes on approach in four of his past six starts and now gets a course where his lack of accuracy won’t kill him.

Gdula: Talor Gooch (71-1) — Gooch is priced appropriately here, so I’m drawn to him. Over the past 50 rounds, he’s 35th in approach and 16th in overall putting while also showing good Poa splits.

Gehman: Wesley Bryan (111-1) — Bryan has sunk all the way to No. 648 in the world rankings thanks to an injury that sidelined him for nearly two full years. He’s teed it up in four PGA Tour events since the restart and has made the cut in all four including two top 25s. Bryan’s lack of distance off-the-tee might not be as penal this week at Silverado Country Club, which is one of the shortest par 72s on the PGA Tour. In those 16 measured rounds that Bryan had on tour last season, he averaged 1.28 strokes gained per round on approach. That is an elite level skill-set that could carry him to a solid finish.

Hennessey, Golf Digest: Henrik Norlander (67-1) — I’m surprised Norlander wasn’t closer to the 50-1 range. The winning equity isn’t necessarily here because he’s looking for his first PGA Tour victory. But he’s been one of the best ball-strikers in this field in the past 50 rounds, per FantasyNational.com: 19th in strokes gained/approach; 26th in strokes gained/tee-to-green and 10th in strokes gained/overall. There’s some value at this number.

Powers, Golf Digest: Nick Watney (151-1) — Watney hasn’t won on the PGA Tour since 2012, but over the last two seasons he’s at times shown that his former self can still show up. It’s just a matter of putting four straight good rounds together. That’s exactly what he couldn’t do at last year’s Safeway, when he finished 10th after starting 69-65, only to finish 72-71. Can he win? Probably not, but I do think he can contend, which is all you can ask for with a 200-1 ticket.

Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Keegan Bradley (56-1) — There’s something about these short par 72s that brings out the best in Bradley’s game. His ball-striking prowess without the need for distances means he rates out brilliantly for Silverado. He also comes into the event ranked 12th for strokes gained/tee-to-green over the past two months and third in Opportunities Gained, per FantasyNational.com. If the putter behaves this week he could make a mockery of his long odds.

Safeway Open 2020: Players to Fade This Week (who will disappoint)

Caddie: Si-Woo Kim (21-1) — Si-Woo Kim’s game tends to be very inconsistent, and where he plays well are predictable type layouts: More position type golf courses (see TPC Sawgrass and Sedgefield, site of his two wins). Silverado doesn’t strike me as that type of course, so I think you should go elsewhere with your money.

Mayo: Jordan Spieth (31-1) — If you can’t hit your driver at Silverado, you better make every putt. While it is Spieth, I’ll still bet against that.

Gdula: Emiliano Grillo (31-1) — Grillo is listed this short because of his prior win, but he’s a dreadful Poa putter and won here while losing strokes putting. It’s really hard to bet that profile outright.

Gehman: Phil Mickelson (21-1) — I know Mickelson was victorious in his last start, but this isn’t the senior tour. He has only two top-20 finishes on tour dating back to the 2019 Masters. He has missed 12 cuts in 27 events in that timeframe. The big issue for Mickelson is the big miss that he has with his driver. He ranked 174th in driving accuracy last season. Even more concerning, he ranked 129th in strokes gained/approach and 124th in strokes gained/putting. Even that magic Mickelson putter hasn’t had much magic recently, and to back him at 20-1 is almost inconceivable.

Hennessey, Golf Digest: Si-Woo Kim (21-1) — Si-Woo’s been playing some great golf, but I’d rather go almost anywhere else with my money at the top of the board than here. There’s win equity but not exceeding the value of others around him.

Powers, Golf Digest: Brendan Steele (23-1) — Steele has been very solid during the restart, especially on approach. But I’m not willing to pay this price just because he’s won twice here. I’d rather back recent PGA Tour Champions winner Phil Mickelson at a similar number.

Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Shane Lowry (29-1) — Lowry’s sixth-place finish at the WGC four weeks back was his only top-20 finish in his past 11 events. He has not played well at all at correlating courses and compare him to someone with similar odds (Phil Mickelson), he loses half a shot per round on Poa.

Safeway Open 2020 picks: Matchups

Caddie: Kevin Streelman (-137) over Jim Furyk (DraftKings) — Streels has had a hell of a year, and against someone who’s been playing more on the senior tour, this matchup just seems too good to pass up.

