Sobel’s 2020 Safeway Open Odds, Picks & Preview: Back Joel Dahmen in PGA TOUR Season-Opener
Andy Lyons/Getty Images. Pictured: Joel Dahmen.
- Jason Sobel breaks down his betting card for the 2020 Safeway Open, and he's banking on a West Coast native who's struck the ball well this year.
- Get his outright winner, finishing position bets, one-and-done pool plays and more below.
Can’t stop, won’t stop.
Of all the PGA TOUR official slogans over the years — from “These Guys are Good” to “Live Under Par” — perhaps the preceding four-word phraseology would best suit the current state of the game.
If you’re wondering exactly what you’ve clicked on, considering the season just ended on Monday, well, I’ve got some news for you: The next season begins Thursday. Like, this Thursday. Of the current week.
So, how’d that offseason treat ya?
In previous years, any criticism lobbed toward the saturation of a nonstop schedule might have been warranted. But here in 2020, when a pandemic already wiped out a few months of tournaments and there should be no rules against a greater quantity of our entertainment value, commencing the next season some 64 hours after ending the last one represents the consistency we’ve longed to achieve lately.
All of which helps to explain exactly what you’ve clicked here: My tournament preview for this week’s Safeway Open, the first of 50 — yes, 50! — events on the 2020-21 schedule, one being termed a “super-season” by the PGA TOUR itself.
The start of this half-a-hundred takes place in Napa, where many of the world’s best have opted to rest up in advance of next week’s U.S. Open. Nonetheless, there’s still an intriguing field playing a little competitive golf in between sips of wine.
I’ll be focusing most of my picks on guys who grew up on the West Coast, or have played well on the West Coast, or can at least locate the West Coast on a map. That should offer plenty of options. Let’s get right to it, starting with a player still seeking his first career victory.
One player to win the tournament.
Joel Dahmen (28-1, William Hill)
At some point – maybe during a week when we don’t have two days in between seasons – I’m going to sit down and pen a column on the current best players on the PGA TOUR who have yet to post a victory. I’ll have to pore over research to figure out just where Dahmen’s name will be on such a list, but I don’t imagine it’ll be too far down. That is, unless he disqualifies himself from consideration by winning one before then.
Dahmen has proven to be an above-average ball-striker, ranking 32nd in strokes gained tee-to-green last season. He also tends to make birdies in bunches, which also seems like a nice thing to have in the arsenal. He doesn’t own a great record in Napa, but he has plenty of momentum entering this tournament. Dahmen has posted top-20 finishes in three of his last four starts, including a major, a WGC and a playoff event.
Potential selections for one-and-done options.
Every golfer is essentially a course horse; we all have certain tracks that fit our eye and others that don’t. Steele, though, might be one of the foremost course horses on the PGA TOUR. There are at least a half-dozen events each year where we can simply plug him in, because he owns the talent to win any of them.
This one, however, might be the best of the best for Steele, as the two-time champion has an obvious affinity for host venue Silverado Country Club. He’s coming off an underrated and underappreciated season and should be a smart play in all formats this week.
Sticking with the “underappreciated” theme: On our weekly Action Network podcast, Peter Jennings and I often discuss the fact that Vegas doesn’t get nearly enough respect in the marketplace. A big dude who can bust it a long way and owns soft hands around the greens, Vegas owns the look of a player who could/should be a top-30 player in the world. This, despite the fact that he’s never been higher than 35th and currently checks in at 167th.
Don’t be surprised if he moves up at least 100 spots by the time this upcoming season is over.
One player to finish top-five.
Patrick Rodgers (15-1, PointsBet)
We’ve been waiting a while for Rodgers to make the leap into the next echelon, but unlike many of his fellow Class of 2011’ers, it’s been a more gradual process for Rodgers. That doesn’t mean it isn’t coming, though. Rodgers has played some of his best golf on the West Coast, and he’s also played some of his best golf in the early part of the schedule. So, this could be a week when he makes yet another serious title contention.
One player to finish top-10.
