The first event of the new PGA Tour season is in the books and, for the second year in a row, Brendan Steele is the new season’s first winner.
After posting rounds of 72 and 69 over the weekend, Brendan Steele was able to successfully defend his 2016 title at the Safeway Open. For Steele, the win was the third of his career.
While Steele managed to begin his 2017-’18 season with a bang, there were plenty of others who had great starts, too.
And, conversely, there were several who were still partying like it’s 2016-’17.
Here’s a look at those who have laid the tracks for a great campaign and those who are very glad the season is as long as it is:
Brendan Steele — If you subscribe to the “horses for courses” mantra and passed on Brendan Steele last week, odds are you’re kicking yourself harder than Al Bundy is for marrying Peg. Steele, who successfully defended his title from 2016 at Silverado on Sunday, did so in convincing fashion, finishing the week at 15-under. Despite challenges from the likes of Tony Finau and Phil Mickelson, Steele seemed to win the Safeway with a level of ease.
Tony Finau — My pick to win the Safeway, Tony Finau, came home second at Silverado. I have predicted large things for Finau in 2018 and a runner-up is certainly a great way to start on that path. Finau played steadily all week and put himself in position to collect his second career PGA Tour win. Unfortunately, Brendan Steele had other ideas. Still, the second place finish is a great start towards East Lake and the FedExCup playoffs next September.
Phil Mickelson — Few players have the confidence that Phil Mickelson does, and now, he’s seemed to have regained his championship form. Mickelson, who hasn’t won on Tour since the 2013 Open Championship, stated early in the week that he was going “win sooner or later.” Mickelson didn’t finish the job last week — obviously — but he did come home solo third, continuing to build on momentum from his play at the Presidents Cup and the small roll he got on at the end of the 2016-’17 PGA Tour season. I don’t want to live in a world where Phil Mickelson can’t win on Tour anymore, so I hope his prediction comes true. It’s certainly more fun betting on Phil than it is watching him run mid pack.
Smylie Kaufman — Despite making the cut, there wasn’t too much more positive besides that fact to take from Smylie Kaufman’s first start of the 2017-’18 season. Kaufman, who rocketed to PGA Tour stardom when he won the 2015 Shriner’s Hospitals for Children and then found himself in the final pairing of the Masters in 2016, hasn’t really popped up too often except when he’s partying with the boys in Baker’s Bay. Kaufman finished the week with rounds of 73 and 82 to stumble to a 75th place finish.
Cameron Tringale — A player who has shown flashes of brilliance in the past but never seems to sustain it is Cameron Tringale. As you all know, I am a big fan of Mac Triangles, but picking him in almost any fantasy format is an absolute craps shoot. Last week, Tringale played steadily on Thursday and Friday before firing a 67 on Saturday. Unfortunately, he stumbled to a Sunday 76 and a T-43 finish.
Richie Werenski — It appears the magic that Richie Werenski found at the end of the 2016-’17 PGA Tour season has worn off. After a string of top-10’s and top-20’s to end the season, Werenski was trending in the right direction and a popular sleeper pick in most fantasy formats. Unfortunately, the South Hadley, MA product mustered only a T-37 at Silverado. That said, I’m still very high on his talent and believe that he will find his form in 2018. I don’t expect him to win a major or anything, but if he can play the way he did in the FedExCup Playoffs, than he can certainly compete for wins in other tournaments this season and is worth keeping on your fantasy radar.
Sam Saunders — Just a week after keeping his Tour card in convincing fashion, Sam Saunders missed the cut in the first event of the 2017-’18 PGA Tour season. Saunders, who fired the first 59 in Web.com Tour history just two weeks ago, managed only rounds of 74 and 70. Many — myself included — took the action on Saunders figuring he’d build on the momentum he’d built the previous week, but that proved incorrect. Saunders appears to still be the volatile fantasy option he was last year.
Peter Uihlein — Another popular choice who disappointed at Silverado was Peter Uihlein. The uber-talented son of former Acushnet CEO Wally Uihlein, Peter has been around for a while, making a name for himself on the European Tour. In 2013, he won the Madeira Islands Open for his first and only win on that Tour. This season, Uihlein will make most of his starts on his native side of the pond — and while his first start was a touch auspicious, it’s certainly not a damnation on his entire season. Tread lightly for now, but Uihlein has the talent to compete for real.