Paulie's Picks: 2018 Safeway Open

After a long offseason of one week, the PGA Tour starts back up with the Safeway Open in California at Silverado CC. The course isn’t overly long but will put emphasis more on ball striking then the typical PGA Tour course. Players who can keep it in play off the tee and avoid the rough will have the best chance to succeed. Players will need to control their iron shots into these challenging poa annua greens. So if trying to decide between a bomber and a plodder this week, I would lean towards the plodder.

DraftKings:

With a new PGA Tour season underway, we have plenty of fresh faces in the field. In terms of DraftKings, we tend to see many rookies often go under-owned due to anonymity. One other trend that I have noticed in events in the fall is that there is a lot of groupthink. You will see a handful of players with abnormally high ownership because people will rely on the opinions of a few experts in the field. This happens for 2 reasons. First, since there are so many new faces, people rely more on experts to help them determine who to play. Second, with NFL season in full bloom, many people will spend less time than normal putting together their PGA lineups. The key to success each week is finding a few players who will be over-owned and pivoting to a few lower-owned players in the same price range who have just as good of a chance of success. Here are two examples this week:

Start Anders Albertson/Alex Prugh $7,000 over Sungjae Im $7,000

I expect Im to be one of the more popular value plays this week at $7,000. Im, the 2018 Web.com money leader, is a favorite amongst the fantasy golf community. I’m not entirely sold on Im and believe there is value in fading him this week in favor of a few other players at the same price.

Anders Albertson will go under the radar this week at very low ownership as not many people have heard of him. He led the 2018 Web.com Tour in birdie average and scoring average. He was 17th in greens in regulation and top 50 in driving accuracy even though he averaged 304 yards off the tee. He played well in the Web.com playoffs, finishing 21st, 9th, 2nd and 31st.

Alex Prugh is another sneaky play this week. For the 2018 Web.com Tour season, he was 9th in birdie average, 8th in greens in regulation and 11th in scoring average. Prugh, the Washington native, is very familiar with golf on the west coast and played at the University of Washington. Some of his best professional results have occurred in the state of California, especially on poa annua greens which we have this week. He comes into this event playing very well having finished in the top 25 in 7 of his last 8 events on the Web.com Tour.

Start Hunter Mahan $7,500 over Chez Reavie $7,600

Reavie will be one of the higher-owned players in this salary range. Reavie has finished in the top 25 in his last 3 appearance here, but he brings too much variance to play him at an elevated ownership percentage. He has missed the cut in 6 of his last 8 full field events.

Hunter Mahan has shown flashes of his old self, where he was one of the more promising young American talents. He finished 17th, 2nd and 33rd in the Web.com Tour playoffs to regain his PGA Tour status for the 2018-19 season. Even though Mahan has struggled over the last few years, he often played well here at Silverado. His finishes at this event are 13th, MC, 32nd and 3rd. Mahan is playing better now than he has entering any of the past 4 years, so we can see him shining on a course that suits his game perfectly.

One-and-Done

For those of you who are starting One-and-Done leagues this week already, I have one big piece of advice for you. Do not use anyone in 2018 who you think you may potentially use in the main portion of the season in 2019. With many of these fields being weak and with slightly smaller purses, it’s best to try and find solid players who you won’t likely use in 2019. There is one player who fits the bill this week and is a near must-play for One-and-Done leagues.

Brendan Steele

Steele is an obvious choice this week as he won this event in 2016 and 2017. If we look at his record over the last few months, we do not see many high finishes. However, I am not worried about that. In the past two years, Steele has only had 1 top-20 finish in the 3 months preceding his victories here. The California native, Steele, loves this course, and it suits his game perfectly. Don’t overthink it and play Steele this week.