This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
CHARLES SCHWAB CHALLENGE
Winner's Share: $1.35M
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the Winner
Location: Fort Worth, Texas
Course: Colonial Country Club
2019 champion: Kevin Na
One day shy of three months since shutting down, PGA play will resume. Professional golf will be one of the first major sports to return in the United States since the world was halted by the COVID-19 pandemic in March. PGA Tour officials have painstakingly laid out plans for golfers to resume play during this extraordinary time – and to start, players will take the course without fans in attendance. Golf is perhaps the best suited of any of the big sports to return under the current climate, seeing as it is played outdoors in wide-open spaces. But being among the first to come back puts incredible pressure on the Tour to get it right. We will see if the efforts to keep all personnel in a "bubble" from week to week will be successful. Not only are the Tour and its golfers entering uncharted waters, so are caddies, broadcast partners, the host courses and, yes, even DFS players.
To assume that the best golfers, the ones who had been playing well, and those who have had success at Colonial will be the ones to target would be ill-advised. On the other hand, what else do we have to go by? This is unprecedented. We have no idea how often players have been practicing and who has been affected adversely by the coronavirus, not necessarily by getting ill, but maybe in just the sheer upheaval of their lives. Those with kids may have been impacted more, though we should not assume more than others. Everyone is affected in their own way. We will do out best to navigate all these incredible factors that fall outside of actual golf.
Just about every top golfer not named Tiger Woods is on hand, champing at the bit to resume playing competitive rounds. This will be a field that Colonial has never seen the likes of, with a SOF rating usually reserved for a playoff or WGC event. In fact, the current estimate is that this field is stronger than the one that played the WGC-Mexico in Februrary. World No. 1 Rory McIlroy leads more than 70 of the top 100 players in the OWGR, but No. 2-ranked Jon Rahm will also be on hand and looking to steal McIlroy's spot. No. 3 Brooks Koepka may have benefited as much as anyone from the long layoff, as he was afforded extra time to get back to 100 percent after offseason knee surgery. Only three of the top 10 golfers are not entered – No. 6 Adam Scott, No. 7 Patrick Cantlay and No. 10 Tommy Fleetwood. This tournament normally consists of a field of 120 because of its invitational status, but 148 golfers will tee it up this week, as the Tour upped the field to 144 and four pre-2000 Colonial champions will be, um, grandfathered in.
A little refresher on this event: It began in 1946 and, while it had undergone a sponsor merry-go-round until Charles Schwab came on board, one thing has remained constant for all 75 tournaments: venerable Colonial. Only the Masters has seen a longer lifespan without a course change. The list of champions could fill multiple wings in the Hall of Fame: Hogan, Snead, Middlecoff, Boros, Palmer, Casper, Trevino, Crenshaw, Nicklaus, Price, Tom Watson, Mickelson, Spieth and Rose.
Colonial tries to choke off the long hitters with narrow fairways, trees and dog legs, which is a big reason why Annika Sorenstam famously chose this track for her one and only venture onto the PGA Tour 17 years ago. It's also why experience at Colonial matters more than at most tracks. In the past, we were able to examine the recent results at Harbour Town – another short, tactical course – for a little guidance. This time around, though, the RBC Heritage will be played afterward, so we will still have some information to compare to, just in reverse. Colonial features the Horrible Horseshoe, a cutesy little nickname that sounds more like a character in children's book than one of the most treacherous stretches on Tour. It's a bit of a letdown that it comes so early in the round. Still, Nos. 3-5 are in fact brutal, with two par-4s that exceed 480 yards sandwiching a nearly 250-yard par-3. Last year, No. 5 tied for the hardest hole on the track with only a minuscule 34 birdies all week, and No. 3 was the third-most difficult. Interestingly, the short 407-yard ninth was co-hardest, illustrating that bombers can and have been neutralized at this track. We'll take a closer look at how to navigate Colonial in the Key Stats and Champion's Profile sections below.
