The Open: Graduates can get off to a fast start, says The Punter

Adam Hadwin - can he make an early splash on the PGA Tour?
Adam Hadwin - can he make an early splash on the PGA Tour?

The 2013/14 wraparound season kicks off in California this week and our man has picked out five players to back before the off - an Adam, a Ben and a trio of Scotts. Read his in-depth preview here...

“The 2013 Tour top earner, Adam Hadwin, won his first event in California and finished inside the top-ten in his subsequent three starts here so the Canadian clearly likes the Golden State.”

Tournament History
Having been a regular event in the now defunct Fall Series on the PGA Tour, the Open opened up the first wraparound season 12 months ago and does so again this week. This will be just the eighth edition of the Open.

The North Course, Silverado Resort and Spa, Napa Valley, California

Course Details
Par 72, 7,203 yards

After three years at Grey Hawk in Arizona and four at Cordevalle in San Martin, California, the event moves to the North Course at the Silverado Resort in Napa Valley, California. 

The Robert Trent Jones Jr-designed North Course opened in 1957 but it has been substantially reworked by Johnny Miller, who is now one of the venue's co-owners, and Troon Golf in recent years.

Silverado hosted the Kaiser International between 1968 and 1976 and the Anheuser-Busch Golf Classic from 1977 to 1980 and some big names won here during those 13 years. Johnny Miller, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Ben Crenshaw all tasted victory at Silverado and some big names were also victorious here during the 14 years it saw Champions Tour golf with the likes of Bernhard Langer, Lee Trevino, Tom Kite and Dave Stockton all winning here.

Silverado will host the event again next year and they have an option to do so again in 2016 so it will be worth learning as much as we can this time around but, for now, we're pretty much in the dark. I've read that it's a shot-makers' course with fast greens but given it's a resort course I don't expect the pros to find it especially tough and I expect the event to develop into something of a birdiefest. 

Useful Sites
Event Site 
Course Site
Twitter Link
Tee Times
Weather Forecast

TV Coverage
Live on Sky Sports at 22:00 all four days, starting Thursday

Last Five Winners
2013 - Jimmy Walker -17
2012 - Jonas Blixt -16
2011 - Bryce Molder -17 (playoff) 
2010 - Rocco Mediate -15
2009 - Troy Matteson - 18 (playoff) 

What Will it Take to Win The Open?
A new venue is never ideal and a new venue not used for 34 years is far from helpful. With no stats to analyse, I'm loath to make any predictions before the off as to how the course will play.

Is There an Angle In?
With so little to go on it's far from easy but looking closely at players with a good record in California might be a good place to start. It may also be worth considering the Tour graduates, who will be keen to get off to a flier and who won't be disadvantaged by playing a venue familiar to the established pros. 

Graduates and good friends Russell Henley and Scott Langley went toe-to-toe in the first full field event of the 2013 season, the Sony Open, eventually finishing first and third in what was their first PGA Tour appearances and that was on a course that the experienced players knew well. 

Last year saw the first wraparound season and with this event starting so soon after the conclusion of the Tour season, we might have expected a better showing from the graduates but the closest any of them came was Will MacKenzie who finished tied 9th. Although it is worth pointing out that Brooks Koepka, playing on a sponsor's invite having won three tournaments on the Challenge Tour in Europe, looked the most likely winner for much of the final round.

Is There an Identikit Winner?

The last three winners were all winning their first PGA Tour title so that gives a further boost to the graduates. It's hard to imagine the big names being fully wound up for the season opener and I wouldn't be in the least bit surprised to see the sequence extended to four.

In-Play Tactics
With no previous course form or results to ponder, we've no idea whether this is going to be a course that suits the frontrunners or whether it might be a venue where the winner can come from off the pace. I'm pretty sure we might see some late drama though...

The 16th and the 18th are reachable par 5s and the 17th is a driveable par 4. In theory someone could eagle the last three holes so the chances are we'll see all sorts of in-running carnage on Sunday and a clubhouse lead will be vulnerable.

Market Leaders
Defending champion, Jimmy Walker, narrowly heads the market over Matt Kuchar, with fellow Ryder Cupper, Hunter Mahan, the third best in the market. All three will be glad to get going again and to put the whole Gleneagles experience behind them but none of them make any appeal, and the same can be said of all the market leaders.

As detailed in my preview, I've layed the vast majority of players trading at less than 100.099/1 at the Portugal Masters and I did toy with doing the same here also. The fact that some of the game's greats have won at this venue put me off slightly and not knowing much about the course or how it will play and how I would trade in-running was also off putting. There's also the fact that we're going back to two events in a week for the first time in a while and I'm concerned I might get drained intensively trading both so in the end, although I'm tempted to get stuck in and get laying, I've decided to take it easy at this tournament.

I'm not going to begin to pretend I've put hours and hours of work in to this event and all five of my picks have been backed modestly and with little confidence.

The 2013 Tour top earner, Adam Hadwin, won his first event in California and finished inside the top-ten in his subsequent three starts here so the Canadian clearly likes the Golden State. He doesn't exactly scream value but I thought he was worth chancing and after that, I've thrown a few pounds at regular fancy, Ben Crane, and a trio of Scotts.

I've detailed my case for new dad, Scott Langley, in this week's each way piece here and the other two were backed with very little thought if the truth be told.

Scott Stallings is a multiple winner whose last success came at the Farmers Insurance Open in California last year and Scott Brown is a fairly consistent sort who, like Stallings, always seems generously priced and does again this week.

Ben Crane @ 100.099/1
Scott Langley @ 100.099/1
Adam Hadwin @ 120.0119/1
Scott Stallings @ 200.0199/1
Scott Brown @ 220.0219/1

I'll be back on Thursday evening or Friday morning with the In-Play Blog.

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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