Thursday, October 13, 2016

Record-setting first day at Silverado opens 2016-17 PGA Tour season

Thin high clouds and temperatures in the mid-70s greeted fans and players on the opening day of the 2016-2017 PGA Tour season in the inaugural Safeway Open at Napa’s Silverado Resort and Spa. Windy conditions predicted for the opening round never materialized, and playing conditions on the historic North Course were perfect.

Phil Mickelson watches his tee shot at the par-3 second hole during the first round of the 2016 Safeway Open at Napa’s Silverado Resort and Spa. Mickelson finished the day at 3-under, seven strokes back of leader Scott Piercy.
Topping the parade of players who took advantage of the pristine conditions today was Las Vegas, Nevada, native Scott Piercy, who fired a 10-under 62 to take the lead after 18 holes, as well as sole possession of the course record. Among the four co-holders of the previous record of 9-under 63 was tournament host and resort co-owner Johnny Miller.

Two strokes back of Piercy after 18 holes were second-year PGA Tour member Patton Kizzire and England’s Paul Casey. Casey’s career ratcheted into high gear in 2016, after several years of injury-related doldrums, with back-to-back second-place finishes at the Deutsche Bank and BMW Championships during the FedEx Cup playoffs, part of seven Top 10 and twelve Top 25 finishes in 17 (out of 22) made cuts.

Besides the predicted windy conditions, the other thing that never materialized at Silverado was Tiger Woods. After his September 2 announcement of a tentative schedule for his return to tournament golf after a 14-month absence – a return which was to begin with the Safeway Open – and confirming his entry to the tournament on October 7, Woods doubled-back three days later, withdrawing from the tournament and issuing a statement on his website on Monday, October 10, citing a shaky game, but not physical injury, as the reason for his change of heart.

Phil Mickelson had expressed interest in being paired with Woods for the first two rounds, and media reports in advance of the announcement of tournament pairings indicated that the two would indeed be placed in the same group. That dream pairing – or nightmare, depending upon whether you are a fan, a golf writer, or a course marshal – was not to be, however. Still, Phil’s Faithful lined the fairways and surrounded the greens during his round, as he played with defending champion Emiliano Grillo and 2011 Fedex Cup champ Bill Haas.

Phil put on a show for his gallery, scrambling to a 3-under 69, hitting five of 14 fairways and 13 of 18 greens, with 29 putts – and only handed out one signed glove, to a spectator on the right side of the fairway who got clipped by his drive on the par-five 9th hole.

Asked about the course, Mickelson said, “I really like it. It reminds me of the old Torrey South. The way the holes moved, the way the greens have similar contours to them and the length wasn’t overpowering but you had to be very precise to get it close to some of the holes. I like the feel of the golf course.”

Notable performances by Northern California players in the field include rounds of 2-under 70 shot by former San Jose State golfer Mark Hubbard and Clovis’s Bryson DeChambeau.