Mayo: Cameron Davis (-120) over Talor Gooch (DraftKings) — Since Davis is my pick to win, taking him over THE GOOCH seems reasonable.

Gdula: Jordan Spieth (+100) over Phil Mickelson (FanDuel) — This is a rare tournament where putting and around-the-green play can carry golfers. Mickelson does that well, also, but Spieth rates out a bit better for me and is an underdog.

Gehman: Doc Redman (-110) over Erik Van Rooyen (DraftKings) — Few golfers in this field can match the ball-striking prowess of Doc Redman. Since the tour’s restart, he’s gaining 0.75 strokes per round on approach, which is the third-best mark of any golfer in this field with at least 20 rounds. He stumbled in the playoffs, missing the cut at the Northern Trust to miss out on the BMW Championship by one spot. That shouldn’t overshadow his excellent season which featured four top-25 finishes in his past eight starts, including a T-3 at the Wyndham Championship.

Hennessey: Doc Redman (-118) over Shane Lowry (BetMGM) — As Lee Alldrick pointed out, Shane Lowry has just one top-20 finish in his past 11 starts. Doc Redman is headed in the opposite direction, as Rick Gehman pointed out, so I’m really liking this one.

Powers: Cameron Tringale (-110) over Carlos Ortiz (DraftKings) — Over the last 50 rounds per Fantasy National, nobody has been better in this field in strokes gained/approach than Tringale. Ortiz, meanwhile, is 52nd in that same statistic. Tringale also very quietly finished third at the 3M Open and then 29th at the Northern Trust, while Ortiz has missed three consecutive cuts, not including the BMW, which did not feature a 36-hole cut.

Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Keegan Bradley (-110) over Brandt Snedeker (Betfair) — Bradley’s my dark-horse pick, so I’ve already explained why his game is well-suited to this course. Snedeker on the other hand has not faired well on similar courses and comes in ranked just 82nd for strokes gained/tee-to-green over the past two months.

Matchup Results from the Tour Championship: Mayo: 1 for 1 (Harris English (+120) over Hideki Matsuyama); Hennessey: 1 for 1 (Scottie Scheffler (-105) over Hideki Matsuyama); Tour caddie: 1 for 1 (Dustin Johnson (-106) over Jon Rahm); Gdula: 1 for 1 (Collin Morikawa (-115) over Rory McIlroy); Gehman: 1 for 1 (Mackenzie Hughes (-120) over Cam Champ); Powers and Alldrick: 0 for 1.

Matchup Results last season: Hennessey: 13-8 (+5.82 units); Powers: 13-8-1 (+5.57 units); Tour caddie: 17-11-1 (+5.05 units); Alldrick: 18-12-2 (+1.87 units); Gdula: 14-15-2 (-0.84 units); Gehman: 6-7 (-1.66 units); Mayo: 13-20 (-5.61 units)

Safeway Open 2020 picks: Top 10 (odds from FanDuel Sportsbook)

Caddie: Joel Dahmen (+430) — Dahmen’s been playing some consistently good golf against way stronger fields. These odds are really attractive, as Dahmen should feel like he’s in the upper echelon of this type of field.

Mayo: Tom Kim (+1000) — You don’t know Tom Kim? Consider yourself initiated. I could have went Jason Dufner, Luke List or Denny McCarthy here and felt OK about it, but let’s swing for the fences on the young Korean. Currently the 111th-ranked player in the world, books were slow to react to the Tom Kim love, since he usually goes by Joohyung Kim. The super deep odds are gone (shop around for a better line than this), but you can find a big number, which is still a nice consolation if you missed the +7500.

Gdula: Carlos Ortiz (+600) — Ortiz is quite a good Poa putter and has been, usually, pretty balanced tee-to-green. He has been cold lately, with three missed cuts and a 25th (at the BMW) in August. A larger sample suggests we should be fine with an Ortiz top-10 bet at this number.

Gehman: Cameron Davis (+430) — Davis has gotten himself into contention a few times in the last month. He’s made four straight cuts dating back to the 3M Open and hasn’t finished worse than T-32 in any of them. He touched the lead at the Wyndham Championship before collapsing and finishing T-15. That’s the type of experience that will help build scar tissue and be beneficial in the long-term. He notched a top 20 in Napa two years ago.

