NEWS Open: No Tiger? No problem

By Carl Steward
Published on

NAPA, Calif. -- The Presidents Cup may have taken a bite out of the field at this week's Open at the Silverado Resort, but all things considered, the end result could have been a lot worse.

The past two winners, Jimmy Walker and defending champ Sang-Moon Bae, are skipping the official 2015-16 PGA Tour season opener in Napa for different reasons. Bae is beginning a mandatory two-year military stint in his native South Korea this week, while Walker elected to not make the tough logistical turnaround to Northern California.

Surely a few others among the 24 Presidents Cup participants who might have played in the event chose to avoid a heavy case of jet lag. That said, the tournament did land four hardy souls who elected to make the approximate 6,000-mile trip -- Japan's Hideki Maruyama, Australia's Steven Bowditch, South Africa's Charl Schwartzel and American Chris Kirk.

Bowditch may have had some special incentive to make the long trek. He finished second in last year's event behind Bae, two strokes behind, after matching the best final- round score in the event, a 5-under par 67. Bae had a six-stroke lead at one point in the final round and nearly unraveled on the back nine before making a par save at the 16th hole that steadied him to the finish.

Bowditch will have plenty of fresh competition, however, including four of the world's top 15 players. No. 3 Rory McIlroy heads the field. Considering the toll the Presidents Cup took on the field, it may have been a blessing in disguise that McIlroy pulled out of last year's event but promised to recommit to this year's event.

Even though he lost his No. 1 ranking over the course of the year, with American Jordan Spieth and Australian Jason Day moving past him, McIlroy's Northern California star certainly has added luster after the 26-year-old from Northern Ireland won the WGC World Match Play event at San Francisco's TPC Harding Park in early May.

Also competing in his first event is England's Justin Rose, ranked seventh in the world, a nice coup for the tournament. Other top 15 players include American Brooks Koepka, currently ranked 12th, and Matsuyama, who is 15th-ranked. Others in the field include Kirk (No. 28) and fellow American Brandt Snedeker (No. 30).

There's some local flavor as well, with former Cal standout James Hahn in the field, along with ex-Stanford star Patrick Rodgers. Rodgers played in last year's event on a sponsor's exemption but this year is entered as a full PGA Tour member.

As is the case every year at the, there will be a lot of new faces -- the 144-player field includes 34 graduates of the satellite tour, including leading money winner Chez Reavie and Tour Championship titlist Emiliano Grillo.

This year's event will be the second at Silverado as the tournament continues to await a return to the South Bay, with The Institute in Morgan Hill as the projected permanent home. This will be the third year the serves as the leadoff event in the PGA Tour's wraparound season that now begins in the fall.

--There is much anticipation for Wednesday morning's Johnny Miller Pro-Am event, which will feature two members of the NBA champion Warriors, Stephen Curry and Andre Iguodala.

Curry didn't play a whole lot of golf in the short offseason, although he did play a much-publicized round with President Barack Obama at Martha's Vineyard and shot 76. Curry has game -- he led the American Century Celebrity event in South Lake Tahoe after one round in 2013 -- but admitted after a Warriors practice last week that he isn't sure how he'll fare in Napa.

"I'll show up and play my best," Curry said. "I might spray a few, but I'll hit a couple good shots, that's guaranteed. It's just a matter of how many of them."

This article was written by Carl Steward from The Oakland Tribune and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.