On the heels of a thrilling PGA Championship in Oklahoma—tip of the hat to Justin Thomas and Jim McKay—the Tour heads south to Fort Worth, Texas, this week for the Charles Schwab Challenge.
Colonial Country Club, yet another Perry Maxwell design, is the host of the festivities. The par-70 measures 7,240 yards or so if it’s stretched out, but position rather than power is the storyline for the 120-man invitational field.
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After a cool, possibly wet start, the weather should be hot and steamy by Thursday with afternoon winds. Playable tee shots and precise iron shots are required to solve one of my favorite courses on the circuit. Before we get to the fantasy golf picks, here are a few keys to success and course notes:
- Colonial features seven par-4s measuring between 400 and 450 yards. Pros manage some of these holes with less than driver off the tee but must set up the correct angle to attack the hole locations.
- With so many holes in this range, proximity from 125-175 yards is vitally important this week. We looked for golfers who have been hot on approach and finding greens in regulation in recent weeks.
- Golfers who have thrived at other positional courses like Sedgefield, Waialae, Harbour Town and TPC Sawgrass figured high in the model this week. These pros know they must earn FedEx Cup points on the layouts where bombers don’t have a significant advantage.
- The cut here has ranged from 5-over to 1-under in recent years with a winning score around the low-to-mid teens. While golfers feel like they can shoot 29 on any given nine holes, Colonial has just enough quirks, wind and nuance to keep scores from plunging too deep.
It’s always difficult to know how to handle the week after a major championship but this feels somewhat like the annual Augusta-Hilton Head pilgrimage: smaller, tighter course in a more relaxed setting. Don’t be surprised to see some who were on the fringe of contention last week rise to the top of this leaderboard.
Fantasy Golf Picks: Longer Shots
25. J.J. Spaun. Over the last 36 rounds, ranks second in the field in Good Drives Gained and sixth in Greens in Regulation. First time back at Colonial since a missed cut in 2018.
24. Patrick Reed. Gained 5.1 shots on approach at Southern Hills. Excellent escape artist and a terrific mid-range putter on bentgrass. Finished seventh at Colonial in 2020.
23. Harold Varner III. Top 5 in the field in SG: Tee-to-Green on shorter courses. Finished T-19 in the 2020 Colonial. Hit the ball great in Tulsa, just lost 5.1 shots on the greens.
22. Gary Woodland. A fade can work quite nicely around Colonial (see Hogan, Ben) and Woodland has flashed brilliance in each part of his game in 2022, posting five top-25s in the last nine outings. Finished 14th and ninth in Fort Worth the last two years.
21. C.T. Pan. The former winner at Harbour Town should thrive on another course with narrow corridors. Has made the last five cuts and gained shots on approach in seven consecutive tournaments. Ranks 16th in proximity from 150-175 yards over the last 75 rounds.
20. Scottie Scheffler. The Dallas native would love to get in the mix close to home. Was bound to play poorly at some point and it just so happened to be in the year’s second major championship. Missed cut and T-55 in two Colonial starts.
19. Chris Kirk. A past champion at Colonial coming off his best finish in a major (fifth) is certain to be a popular play this week in fantasy and betting markets. Has gained shots on approach in nine consecutive tournaments and leads the pack in avoiding double bogeys.
18. Sungjae Im. Forced to skip last week’s PGA due to a positive COVID test and making his first U.S. individual start since the Masters. Teed for 10th at the 2020 Colonial. Top 20 in Good Drives Gained and Greens in Regulation.
17. Daniel Berger. His low fades didn’t fit Southern Hills but now the 2020 Charles Schwab champion returns to a more suitable layout. Leads the field in SG: Tee-to-Green on shorter courses because he flourishes on 400-450-yard par-4s. Also holes mid-range putts on bentgrass. Ranks fourth in SG: Approach over the last 36 rounds.
16. Tommy Fleetwood. Vaulted into the top 5 with a fantastic finishing stretch at Southern Hills, continuing a steady season (six top-25s in the last seven tournaments). Iron game has been excellent, gaining shots on approach in 24 of the last 36 rounds.