Hennessey, Golf Digest: Mark Hubbard (+600) — Hubbard hasn’t missed a cut since the tour’s restart (there was one WD in there). In this field, he’s quietly one of the more elite players—he’s gained the ninth-most strokes on this field in the past 50 rounds per FantasyNational.com. But he’s still not entirely being priced like it. Hubbard finished 13th at Silverado last season, so this is a confident play.

Powers, Golf Digest: Denny McCarthy (+650) — The best putter on the planet was just starting to cook before his season was cut short at TPC Boston. His ninth-place finish at the Wyndham was his best on tour since November 2019, and it was because he gained seven strokes on approach. McCarthy is going to make plenty of putts, he just needs them to be birdie putts. In order for that to happen, he needs to hit his irons better. He’s been doing just that of late, having gained on approach in four straight starts.

Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Emiliano Grillo (+380) — Grillo has been playing fantastic golf when the putter behaves. Over the past two months he ranks 17th for strokes gained/tee-to-green in the field and sixth for Opportunities Gained, per FantasyNational.com. He also ranks sixth in strokes gained/tee-to-green on corollary courses. As it usually is with Grillo, it’s a matter of his putter showing up.

Top 10 results from the Tour Championship: Mayo: 1 for 1 (Sebastian Munoz: +430); Gdula: 1 for 1 (Tyrrell Hatton: +230); Everybody else: 0 for 1.

Top 10 results from last season: Mayo: 6 for 30 (+21.8 units); Hennessey: 5 for 21 (+6.75); Alldrick: 6 for 31 (+4 units); Gdula: 6 for 30 (+2.7 units); Gehman: 2 for 13 (+1 unit); Powers: 3 for 21 (-3.8 units); Tour caddie: 4 for 39 (-9.4 units)

Safeway Open 2020: One and Done picks

Gdula: Harold Varner III — There isn’t going to be a better spot for Varner to come through with a win than what he’ll get this week.

Gehman: Joel Dahmen — He’s trending in the right direction and shakes out as the class of this field. This is the perfect opportunity to capture his first career PGA Tour victory.

Powers: Brendan Steele — No disrespect to Brendan Steele, but where else are you going to pick Brendan Steele this season? He always has a great chance to win here and if he doesn’t it’s still very likely that he at least contends.

Hennessey: Phil Mickelson — Phil will undoubtedly be a popular pick in your One and Done pool this week. But frankly, when else will you pick him? Especially if you’re in a year-long pool that’s about to wrap up, I’d doubt you’ve used him already. Odds are that he contends this week.

By The Numbers:

Courtesy of Rick Gehman of RickRunGood.com:

50 — The number of events on the PGA TOUR schedule this season. The most in a single season since 1975.

0 — The number of golfers who played the Tour Championship last week who will be teeing it up in Napa this week. That includes Cameron Champ who will not be in the field to defend his title.

7 — The number of golfers to successfully defend a title since 2017. Brendan Steele successfully defended his 2017 Safeway Open victory by winning again in 2018. Brooks Koepka is the only golfer to accomplish the feat twice in that stretch (2019 PGA Championship and 2018 U.S. Open).

1.75 — The average number of strokes gained by Phil Mickelson at the Safeway Open in the last four years. It’s the most of any golfer in the field with at least 10 rounds played in that stretch.

About our experts

Pat Mayo is an award-winning video host and producer of long and short-form content, owner of the Mayo Media Network and host of The Pat Mayo Experience. (Subscribe for video or audio. Mayo (@ThePME) won the 2020 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and Golf Writer of the Year awards, along with the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Best Sports Betting Analyst award, and was finalist for four FSWA Awards in 2020 (Best Podcast, Best Video, Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year). His 21 FSWA nominations lead all writers this decade and are third-most all-time. Mayo is on the board of governors at www.fantasynational.com.

Brandon Gdula, managing 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.

Rick Gehman is the founder of RickRunGood.com and the RickRunGood YouTube Channel, is one of the industry’s leading experts on golf DFS and gambling. Gehman is co-host of the First Cut Podcast and appears regularly on the Pat Mayo Experience golf podcasts. Follow him on Twitter: @RickRunGood.

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 U.K.-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.