Following another exciting Major Championship, the PGA Tour will begin a stretch of golf that will feature classical courses, and good fields. This week the Tour will stop at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas. Immediately after Colonial, we get Muirfield Village, and then the U.S. Open. Golf is in a great place right now and this upcoming stretch should add to the buzz.
Colonial Country Club is a Par 70 and measures close to 7,200 yards. As a Par 70, there will only be two Par 5s this week. This means there should be an added emphasis on Par 4 scoring. Dominating the twelve Par 4s will be the pathway to success. Recent winners of this event have been elite scorers and proven winners. Colonial is a classical course which tends to favor players who have experience on the course. Classical courses have certain intricacies to them, and players who know their way around the course will be best suited for the challenge. The bentgrass green complexes are small, measuring only 4,500 square feet. This requires players to be very precise. This is not a course that can be overpowered. Finesse and execution are imperative and being able to create the right shot are traits to look for this week. The fairways are tough to hit, but many players in recent years have emphasized the importance of landing in the fairway. As with most Texas courses, the overall scoring conditions are dependent on the wind. The course is relatively exposed to the elements and strong winds can dry out the greens and cause the course to play firmer, and faster.
Former winners of this event are Daniel Berger, Kevin Na, Justin Rose, Kevin Kisner, and Jordan Spieth. Just by looking at these names, it is apparent that driving distance is not a key indicator of success at this course. These five former champions played the Par 4s to an average of -9.2 in the year that they won. The overall winning score has been an average 0f -15 over the past five years. This means that more than half of the total scoring for the winners came on the Par 4s. This is not an event where Par 5 scoring will catapult someone into contention. With that being said, scoring on the limited number of Par 5s will bolster someone’s chances greatly at winning. Over the last five years, the five winners have faced a total of 40 Par 5s, and have scored a birdie-or-better on 21 of them. The Par 3s are certainly scorable with the last five winners playing the Par 3s -1.8 strokes to par.
The strokes gained data from the former champions have indicated that Approach will be as important as always. The last five winners have gained on average over 6.5 strokes on Approach while also landing on the green-in-regulation just north of 75% of the time. The type of golfer I will be targeting this week is someone who is an accurate driver of the golf ball, an elite approach player, and someone who has scoring upside. Being able to make birdies will be crucial this week. I will also target golfers who have shown good form recently and also consider players who have shown the ability to win. The list of former winners at Colonial shows that players who are highly ranked in the Official World Golf Rankings have been successful.
The spreadsheet I use to track all of the former champion data can be found here.
Key Stats: Approach, Good Drives, GIR Gained, Approach 150-175, Tee-to-Green
Scoring Upside: Birdies-or-Better Percentage, Par 4 Birdies-or-Better Percentage, Scoring Average, Par 4 Efficiency 400-450 yards, Par 3 Efficiency 150-175 yards
Charles Schwab Challenge Tips
Corey Conners 25-1
Corey Conners has been one of the best players this season, and is one of the best ball-strikers on Tour. Conners has been riding tremendous form, dating back to last September. Over his last twenty events, Conners has recorded fourteen Top 25 Finishes, and seven Top 10 Finishes. The high finishes are a result of having a very high floor. The 29-year-old Canadian lives on the fairways, and his excellent iron-play allows him to avoid major mistakes. He has played at Colonial three times where he has made the cut each time, and has one Top 10 Finish.
Among all PGA Tour players, Conners is ranked tenth in Scoring Average, and 19th in Par 4 Scoring Average. Conners ability to avoid bogeys is a great trait for this course and he should find plenty of birdie opportunities. Over his last 50 rounds, in this field Conners ranks: first in GIRs Gained, second in Opportunities Gained, third in Approach, fifth in Fairways Gained, and fifth in Strokes Gained on Par 4s. Conners is an elite ball-striker and his lone PGA Tour win came in the state of Texas. Conners has been living at the top of leaderboards all season, and this is the type of event that Conners is live to win.
