Cauley is bargain value in Safeway market
Hagy looks a live outsider
Sky Sports Golf, 10pm Thursday
Palmer's top tip
Bud Cauley 50-1
The new US Tour season starts this week with the Safeway Open in California, the first of 50 tournaments, a stretch which culminates in the 2018 Tour Championship at the end of September.
Bud Cauley must be bursting with motivation at the dawn of a fresh campaign, the 27-year-old probably getting fed up of listening to glorious tales from housemate Justin Thomas. The pair live together in Florida and paired up for the Zurich Classic in April.
Thomas has just been crowned PGA Player of the Year, having won five times last season, as well as the FedEx Cup. Cauley knows he has been left behind by his best pal, but is more than good enough himself to become a US Tour champion. He has finished third three times, two of those near-misses coming in California.
Cauley joined elite company in 2011 when he became only the seventh player in history to win enough from sponsors' invites to get on the US Tour direct from college. Third place in the Frys.com Open, which later became the Safeway Open, was key to that early progression.
Injury problems have hampered progress since, but he won on the Web.com Tour in 2014, and this year he has fully established himself back on the US Tour.
Third place in the CareerBuilder Challenge at the end of January was followed by three further top-tens, and he bowed out in the third leg of the FedEx Cup playoffs, finishing 27th in the BMW Championship.
Cauley is one of the best iron-players on the circuit, is equipped to score well at Silverado, and must be inspired by the recent heroics of Thomas.
Jamie Lovemark 40-1
Intense heat awaits the Safeway competitors, with temperatures off the charts in Napa Valley, but California natives Jamie Lovemark and Brandon Hagy will not be concerned. Both these power-packed local lads appear to have been underestimated by the layers.
Former world number one amateur Lovemark is overdue a breakthrough success and this looks a golden opportunity. He lost a playoff in the Frys.com Open in 2009, playing in only his fourth event as a professional, then he was Player of the Year on what was then the Nationwide Tour in 2010.
Injuries derailed his career, but he won on the Web.com Tour in 2013, then established himself as a serious US Tour dangerman at the start of last year.
Lovemark contended five times in 2016, losing a playoff for the Zurich Classic, and this year he finished fourth in the Sony Open and third in the Greenbrier Classic. Three Majors yielded respectable form figures of 27-22-33, and he made it through three legs of the FedEx playoff. He closed with a 66 for 20th spot in last year's Safeway and carries more self-belief 12 months later.
Brandon Hagy 150-1
Use Hagy to complete a small team of hungry, young US Tour maidens who will probably have prepared thoroughly for an event that bigger names may not be taking too seriously.
A college star at the University of California, he graduated from the Web.com Tour last year and opened his US Tour campaign with 35th place in the Safeway. Once settled in the higher grade, he was superb at the end of July in the Canadian Open, where he shared fifth spot.
Hagy qualified for the FedEx playoffs, before falling at the first hurdle (Northern Trust). This is a player of potential who is worth chancing in his home state at a fancy price.
Others to note
The powerhouse struck his ball impressively for most of last season, closing with 20th place in the BMW Championship. A maiden who should be considered by those wanting a fourth outright bet.
The Argentinian scored no points in the Presidents Cup last week and was thrashed by Rickie Fowler on Sunday, but Grillo won his maiden US Tour title at Silverado in 2015.
The defending champion blew a final-round lead in 2016, so could easily be going for a hat-trick of Silverado victories this week. The Californian is clearly well suited to the venue.
The youngster was an unlucky runner-up in the Wyndham Championship in August, pushing Henrik Stenson all the way, and should become a US Tour champion soon enough.
The 25-year-old was a college star in California and expected to win on the US Tour fairly swiftly. The breakthrough has yet to arrive, but this is a decent chance.
The whizzkid finally chose golf ahead of a business career and is making his professional debut this week close to his California home.
1pt each-way 50-1 Betfair, Coral
1pt each-way 40-1 Betfair, Coral
0.5pt each-way 150-1 Hills
Course Silverado Resort and Spa (North Course), Napa, California.
Prize money $6m ($1.08m to the winner).
Length 7,166 yards Par 72 Field 144
Course records – 72 holes 269 Billy Casper (1971) 18 holes 62 Scott Piercy (2016).
Course winners taking part Sang-moon Bae, Emiliano Grillo, Brendan Steele.
When to bet By 4pm Thursday.
Where to watch Live on Sky Sports from 10pm Thursday.
Time difference California is eight hours behind the UK and Ireland.
Course overview The Silverado Resort returned to the US Tour schedule in 2014 for the first time since 1980. The Kaiser International was staged there from 1968 to 1976, before the Anheuser-Busch Classic from 1977 to 1980.
Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller, Tom Watson and Ben Crenshaw were among the champions. The property was converted into a resort in the 1960s when Robert Trent Jones Junior was tasked with building two 18-hole courses.
Miller and two partners bought Silverado in 2010, with Miller, who once lived beside the 11th hole, overhauling both tracks, the North being deemed good enough to host the Frys.com Open, which becomes the Safeway Open for the first time last year.
Silverado took over from CordeValle Golf Club, San Martin, another Trent Jones Junior layout which was the Frys venue from 2010 to 2013. This is a resort course and most of the fairways are generous, but the rough is thick at Silverado and tall trees line the cut and prepared, while the greens are fast and undulating.
All the dancefloors are guarded by heavy bunkering or water.
The first two par-fives (the fifth and ninth) are tricky – the fifth is a double-dogleg, while the ninth is a dogleg which demands a drawn drive and has a huge bunker right in front of the green – but the final two fives (the 16th and 18th) are more straightforward.
The uphill 240-yard par-three second is a brute.
Story of last year Brendan Steele closed with three consecutive birdies to edge Patton Kizzire for the title by a shot.
Weather forecast Sweltering hot, with baking sunshine throughout, and only light breezes.
Type of player suited to challenge US Tour newcomers, many of whom have just graduated from the Web.com Tour, face a course of contrasts in the season opener.
There is room off the tee on most holes, but some are tight, while undulating fairways and intense heat provide extra problems. Back competent all-rounders who are fit enough to handle the baking conditions.
Key attribute Accuracy
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