The 2016-17 PGA tour kicked off in the California wine country at Silverado resort with a new sponsor. Accordingly, the inaugural Safeway Open replaced the Frys.com Open.
Understandably, the top players from the recently concluded Fed-Ex cup playoffs and Ryder cup were not in attendance. However, a new PGA Tour rule now requires players to add a tournament they haven’t played in four years. Hence, much to the fans enjoyment, only 10 days after his magnificent performance at the Ryder Cup, Phil Michelson was making his debut appearance here. He did not disappoint as his good lay continued and the crowds were appreciative. The biggest news was that after committing to play Tiger Woods pulled out at the last minute (Monday of tournament week) as he said he wasn’t ready to compete at this level. Most of tournament print and television advertisements could not be changed which was unfortunate for those fans turning out who expected to see Tiger.
This writer choose to be a Pro-Am caddie on Wednesday. One major benefit of being a Pro-Am caddie is a close-up look. The greens were surprisingly fast for this type of resort course.
Likewise, inside the ropes on the practice range is also a special experience. Brand new golf balls from the top manufacturers so the players can practice with the ball they intend to play. Unfortunately, the endless supply of shiny new top-level golf balls are only available to the professionals. Not surprisingly, the amateurs practice area is separated from the professional side.
Silverado has 36 holes between the North Course and the South Course. Although the course hosted the Kaiser International and the Anheuser-Busch Classic in the the 1970’s it had not had a PGA Tour event in 34 years. It was Johnny Miller who made that happen. The resort is a memorable place for him as he owned a property there since the 1970s. Miller led a group in 2010 who purchased the resort, made major renovations including the North Course. He was able to land the Frys.com event in 2014.
The courses are open to members and guests staying at the resort. This is one of the increasing number of venues on the PGA Tour that the public can play. The Safeway Open played on The North course. As is usual at a PGA Tour event, the course conditions were excellent.
The rough was meaningful but not punishing. Occasionally, straying off the manicured fairways led to some tough lies. But these lies were generally no problem for these professional players.
Safeway Open – Inclement Weather
California is experiencing a major drought in 2016. Amazingly, a 1/2 inch of rain fell each of three tournament days, after no rain for five months. With this amazing bit of bad luck for new tournament sponsor Safeway, the crowds were significantly limited.
The grounds crew at a PGA Tour event golf course spend months getting ready to ensure the best possible conditions for the best players in the world. When it rains hard, the Tour Rules officials can immediately summon a grounds crew to squeegee the greens dry. The Rules official temporarily halts play typically upon request by players.
Similarly, the rules official can have leaves blown off greens when necessary to improve the speed of play. As it was fall, several of the greens were inundated with leaves given the windy situation.
The Championship tees are protected during the Safeway Open practice rounds ensuring the best conditions during the tournament.
The tournament organizers expanded the number of spectator viewing areas this year. As our pro-am group arrived at the 18th green, it was notable how different third shot seemed with the grandstands in the background. Of course, during tournament days when the grandstands are filled to capacity, the feeling is quite different.
A basketball hoop at 3-point range was set-up for the players near the 17th green during the Wednesday Pro-Am. Here journeyman Kyle Reifers takes a shot. Local NBA favorite from the Golden State Warriors Steve Curry came in 2nd to PGA golfer Harold Varner III in the informal competition.