It has been an interesting few weeks in golf since I last wrote, previewing the Tour Championship. Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy won that tournament and the FedEx Cup to salvage what had been an otherwise disappointing season on the PGA Tour. I liked England's Paul Casey to win the tournament and the Cup; he finished fourth in Atlanta at 9-under.
And of course we had the very exciting Ryder Cup at Hazeltine in Minnesota, with the Americans taking back the Cup. The USA took a 4-0 lead after the opening session and really never looked back on the way to a 17-11 victory and won the Cup for the first time in eight years.
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Normally, I wouldn't be too fired up about the start of the new PGA Tour season, which is this week at the Safeway Open at the Silverado Resort and Spa's North Course (owned in part by Hall of Famer Johnny Miller) in Napa, Calif. Most top players aren't playing after such a long season. But I was pretty excited about seeing Tiger Woods back in action. Last Friday, he officially committed to playing the tournament, his first event since the Wyndham Championship in August 2015. Bovada had some really cool props I was going to examine.
And then on Monday, Woods pulled out. Here's what Tiger said on his website:
"After a lot of soul searching and honest reflection, I know that I am not yet ready to play on the PGA Tour or compete in Turkey. My health is good, and I feel strong, but my game is vulnerable and not where it needs to be. When I announced last week I was going to Safeway, I had every intention of playing, or I wouldn't have committed. I spent a week with the U.S. Ryder Cup Team, an honor and experience that inspired me even more to play. I practiced the last several days in California, but after a lot of hours, I knew I wasn't ready to compete against the best golfers in the world. I will continue to work hard, and plan to play at my foundation's event, the Hero World Challenge."
Tiger's buddy Notah Begay III told the Golf Channel that Tiger was concerned his game wasn't sharp enough to play competitively yet. Basically, Woods doesn't want to embarrass himself. Tiger's return was a boon for the tournament as ticket sales had doubled, but no one is getting a refund just because Tiger's out. He was set to play the pro-am with Warriors star Steph Curry then play alongside rival Phil Mickelson for the first two rounds at Silverado. Woods also planned to play the Nov. 3-6 Turkish Airlines Open, but that's obviously out. So we will have to wait until at least the Dec. 1-4 Hero World Challenge. At least Tiger is healthy, he just has to get his game there. He had been priced at +4000 to win.
The defending champion of this tournament is Argentina's Emiliano Grillo, who had a fine rookie season. It was called the Frys.com Open last year and Grillo became the fifth player in Tour history to win his rookie debut as he beat Kevin Na on the second playoff hole. Grillo had to drain a 25-foot putt on his 72nd hole to force extra holes, and he made a 3-footer on the first playoff hole to win. Grillo was to play with Tiger and Lefty the first two rounds this week.
Golf Odds: Safeway Open Favorites
Casey is the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 12 in the world, and he's the +1000 favorite at Bovada. He wasn't worse than fourth in his final three PGA Tour events to close last season. Casey hasn't played this event since finishing 11th in 2011.
Matt Kuchar (+1200) and Phil Mickelson (+1400) are the only American Ryder Cuppers in the field. Kuchar closed last season with a T15 at the Tour Championship. He played this tournament in 2014 and was 21st. Lefty didn't manage a single Top 10 in the FedEx Cup playoffs and makes his debut at this course.
The favorites are rounded out by Justin Thomas (+2000) and John Rahm (+2200). Thomas was third here last year. Rahm is finally a full Tour member with no history at Silverado.
Golf Odds: Safeway Open Picks
For a Top 10, I like Casey (+120), Thomas (+225) and Na (+250). Go Casey (even) as top European and Geoff Ogilvy (+450) as top Aussie. Head-to-head, go Thomas (-125) over Rahm (-105), Grillo (-120) over Mickelson (-110), Casey (-125) over Kuchar (-105), and Keegan Bradley (-115) over David Hearn (-115).
I'm going with Na to win at +2500. He came so close last year, was third in 2013 and he's one of those guys who usually plays well in the weaker-field fall events. Na isn't a long driver but a good ball-striker and that's important at Silverado.
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