Photo courtesy of Rick Manahan Photography
Courtesy of Marty James, Napa Valley Register
Steph Curry hit three of the best shots, all in a row, during the Safeway Open pro-am on Wednesday.
The two-time NBA MVP for the Golden State Warriors had it going in a big-time way on the par-5 ninth hole on the North Course at Silverado Resort and Spa.
Playing in very hot 101-degree weather, Curry launched a mammoth drive – 370 yards, the ball landing on the fairway. From there, he hit the green on his second shot with a sand wedge from 105 yards and made the putt from 8 feet for eagle – a dramatic way to complete his front nine, with a large gallery looking on.
“That was awesome to watch,” said Kyle Wall, Curry’s caddie, a Justin-Siena High School junior who plays football, basketball and golf.
“I said I was going to hit bombs and then I swung it square on the face. Before I even finished the follow-through, I was yelling out, ‘Bombs,’ ” Curry said after his round, where he was joined in the group by Phil Mickelson, the 44-time PGA Tour winner and World Golf Hall of Fame member.
Before they reached the final hole in a round that took 4½ hours, Curry and Mickelson played a little basketball near the 17th green, shooting hoops at a basket hanging from a grandstand with fans cheering them on.
It was a day for Curry to take in Mickelson’s game, a day for Mickelson to take in Curry’s game.
Each was impressed with the other’s game.
“I think the thing about Steph Curry’s golf game is his touch, his hands, his chipping, putting. He’s got an incredible touch, but he also has a ton of speed,” Mickelson said. “You saw him dropping all kinds of bombs off the tee, just hellacious bombs, deep and very accurate, certainly straighter than what I have. So he was in the fairway most of the day and played exceptional. That’s why he’s such a good golfer and can compete at a very high level.”
Said Curry of Mickelson, “He’s going to turn heads every time he steps foot on the course now. But in terms of his game, that speaks for itself. He’s a multi-major champion. Nothing I could say could do his game justice. He’s amazing. What he’s done for the game of golf, me being a big fan, watching and finally now meeting him, playing in person means a lot, so a pretty special day all around.”
Curry is a three-time All-NBA First Team player, one of the greatest in the history of basketball, a high-scoring guard who has won three titles with the Warriors. Mickelson is a five-time major champion, one of the all-time greats in golf, and one of the headliners in the Safeway Open.
The $6.6 million PGA Tour event, which has a 144-player field, begins with the first round on Thursday. Justin Thomas, Francesco Molinari, Patrick Cantlay, Bryson DeChambeau and Adam Scott also lead the best field in Safeway Open history.
The tournament has 15 of the top 50 players in the Official World Golf Ranking and 21 of the top 30 in the current FedExCup standings.
“Golf has introduced me to so many great people, great talents, and the conversation you have on the course, to spend 4½ hours out here was awesome. I learned a lot about how to read greens, for sure,” said Curry. “That’s kind of key to your life. You know, you meet new people, you learn new things, you continue to evolve.
“Just (Mickelson’s) overall demeanor and personality, no matter what success he’s had on the course and in life, he’s really down to earth, really approachable, and that says a lot about who he is and about what’s important to him.”
Curry has played golf on a big stage before – he played in the Johnny Miller Pro-Am, part of the Frys.com Open, in 2015, and was also in the field for the Safeway Open Pro-Am in 2016. He has played in two events on the Web.com Tour. He has also made seven appearances at the American Century Championship, a celebrity event held at Edgewood at South Lake Tahoe.
“I just enjoy being around greatness, and his work ethic and what he puts in to be the best in his field is inspiring to me,” said Mickelson. “I think this event is really special, and to have the presence of a Steph Curry to be here, it adds to the excitement.”
There was applause from the fans seated around the tee when Curry and Mickelson arrived at the first hole. The place was buzzing with excitement, with pro-am groups led by Justin Thomas, Fred Couples and John Daly also starting the day from the first tee.
Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who is playing on a sponsor invitation, was in the group with Thomas.
Chef Thomas Keller, who owns The French Laundry, Bouchon Bistro, Bouchon Bakery, Ad Hoc + Addendum and La Calenda, all in Yountville, was in the group with Couples.
“I get to play with Fred Couples today, so you know, I’m nervous as always, but I’m out here,” said Keller. “Just try to slow down and hit the ball and have a have a good day with everybody else. This is extraordinary, with the professionals coming out here as they do every week. This is about community, and we love community.”
Curry ended his day with a picture-perfect drive on the par-5 18th hole and he hit the green on his second shot from 190 yards with a seven-iron, one of the prettiest golf shots of the day. Curry pulled his eagle putt just left and past the hole. He didn’t need to putt out, as Mickelson made the birdie for the team.
“We’d be good alternate-shot partners,” said Mickelson. “We’d let him drive it off the tee, just hit those hellacious seeds, and I would end up hitting some iron shots close, and then his touch around the greens would be awesome.”
Said Curry, “His overall game, I was just in awe every shot, but tried to hold my own, too.”
It was the second time Wall, whose father Tim is one of Silverado’s owners, got to caddie for Curry. The first time was in 2016, when he was at St. John’s Catholic School in Napa, at age 14.
“He was amazing. Every shot that he was hitting was just a good shot,” said Kyle Wall. “He hits the ball super far and that’s a huge advantage on this course.”
Mickelson is making his fifth start at the Safeway Open. He tied for eighth in 2016, tied for third in 2017 and tied for 17th last year. His most recent win was the 2019 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Romo will tee it up in the tournament on Thursday.
“I hit the ball well today, so I feel ready. Just a matter of scoring when it counts,” said Romo. “The greens are firm. I think the course is playing firm and fast. It’s got some good rough, so it will be a good test of golf. If it gets windy and you shoot even par, you’re playing good.”