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BlogPrelude to the Safeway Open

Safeway Open

September 10th – 13th, 2020

Silverado C.C. (North)

Napa,, CA

Par: 72 / Yardage: 7,196

Purse: $6.6 million

with $1,188,000 to the winner

Defending Champion:
Cameron Champ (will not defend)

by Sal Johnson

Founder, Chief Data Officer, GOLFstats

E-mail me at:
sal@golfstats.com

Time to say farewell to 2020 and three days later bring on 2021

It always amazes me how there is no longer any time to celebrate the old year, which is finishing today at East Lake Golf Club. Probably a lot of mixed emotions in 2020, I am happy to see it coming to an end, but frankly, it probably won’t end until we know who the next president of the United States will be. In a way, despite the year ending in a whimper with nobody around to celebrate Dustin Johnson’s Tour Championship win. With it, he not only has won for the 23rd time on the PGA Tour, but he has now won the FedExCup, the last big thing that Johnson had never won. When you think of the best of the modern era (last 30 years or so), of course, you think of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. But for Mickelson, not only did he never win the FedExCup, but he also was never number one in the Official World Golf Ranking. Now for many, they will give the Player of the Year to Johnson for his three PGA Tour wins, but honestly have to say for me there isn’t any Player of the Year. With the big hole in the season from mid-March to mid-June, plus only one major and no Players Championship, it’s that kind of year to put an asterisk next to it.
In looking at the 2020 season, I can’t see many great things that happened. Yes, Tiger Woods won, but that was in Japan and in October in a limited-field event. Yes, Justin Thomas won three times, but other than a WGC win in Memphis last month, his season was not complete. Many will wonder about Rory McIlroy, who never had a good event since the season started up in June, but he did win in November in China, so the season wasn’t a total loss. But if you ask McIlroy, 2020 will always be special as his first child was born last week. Brendon Todd, Webb Simpson, Jon Rahm, and Collin Morikawa won twice, but for Morikawa, his win at the PGA Championship holds the best excitement as he will be the only major winner in 2020. For Joaquin Niemann, Sebastian Munoz, Lanto Griffin, Tyler Duncan, Viktor Hovland, Sungjae Im, Tyrrell Hatton, and Richy Werenski, 2020 will be remembered as the first time they ever won on the PGA Tour. You have to wonder if these eight first time winners, if any of them will ever win again. One of the year’s impressive stats is that only two players in their 40s won, Tiger Woods at Zozo and Jim Herman at the Wyndham. Nobody 37-year-olds or 38-year-olds won, and Adam Scott, at 39 years and 7 months, was the only player at 39 to win. So it’s hard to believe that only three players older than 37 won on tour in 2020. On the other end of the spectrum, Joaquin Niemann was the youngest winner at 20 years, 10 months, and 8 days old. If you don’t count FedExCup money, Justin Thomas was the leading money winner in 2020, with $7,344,040 in winnings. Of course, 11 events were canceled this year because Thomas won the lowest amount since Luke Donald led the money list with $6.7 million in 2011. This year only produced 91 players that won a million dollars or more, the lowest since 2013, when only 82 players cracked the million-dollar mark.
In the real world, a news cycle lasts for seven days, but the PGA Tour players have about two days to celebrate the old and get ready for the new. But for the 30 players at East Lake, they will get to enjoy their year for the full seven days as none of them will be in the Safeway Open. Yes, hard to believe. As a matter of fact, things are so poor for the Safeway they don’t even have their defending champion Cameron Champ. With the U.S. Open the week after the Safeway, their field is not very stellar as only five top-50 ranked players are in the field, the highest rank player being #25 Matt Kuchar (Kuchar withdrew on Monday night, the next highest player in the rankings is #28 Shane Lowry). Have to say the Safeway got a raw deal in the scheduling when they were put in between the FedExCup playoffs and the U.S. Open. Not only is Cameron Champ not playing, but another Californian will also be Collin Morikawa who’s caddy lives in the Napa area. But we can all understand the lack of players. There were just too many significant events wedge in a short period.
So it will take a lot of work to figure out who is and who isn’t playing great coming into the Safeway. Yes, major winners Shane Lowry, Sergio Garcia, Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk, Keegan Bradley, Lucas Glover, Charl Schwartzel, Stewart Cink, and Jordan Spieth will be in the field, but none of them will be considered a real threat. So yes, there will be a lot of work in figuring out who will win this week in Napa.

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