Welcome to the start of the 2015-16 PGA Tour wraparound season, and it's an unusually solid field this week at the Frys.com Open at Silverado Country Club in Napa, Calif. The PGA Tour included a stipulation that basically forced a few of the world's top players to compete here (see below).
First, I want to look at how I fared at last week's Presidents Cup on my recommendations. The Americans continued their domination of the International Team with a closer-than-expected 15.5-14.5 win -- I did say to back the USA, which improved to 9-1-1 all-time in the event. Bill Haas, a captain's pick and son of U.S. captain Jay Haas, secured the final point the Americans needed Sunday. It was only the third Presidents Cup decided by one point or fewer. There was a tie in 2003, and the USA won by a point in 1994.
My recommendation for the top American points scorer was Zach Johnson at +1000. And what do you know! Johnson finished 3-0-2 to indeed lead the USA. Phil Mickelson was the only other USA player without a loss, finishing 3-0-1. Mickelson's 3.5 points were the second-most ever scored by a captain's pick. David Duval earned four points in 1996. My choice for top International player was Hideki Matsuyama at +600, but he was 2-1-1. The best player in the event was South African Branden Grace, who was 5-0-0. By comparison, Jason Day was 0-4-1.
As for the new season. The PGA Tour has instituted some new rules in an attempt to speed up play a bit, but you likely won't notice those. The rule change prohibiting anchored putting strokes takes place on Jan. 1. There are some schedule changes because of golf returning to the Summer Olympics in Rio (men's competition is Aug. 11-14). Thus, the PGA Championship (a very early July 25-31), Travelers Championship (Aug. 1-7) and John Deere Classic (Aug. 8-14) are making a one-time shift before returning to their traditional dates for the 2016-17 season. This is also a Ryder Cup year, which will be staged the last weekend of September/first of October at Hazeltine in Minnesota.
As for the field, it's led by Rory McIlroy, who is fulfilling an agreement he made with the Tour to play in this tournament as payback for being allowed to play a big-money glorified exhibition in Turkey three years earlier that was held opposite the Frys.com Open. Tiger Woods had committed to this tournament earlier this year -- he also must fulfill same agreement -- but will now be out until January following back surgery. The Frys.com Open had been held for years at CordeValle Golf Resort up the road but moved to Silverado last year in the Napa Valley last year.
South Korean Sangmoon Bae is the defending champion. Despite a final round 1-over 73, Bae won by two shots over Steven Bowditch, who had a 67 on Sunday. Bae took charge with a third-round 65 and finished at 15-under 273. Bae won't repeat as he is now serving the obligatory two-year military commitment required of all South Korean men. When he returns in 2017, he'll retain his status as a PGA Tour winner. So he has that to look forward to.
Golf Odds: Frys.com Open Favorites
McIlroy, No. 3 in the world, is the +450 Bovada favorite. It's his first time ever playing this event, and I have a feeling he doesn't really want to be there. He is fully healthy off that ankle injury suffered this summer. McIlroy closed last season with a T16 at the Tour Championship to finish 15th in the FedEx Cup standings.
England's Justin Rose is +900 . He was my pick to win the Tour Championship but finished co-runner-up at East Lake. It was his seventh Top 4 of the season. Rose didn't play here last year, either.
Brooks Koepka and Matsuyama are each +1600 -- I wouldn't recommend anyone who played in the Presidents Cup in Korea. All that travel and just an emotional letdown. Matsuyama was T3 here last year, though. Koepka was T8 here in 2014. There's a big drop-off to the next guys favored, all the way down to +3300.
PGA Tour Picks: Frys.com Open Expert Betting Predictions
This is in some ways the toughest event to project because some guys haven't played for weeks, and it's an unfamiliar course to many players as well. I will go with McIlroy at even for a Top 10, assuming his competitive nature takes over. Ditto Koepka (+150) and Tony Finau (+300), who was T12 here a year ago.
Let's go with Bowditch as the top Aussie at +300, Russell Knox at +1000 as the top European (yes, over McIlroy or as possible insurance if McIlroy tanks) and Rory Sabbatini at +300 as top South African. Head-to-head, I like Brandt Snedeker (-115) over Hunter Mahan (-115), Koepka (even) over Matsuyama (-130), Finau (-110) over Justin Thomas (-120), and Robert Streb (-115) over Kevin Na (-115).
I'll go with Finau at +4000 to win. He co-led in par-5 scoring at Silverado last year and is coming off a very strong rookie season.
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