Safeway Open Preview – Culp’s Corner

It’s opening day for the 2018-19 PGA TOUR season. The lack of a true offseason makes this feel like just another event, unlike other sports that build up the drama before a new season. 

This fall portion of the schedule provides a good chance for all the recent Tour graduates to showcase their talents and increase their standings in the reshuffle. 

For veterans, this week’s event provides a nice getaway in wine country, as event number one takes place in Napa, California. Fermented grape juice will be flowing heavily this week. 

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This will be the fifth year in a row that Silverado Resort and Spa’s North Course will host the event. 

This is a classical layout designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr in the mid ’60s and later touched up by Johnny Miller around 2011. 

Off the tee, golfers will have options when it comes to hitting driver or clubbing down. There isn’t anyone water in play, except for two of the par 3s. Instead, the challenge lies in the tight, tree-lined corridors as the North Course features some of the narrowest fairways on TOUR. Golfers will be easily exceeding the field average if they split 8-of-14 fairways each round. The field average typically falls around 53 or 54% here.  

On approach, they’ll see strategically placed greenside bunkers and tricky greens with plenty of slope to deal with. This is where ball-strikers really separate on this course because they are able to access some of the pin locations here while others are forced into lag putting or scrambling. 

Where do these approaches come from? The field typically averages around 8 approaches from inside 140 yards at this course. That tells us we should target great wedge players and/or short-iron players. Similar to the Phoenix Open, conditions will often vary by a club or two when comparing distances from the AM tee times to PM. The ball just doesn’t travel as far when Mother Nature is still trying to wake up. 

As for the greens, they are poa annua surfaced with plenty of slope, as you’d imagine with a classical design. 

With tight fairways and tricky greens, past leaderboards typically show elite ball-strikers rise to the top here. You could even say golfers with a poor short game get a boost here, if you want to look at it that way. If we look at all the golfers that have posted top 10s here at Silverado, just 37% of them arrived with positive SG:Putting form and only 43% arrived with positive form in the SG Around-the-Green area. Off-the-Tee and Approach are both around 65% which is much closer to the typical TOUR stop. 

Overview: There is plenty of talk about these tricky, slopey, poa annua greens. ZJ and Na talk about how the course suits them because it’s not a bomb-and-gouge type of course. Lastly, Laird gives a hint that a high ball flight could come in handy when trying to access some of these pins. 

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