The Safeway Open was established in 2007 but took a little bit of time to really find its feet as a PGA Tour event. After initially being held as the Fry’s Electronics Open in Scottsdale, Arizona it was moved to San Jose, California. A further move to Silverado Country Club came in 2014 and a few years later it was renamed the Safeway Open in a long term deal with the sponsors and the PGA Tour.
Most golf fans know the Safeway Open for being the first event of the PGA Tour season. While it suffers a little from a lack of star names as those involved in the recent FedEx Cup playoffs tend to take a well-deserved break, that does open the Safeway Open up a bit to hungry players desperate for a good season and it is little surprise that so many renewals feature tight finishes and plenty of drama.
|2020||Silverado Country Club||Stewart Cink|
|2019||Silverado Country Club||Cameron Champ|
|2018||Silverado Country Club||Kevin Tway|
|2017||Silverado Country Club||Brendan Steele|
2020: Stewart Cink
Cameron Champ showed in 2019 that the key to unlocking a winning score at Silverado is relentless excellence from tee to green. Stewart Cink doesn’t need any lessons from up and coming starlets about how to win tournaments but he did need to put a whole lot of work into the physical side of his game in order to play well enough from tee to green to lay down a serious challenge at the Safeway Open at the age of 47. He did exactly that though, taking advantage of his added length off the tee, his typically high-class ball striking and his dependable short game thanks to a very good week on the greens which all added up to his first win since the 2009 Open Championship.
Cink’s week started well enough but he really came alive at the weekend. After making the cut on a score of -7, Cink went round in that many shots under par on both Saturday and Sunday to finish on a fantastic score of -21. Harry Higgs was the nearest challenger on -19 with Chez Reavie, Doc Redman, Kevin Streelman and Brian Stuard all joint on -18 in a tie for third place.
As delighted as Cink understandably was to see his hard work of the past few years bear fruit, the win was all the more special as he could share with his son, Reagan, who caddied for him. Indeed, Cink Senior was at pains to point out that Reagan is a quality caddie and a very important piece of the puzzle.
2019: Cameron Champ
Sports fans usually only know a fraction of the context in which the great feats we enjoy in the various arenas exist. It was different during Cameron Champ’s win at the 2019 Safeway Open. He spoke candidly about the mixed emotions he was feeling after earning his second PGA Tour win. His grandfather, who had taught Champ the game as a child, was seriously ill and could only watch on from home. Still, it felt very much as though Champ was sharing this victory with the man who started his golfing journey.
That journey has a long way still to go judging by the quality of Champ’s golf in Napa and the fact that he is a multiple PGA Tour winner at the age of just 24. His play from tee to green was astonishingly good and much better than anybody else in the field. He has sometimes been pigeonholed as simply a big hitter but all aspects of his game had to be in good working order to see off the challenge of Adam Hadwin and Marc Leishman who were second and third respectively.
The future remains very bright for Champ but he obviously had more than just golf on his mind after his win. “No matter what,” he said in his post-tournament media duties, “even if I never win another tournament again or I win however many, this will definitely be the greatest moment of my golfing career.”
2018: Kevin Tway
The first goal for any player on the PGA Tour is to claim their first win of the season. For some, that comes sooner, for others later. For Kevin Tway, it was both. His win at the 2018 Safeway Open came in the very first event of the new season, however, it was the first PGA Tour title after years of trying to do what his father, Bob, did eight times.
Hard work is the backbone of the success of any professional golfer and that was certainly the case for Tway’s breakthrough win. He coped as well as anybody else in the field with the incredibly windy conditions in Napa but still had to rely on extra holes before he could secure the win. Birdies on his last two holes got Tway into a playoff with Brandt Snedeker and Ryan Moore and it took three further trips down the 18th before he could finally shake off the challenge of the latter.
Such is the nature of professional golf that for every winner there are a large number of losers (155 in the case of the 2018 Safeway Open), but it was Snedeker who left Silverado feeling the most dejected. He usually comes alive in windy conditions but saw a four-shot lead making the turn blown away and admitted afterwards, “I’m going to look at that one in a few years and know I gave that one away.”
2017: Brendan Steele
Defending a title on the PGA Tour is tricky business. Not only is there an incredible depth of talent all giving their best to win but mounting a defence comes with an extra level of expectation on top of the attention and media duties. There are always exceptions though and Brendan Steele made light work of his title defence right from the start when he returned to Silverado Resort to defend the Safeway Open. Nobody went lower than Steele in the first round of the 2017 edition and he was never out of the top three en route to a successful defence.
Just like last year, this was the perfect way for Steele to kick off the PGA Tour season. After making such a strong start to the event, Steele finished equally strongly with birdies on the 70th and 72nd holes of his tournament for the second-lowest round of the final day. That strong finish was enough to see off the challenge of Tony Finau who ended up two shots behind Steele on -13. Phil Mickelson and Chesson Hadley were a further shot behind in the first PGA Tour event of the new season.