Phil Mickelson will be the headline draw at this week’s Safeway Open, but plenty of big names – and up-and-comers – will join him in the PGA TOUR season opener.
After three days off after the end of the 2017 PGA Tour season, the 2018 PGA Tour Season gets underway Thursday with the Safeway Open at Silverado CC in Napa, California. It’s a popular area and that leads to the good news-bad news about it. The good news is the location: Napa. The bad news, according to what writers who have covered it in the past said, is the location: It has gridlock traffic.
Regardless, Phil Mickelson, fresh off his gazillionth Presidents Cup, gives the event star power. Nearly a quarter of Mickelson’s 42 PGA Tour victories have come in the Golden State, so it’s no surprise he’s looking to add number 43 there. It’s his third start at the Safeway Open, and Phil fans are hoping he will bring home his first victory since the 2013 British Open.
While at Silverado, Mickelson will be able to hang with resort part owner and legendary golfer Johnny Miller, who according to his agent will be around for hosting duties, but not on television as a commentator. Perhaps as an interview, but that’s the extent of it.
There are more names you know in the tournament, including two-time major champ, Zach Johnson, and former FedExCup winner, Bill Haas.
Johnson, for some reason, has always been one of those under the radar players, but with his putting, he shouldn’t be. He’s been on five Ryder Cups and four Presidents Cups, and pressure seems to be his middle name on the greens. Really, he never needs to win another tournament, but the best golfers always want one more victory.
Haas, like Johnson, is not a typical headliner, but after winning that $10 million at the FedEx Cup with a miracle shot out of the water in the playoff, for sure his banker knows where to find him. His dad, Jay Haas, knows how to deposit checks, too, having made more than $17 million in his career, which is amazing since most of his playing days were back when it was hard to get to $1 million in a season. You might see him in the gallery, because he’s not entered in this week’s PGA Tour Champions event.
Rookies and rising stars round out the PGA TOUR opener
Bryson DeChambeau, who finished 49th in the points list last year, has shown his game has staying power. Despite wrestling with his putting, using his one length clubs, and criticism from a lot of naysayers, DeChambeau won at the John Deere Classic in his first season as a PGA Tour player, giving him a two-year exemption. Last year, he missed the cut at Safeway, but maybe this time around his California roots will help him succeed at Silverado.
In this day and age in the U.S., it’s seldom we see someone who has military service interrupt a golf career as was the case before the 1970s. However, Sangmoon Bae is returning to professional golf after two years of military service in South Korea. He also happens to be the 2014 Safeway Open champion. It will be interesting to see how his game held up during the hiatus.
Maverick McNealy, a former No. 1 amateur, makes his professional start this week, playing on a sponsor invitation. He will be paired with two other rookies, Conrad Shindler and Denny McCarthy.
McNealy is the son of Sun Microsystems former CEO and co-founder Scott McNealy. A Stanford grad, McNealy had 11 victories in college golf, tying Tiger Woods and Patrick Rodgers.
Another name in the field is former Texas golfer, Beau Hossler, who left Texas before graduation to turn professional. He spent 2017 on the Web.com Tour, and that was his path to the PGA Tour. He will be paired with two additional rookies, Zecheng Dou and Aaron Wise. Hossler is a California native and should be ready for conditions at Silverado.
Peter Uihlein, 2010 US. Amateur champ, has finally made his way to the PGA Tour after several seasons in Europe where he has one victory and was the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year in 2013. His father is Wally Uihlein, recently retired CEO of Achushnet/Titleist/Footjoy. Whether the retirement of the elder Uihlein is a coincidence or not has not been mentioned. It certainly gives him time to be a spectator when his son is playing.
Other names you’ll recognize on the starting list at the Safeway Open include Emiliano Grillo, former long-drive champ Jamie Sadlowski, former U.S. Open champs Lucas Glover and Webb Simpson, and Arnold Palmer’s grandson Sam Saunders.
Will Phil Mickelson’s veteran experience pay off with the one win he doesn’t have in California, or will one of the young bucks make their mark in the season opener?