Ready or not, here it comes. The 2018-'19 PGA Tour season begins on Thursday at the Safeway Open. Insert your favorite “short off-season” joke here. (Come on, you know you’ve got one.)
Yes, it wasn’t that long ago we were ending the 2017-’18 season. But beside the quick turnaround, what makes the tournament at Silverado Resort in Napa, Calif., stand out is the unusual make-up of the 144-player field who’ll be competing in the first of 46 PGA Tour events in the new season—all trying to keep Brendan Steele from a historic three-peat in the event.
Web.com Tour 2018 graduates competing this week: 49
That’s out of 50 players who earned PGA Tour cards either in the Web.com’s regular season or in the final series. The long holdout: Nicholas Lindheim (didn’t you get the memo?). Now this is not an unusual trends; frequently the newest members of the PGA Tour jump at that first chance to get into a real field and hopefully solidify their PGA Tour status before the tour reshuffles their priority numbers. But considering the busy grind that many of them have recently been through (playing the Web.com Final Series events in three consecutive weeks with the one week break), some of them might be fatigued.
Golfers in the Tour Championship: 2
Speaking of fatigued, the upper echelon of the PGA Tour was grinding as well in August and September. Not to keep their tour cards, but to try and earn a whole mess of cash during the FedEx Cup Playoffs. Almost all of the 30 of the players who got all the way to the Tour Championship at East Lake would up competing a minimum of four events in five weeks. Even with a week of rest, the bulk of those players are set to take a little time off, with just Patrick Cantlay and Phil Mickelson teeing it up in Napa.
Ryder Cup players: 1
Give Mickelson credit for making the trip from France to California. If only he had he had a little more to boast about from his time at Le Golf National.
World Golf Hall of Famers: 2
Beside Mickelson’s inclusion in the field, Fred Couples is competing on a sponsor’s exemption. Couples, who celebrates his 59th birthday today, hasn’t played in a non-major PGA Tour event since the 2016 Northern Trust at Riviera, where he missed the cut. You have to go back to the 2013 Memorial for the last time that Couples played in non-major PGA Tour event and made the cut.
Couples wasn't even the only PGA Tour Champions veteran who was supposed to me moonlighting in Napa. John Daly also had been given a sponsor's exemption. Yet, true to form in 2018, Daly WD'd before the event even began.
Major league all-star pitchers: 1
Mark Mulder is in the field thanks to a sponsor’s exemption. The novelty of having the former Oakland A’s standout is likely to attract some Thursday and Friday attention, as was the case when Steph Curry played in the Web.com Tour event in the area this summer (with NBA season about to tip off, Curry wasn't an option this week). Mulder, 41, was runner-up at the American Century Championship in Lake Tahoe this summer after winning the three previous years, but is trying to keep expectations in check.
“I can’t even imagine being close enough to do that,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle when asked about potentially making the cut. “To be fair, I would be incredibly happy if I didn’t finish last. And I’m being dead serious.”