15. Joel Dahmen. Has a pair of top-20s in four Colonial starts and the right profile to perhaps finish even higher this week, ranking 16th in Good Drives Gained, 21st in proximity from 150-175 yards and 21st in scoring on 400-450 yard par-4s.
14. Justin Rose. Been an erratic couple of years for the 2019 Charles Schwab Challenge champion but we’re banking on him riding the momentum from a T-13 at the PGA, where he gained 5.2 shots on approach. Leads this field in scoring on 400-450 yard par-4s.
13. Tom Hoge. Gained 7.8 shots on approach to record his first top-10 in a major at Southern Hills and the TCU alum should receive ample encouragement from the local Horned Frog faithful. Won on another shorter course with small greens earlier this season at Pebble Beach.
12. Will Zalatoris. Another incredible performance in a major for the Dallas resident, who is first in Greens in Regulation and second in SG: Approach over the last 36 rounds. Finished 59th in his Charles Schwab debut last year, losing 5.5 shots on approach, which may never happen again.
11. Sam Burns. His best golf puts him among the game’s elite but he can run hot and cold, posting eight top-20s (including two victories) and five missed cuts in the 2021-22 season. Irons were sharp last week (4.1 shots gained on approach) and has a T-31 and MC in two previous starts here.
Fantasy Golf Picks: Best Bets
10. Webb Simpson. He’s won at Sedgefield and Harbour Town and routinely cashes large checks at Waialae. Record at Colonial is less consistent, with a T-5 and two MCs in his last three attempts. Gained at least 1.5 shots in every significant category in a T-20 last week at Southern Hills, buoyed by a brilliant third-round 65.
9. Kevin Na. Loves the sight of Colonial’s tight fairways, winning in 2019 and also landing in the top 10 on two other occasions since 2015. Gained at least 3.2 shots on approach in his last three events but has struggled off the tee. Top 5 in proximity from 125-150 yards and 150-175 yards.
8. Abraham Ancer. Put together his best ballstriking week since last June at Southern Hills, gaining 6.4 shots Tee-to-Green to crack the top 10.
7. Kevin Kisner. Presents tremendous value in the betting and fantasy markets. Struggled of late but tends to rise to the occasion on positional courses, posting strong finishes at TPC Sawgrass, Waialae, Austin CC to salvage his season. Won here in 2017. Ranks 15th in scoring on 400-450 yard par-4s.
6. Brian Harman. Fought to make the cut on the number at Southern Hills and battled to a T-34, gaining at least five shots on approach for the second tournament in a row. Finished 14-31-23-8 the last four years at Colonial, his lefty draw working just fine. Ranks fifth in Good Drives Gained and 15th in Greens in Regulation.
5. Justin Thomas. Is there gas in the tank? It’s always the question the week after a man wins a major. But don’t forget he was a top-10 machine overdue for a victory before he broke through at Southern Hills. Ranks second in proximity from 125-150 and 150-175.
4. Tony Finau. Sneaky good fit at Colonial, landing in the top 25 each of the last three years with a runner-up in 2019. Gained 2.2 shots on approach at Southern Hills, continuing an upward trend that began in Mexico. Top-10 in SG: Tee-to-Green on shorter courses and proximity from 125-150 and 150-175.
3. Jordan Spieth. Just never got on track with the putter last week, losing 3.2 shots but continued his impeccable ballstriking, gaining 4.7 shots on approach. Nobody in the field has played Colonial better than Spieth: a win, two-runner ups, five top-10s in last six starts.
2. Viktor Hovland. Welcome back, Norwegian Forest Cat. Finished T-23 in his only Colonial appearance in 2020, gaining 3.5 shots on approach. Leads the field in that metric over the last 36 rounds and is also top 10 in Good Drives Gained. Can flush it around this beauty.
1. Collin Morikawa. Possesses a ball flight built for Colonial. Leads the field in proximity from 125-150 and 150-175 yards. Top-10 in SG: Tee-to-Green on courses less than 7,200 yards. Hasn’t won since last summer’s Open Championship and a place where he’s finished second and 14th in two starts seems like an ideal venue to end such a drought.
Fantasy Golf Picks: Bargain Bin
Doug Ghim, Lucas Glover, Russell Knox
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Rory Sabbatini, Alex Smalley, Austin Smotherman, Adam Svensson