The 2015/16 wraparound season kicks off this week and the field for the Frys.com Open is an interesting one. Fedex Cup points are already on offer to encourage bigger names to tee it up in what used to be the "Fall Series" and Justin Rose - 10.00 - will feature at the Silverado Resort in California. He won't be the biggest name in the line-up though as Rory McIlroy - 6.00 - looks to prepare for the European Tour's Final series with a warm up following limited recent starts through injury problems.
Perhaps surprisingly a number of Presidents Cup competitors will also tee it up this week after a closely fought contest in Korea. Most notably, Hideki Matsuyama flies in at 19.00 in the betting and Hideki was T3 here last year. Other standouts to make the trip are Chris Kirk - 41.00, and Charl Schwartzel 56.00, while Steven Bowditch – runner-up at the Frys in 2014 - catches the eye. Defending Champion Sang Moon Bae won't be active on tour for the next two years as he prepares for mandatory Korean Military duties.
The course - Silverado Resort (North Course)
Silverado North is a classic parkland style test playing circa 7,200 yards to a par of 72. Track re-designer and resort owner Johnny Miller says his North Course is aesthetically similar to Augusta... It will play nothing similar though. In terms of course premiums it will be all about proximity with the irons and according to Miller himself, distance control is vital.
Greens are smallish and scrambling will prove difficult. Good scrambling was a theme amongst the front runners here last year but there were no real standout trends in the stats, though GIR was a solid factor. A run down the leaderboard will back that up with all types of players filling the top 10 and excelling in different areas. From the big hitting Steven Bowditch and Brooks Koepka to the short, accurate Jon Curran and Bryce Molder, this course suits no particular player.
One thing to note is that the wind can get up on the Silverado North course in Napa as it did on the Sunday last year making things difficult. Miller also says the air is "like mud" in this part of the States so the course may play longer than it looks and those that played last year may have the advantage.
Three from the pack
Brooks Koepka - 19.00 or 5.50 - will have mixed feelings after the US Victory at the Presidents cup. Arguably the best player currently from the US that wasn't picked to play last week is also standout current form wise. A trip back across the pond to the home of golf two weeks ago produced a T2 finish and that followed a successful season that saw him all the way to East Lake in The Playoffs. It was a very fruitful season for Brooks major wise as well, with an average finishing position of 16.5 across the four events. Koepka has also shown he's not just a bomber, when finishing T6 at a similarly laid out Sedgefield track at Wyndham and he was actually T8 here at Silverado North itself last year.
Emilliano Grillo - 46.00 or 10.00 - is fast becoming renowned as one of the best ball strikers and tee to green specialists in the game and he's now moved Stateside, where the South America feels at home and is excelling. Across the Webcom and PGA Tours, Grillo teed it up nine times and amassed five top 10s, including two runner-up finishes and culminating with a win at the season ending Webcom Tour Championship two weeks ago. He's secured his PGA Tour card for 2016. This looks a good fit for the very much in form player and there's some juice in his price in my opinion.
Talent wise, Aussie Steven Bowditch - 51.00 or 11.00 - would be very highly ranked on the PGA Tour. He doesn't get the credit he deserves due to off the course problems affecting his progress but he seems in a happier place, now married and settling into tour life. He's a winner and he showed this when unflappable in winning at both the Byron Nelson and Valero Texas Open in the last 18 months or so. Bowdo went all the way to the Tour Championship as well, where he finished 12th having been practically bottom of the market antepost. Notably, Steven was second here last year at Silverado North where he led the putts per round stats despite poor tee to green stats, and that backs up the no standout stats trends theory. Bowditch comes here following a win over Jimmy Walker in the President's Cup singles matches.
Chris Stroud - 71.00 - or 15.00 - was a surprise visitor to Scotland for the Dunhill Links but he's glad he made the trip after a T2 finish at the home of golf. Judging by the odds this finish seems to have gone unnoticed, given Stroud is the guy who was installed as the 19.00 favourite for the Barbasol Championship just a couple of months back. Chris said his game was in good shape, and he could well feature strongly here at a price.