October 18, 2015; Napa, CA, USA; Emiliano Grillo celebrates winning the Frys.com Open after a second playoff hole at Silverado Country Club. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Can Emiliano Grillo become the Safeway Open’s first two-time winner?
After a brief offseason, the PGA Tour will make its return this week at the Safeway Open. For many golf fans, the start of a new PGA Tour season signals the beginning of a new round of fantasy play. Whether you’re in a keeper league that’s just completed its yearly draft or you’re a week-to-week manager who specializes in DraftKings, we can help you optimize your lineup.
Of course, this week’s event won’t feature a ton of big names, leaving us with a slightly more difficult task. We’re left to choose from a pool of less prominent players, making it tougher to discern which names will be the best fit for your team. Throw in the sudden influx of recent Web.com Tour Finals grads and the picture becomes even more clouded.
Still, our most basic fantasy principles should continue to serve us well this week. Look for players who enjoyed productive runs through the FedEx Cup playoffs or the Web.com Tour Finals, as well as those with past success at this week’s venue, Silverado Country Club. Once you have a working list of the potentially relevant players, you can go from there.
Without further ado, let’s dive right into our first fantasy picks feature of the new season. While these selections should work well in a number of different formats, they’re geared mostly towards DFS gamers. Starting this season, each player’s DraftKings price will be listed next to his name.
Among players in this week’s field, Grillo doesn’t have the name recognition of a Phil Mickelson or a Matt Kuchar, but in terms of fantasy chops, he might as well be on equal footing. The Argentinian has enjoyed a long run of success, making the cut in every one of his starts since the Players Championship. He also had a strong postseason run, tying for second at The Barclays and for 10th at the Tour Championship. Whatever you do, don’t sleep on this 24-year-old — he has a real chance to make it back-to-back titles at Silverado.
Well-known for his prodigious length off the tee, Finau is the only player on this list who’s already hoisted a trophy in 2016 — he did it at the Puerto Rico Open, which he won in a playoff over Steve Marino. Still, the Utah native would love to add to that total, and with three top 25 finishes over his last four starts, he’s in the right form to do it. Additionally, with a pair of prior appearances at Silverado, including a tie for 12th back in 2014, Finau has more course experience than most of the players in the field this week.
Disqualified from last year’s Safeway Open after signing an incorrect scorecard, Kokrak would love to rectify that mistake this time around. He’s never done anything particularly impressive at Silverado, but at least he’s playing well enough to reverse that trend — with three consecutive top 20s to end the 2015-16 season, including a pair of top 10s, he’ll be among the hottest players in the field. Putting is normally his biggest pitfall, but he actually hasn’t been too bad on the greens over the past few weeks.
A quietly consistent player, Swafford looks ready to take a big step forward in what will be his fourth season on the PGA Tour. The Georgia product couldn’t ask for a better place to kick off his campaign — with top 20s in each of the past two years, including a tie for eighth in 2014, Silverado has always been kind to him. In terms of recent form, Swafford has been solid; he hasn’t missed a cut anywhere since May and recently tied for 15th at the Deutsche Bank Championship. If he can heat up with his putter again, another strong finish won’t be far off.
After getting his 2015-16 season off to a strong start, Lovemark couldn’t keep it going and faded to the finish, missing several cuts along the way. Still, he found the top 35 in two of his three playoff starts, so he should have a modicum of momentum as he prepares to make his second career appearance at Silverado. He tied for 48th at last year’s Safeway Open, and while that didn’t result in a big paycheck, it should definitely prove helpful in providing experience. At just $7,300 in DraftKings, he’s got more potential than most others in his price range.