Maverick McNealy (+650, DraftKings)
Sensing a theme here yet? Not only are most of these players West Coasters, but moreover they’re all players whose potential still outweighs their achievements. McNealy was all-everything at Stanford, and with a half-dozen top-15 finishes since January, he’s starting to get the hang of things in the big leagues, too. This tourney should be right up his alley for a top-10 finish.
One player to finish top-20.
Aaron Wise (+350, DraftKings)
There’s a fine line between “not realizing potential” and “playing below talent level,” and Wise has been walking that line for a few years now. He’s a much better player than his results show — and those results have included nine missed cuts in just 13 starts this year. A new chapter with this season and a trip back to the West Coast could be just what he needs this week.
One player to finish top-30.
Kevin Chappell (+380, FanDuel)
My initial pick was Bryson Nimmer in this spot, but he’ withdrew from this tournament, so I’m backing Chappell here.
Injuries and subsequent mediocre results have dropped this former U.S. Presidents Cup team member to a shocking 590th in the world, but it doesn’t take an expert to discern that there aren’t 589 golfers who are more talented than Chappell. I wouldn’t get too excited about his short-term prospects just yet, but I’ll pay to see some baby steps, starting with a top-30 finish this week.
One player to finish top-40.
Sahith Theegala (+310, FanDuel)
After turning pro earlier this year, Theegala was granted four exemptions into PGA TOUR events this summer, but he only came away with a T-41 and three MCs for his troubles. I liked him prior to a few of those events, which leaves me a bit gun-shy, but I’m going to take a conservative approach here as he returns to his home state of California.
DFS Free Bingo Square
A safe plug-and-play option for DFS.
When guys like Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia and Jordan Spieth are close to the highest DFS salaries, you know there aren’t a whole lot of “safe” plays near the top. Reavie rarely gets anyone too excited about selecting him, but with made cuts in 10 of his last 12 starts, he fits the parameters for this category while so many others are simply too volatile this week.
A lower-priced option for DFS.
Speaking of volatility, I usually prefer offering a player in this category who can simply make the cut and won’t kill your lineup. Nonetheless, Hagy owns a lower floor and higher ceiling than most others at his price point. I wouldn’t go all-in on Hagy exposures, but your risk could reap some reward from a potentially low-owned player.
One player to post the low score Thursday.
Kyle Stanley (70-1, DraftKings)
Over his final nine starts last season, Stanley posted opening-round scores in the 60s on five occasions, including a 64 in Puerto Rico and a 66 in Minnesota. After failing to make the FedEx Cup Playoffs, I expect Stanley to have a serious turnaround in the upcoming season. Simply put, he’s too talented as a ball-striker to keep treading water yet again.
One player who should beat comparable players.
In 10 starts since the PGA TOUR’s post-COVID-19 restart, Hubbard had one WD but didn’t miss a single cut, which ticks one of the boxes we’re looking for in matchups. He’s also probably a bit better than books have given him credit for, making him an appealing prop play this week, but perhaps tougher in head-to-heads than anywhere else.
The Big Fade
One top player to avoid at this tournament.
Si Woo Kim (+2200)
I love Si Woo’s ball-striking, I love his recent form, and I love his ability to win a tournament without warning. I don’t, however, love him as one of the favorites. I get why he’s up there this week, but the fun of betting on Si Woo is that he’s usually a 150/1 outright bet, yet he owns the ability to win on any given week. At a short number, Si Woo shouldn’t excite us too much.
My favorite non-PGA Tour play of the week.
Nelly Korda to win the ANA Inspiration (+1600)
I’m going to defer to a Person Who Knows Things — one who told me earlier this week to watch out for the younger Korda sister in uncommonly hot temperatures in Palm Springs this week.
Nelly Korda is among the best players without a major and doesn’t own a great track record at this one, but she finished T-13 two years ago and was T-3 in her most recent start. If it’s not her, then Person Who Knows Things believes Carlota Ciganda (+2000) could be another nice play, as she tends to fare well on par-5s and there are some gettable ones on this course.