Charley Hoffman 45-1
Charley Hoffman has seen a resurgence in his game this year. Since February, Hoffman has played in ten events and has recorded eight Top 20 Finishes, including a Top 20 Finish last week at the PGA Championship. Hoffman has played this event twelve times in his career, where has recorded five Top 25 Finishes. Hoffman plays great in the state of Texas, and has the scoring upside to make him an attractive bet this week. Hoffman excels on Par 70/71 courses where the greens are small. On courses that fit these criteria, dating back to 2015, Hoffman has gained 1.11 Total Strokes per round, which is ninth best in this field.
Over his last 36 rounds, Hoffman is gaining 1.49 strokes per round with his Ball-Striking, and gaining 1.79 Total Strokes per Round. During this span, Hoffman is positive in every major category. He has the overall completeness to his game to make him a contender this week. If you look further back, over his last 50 rounds in this field, Hoffman ranks: third in Birdies-or-Better Gained, fourth in Opportunities Gained, sixth in Approach, seventh in GIRs Gained, and 16th in Strokes Gained on Par 4s. Hoffman profiles perfectly for this course and is in great form.
Brian Harman 50-1
Brian Harman is a short-game specialist, and we’ve seen shorter hitters win at this event on the back of a ceiling putting week. Harman is the 15th best Putter on the PGA Tour season. Harman has the upside to start draining long putts and going on birdie-streaks. Harman has missed two straight cuts, however he missed cuts at courses that don’t really fit his game well. Having the weekend off, might be a benefit considering how mentally, and physically exhausting the Ocean Course was last week. Prior to his two recent missed cuts, Harman had recorded five consecutive Top 20 Finishes, so he is in good form despite his most recent results. Harman has played at Colonial eight times in his career, finishing T31 or better seven times.
Harman is another player who excels on Par 70/71s with small greens. On courses that fit these criteria, dating back to 2015, Harman has gained 1.32 Total Strokes per round, which is fourth best in this field. Harman performs well on these types of courses because it allows him to really emphasize the strongest aspect of his game. Harman is a fairway-finder who will be able to contend this week on a course he has always played well.
Emiliano Grillo 75-1
Emiliano Grillo is a great ball-striker, who has done his best work on shorter courses. One of the most frequent comparisons to Colonial is Harbour Town, where Grillo just finished runner-up. The similarities among these two courses include: small greens, shot-making ability, greens-in-regulation, and exposure to wind. Grillo plays great on these types of tracks. Over his last eight events, Grillo has recorded five Top 25 Finishes. The 28-year-old Argentine has played this event five times, and has recorded three Top 25 Finishes.
Grillo is coming into this event with great form, especially with his ball-striking. Over his last 30 rounds, Grillo is gaining 1.45 strokes per round with his ball-striking, while also gaining 1.54 Total Strokes per round. Grillo is a great Par 4 player. Among all PGA Tour players, Grillo is the best player in terms of Par 4 Scoring Average. With twelve Par 4s on the course this week, I expect Grillo to be efficient. Over his last 50 rounds, among players in this field, Grillo ranks: second in Strokes Gained on Par 4s, fifth in Opportunities Gained, sixth in GIRs Gained, seventh in Approach, and 13 in Birdies-or-Better Gained. Grillo fits the profile of the type of golfer who has won at this course, and I expect a big week from him.
Chris Kirk 80-1
Chris Kirk is a former winner of this event, and has been in good form so this number was pretty surprising. Kirk has stated that he prefers golf courses where golfers need to be creative with their shot-making, and need to have a good feel for the course. Kirk’s best events this season have been at the Sony Open and the RBC Heritage. Both of those courses are not Par 72s, and their shorter courses. His other best event was at the Valero Texas Open Kirk has played at Colonial ten times in his career and has never missed the cut. In his ten appearances, Kirk has recorded six Top 20 finishes including his 2015 victory.
Over his last 28 rounds, despite two missed cuts, Kirk is positive in every major category, and has gained 1.32 Total Strokes per round. Over his last 50 rounds, among golfers in this field Kirk ranks: tenth in Strokes Gained on Par 4s, 16th in Birdies-or-Better Gained, 19th in GIRs Gained, 23rd in Opportunities Gained, 24th in Approach, 28th in Short-Game, and 31st in Fairways Gained. Kirk is extremely balanced, and he loves this course so I could not let this number pass me by.