While accuracy with the driver and irons is paramount this week, a quality short game can be the difference in winning and just missing. That brings up an interesting question: This week, would you be more inclined to go with a golfer who normally has a strong short game, or might finesse be harder to rediscover after such a long layoff?
Weather-wise, Colonial is being played only about two weeks later than its usual late-May slot. But it will be super hot, with high temperatures expected to be in the mid- to upper-90s all week, and even over 100 during practice Tuesday. There will be virtually no chance of rain to cool things down, but winds will be blowing moderately in the teens. That's certainly enough to disrupt golf shots.
Key Stats to winning at Colonial
The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key stats" follow in importance.
• Driving accuracy/Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee
• Greens in regulation/SG: Approach
• Scrambling/SG: Around-the-Green
• Putting average/SG: Putting
• Par 4 Birdie or Better
The winning scores the past few years have been all over the map. Na won at 13-under, but before that Rose claimed victory at a whopping 20-under, Kisner at a mere 10-under. Spieth and Kirk, respectively, won at the upper and lower levels of that range. Normally, there's a little more consistency in winning scores from year to year. When Rose won, the wind was especially calm, certainly an anomaly for Texas, so let's minimize 2018. Rose is also a long hitter, but we see that every other winner in the past decade was not. Scott is a long hitter, of course, but he was outside the top 50 in driving distance the week he won. So it appears that being a bomber is a detriment. And Spieth aside, more experienced golfers normally come out on top. One thing the past two champions had in common, at least? They were both first in greens in regulation. Na was also first in proximity, second in SG: Putting, 15th in scrambling and 17th in driving accuracy. Colonial is really a second-shot golf course. With greens averaging only about 5,000 square feet, it will be a challenge to find the putting surface. When that happens, scrambling takes on added importance. Historically, good putters have won here, though Rose and Scott were both outside the top 20 in SG: Putting. With only two par-5s, one of which is 635 yards and among the harder par-5s on Tour, par-4 scoring is accentuated.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS
Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap
Tier 1 Values
Rory McIlroy - $11,800 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 8-1)
There are a number of reasons to bypass McIlroy this week. He's really pricey – $800 more than anyone else on the board – he's never played Colonial, where course knowledge counts more than at most places, and he wouldn't be here except for the unusual circumstances we're all in. He usually does his best work at longer tracks. But there's one very good reason to take McIlroy: He's the best player in the world, and when play was halted there wasn't a close second.
Jon Rahm - $11,000 (12-1)
Because of the nuances of the Official World Golf Rankings, Rahm can overtake McIlroy this week as the top player in the world. The Spaniard was co-runner-up to Kevin Kisner here in 2017 and was on the cusp of challenging Justin Rose in 2018 before finding the water on No. 9. Rahm missed the cut last year, an incredible aberration as he missed only two cuts all of last season. He has historically played the course differently than most, bombing it off the tee in an attempt to overpower Colonial's checkpoints. He has come close to making it work. Statistically, there is no weakness to Rahm's game, and he was even an elite fourth in SG: Putting before the break.
Webb Simpson - $9,800 (25-1)
Yes, Simpson will be a popular pick this week, perhaps the most owned among the top-tier golfers. After all, he's a whopping $2,000 cheaper than McIlroy and has a game perfectly suited to Colonial's nuances. Like Rahm, Simpson missed the cut in his most recent visit in 2018, but he finished top-5 in his previous two appearances. He does everything very well except hit the ball far, which just happens to be the one tool not needed this week. Simpson is first on Tour in Par-4 Birdie or Better percentage. And while it seems long ago, Simpson did win in Phoenix back in February.
Dustin Johnson - $9,500 (30-1)
We talked at the top about how golfers will have to adjust to these unprecedented conditions. Some will not be able to do it. But as we've seen many times through the years, nothing seems to bother Johnson, nothing ever seems to faze him. So that's why we are taking a flyer on DJ. Yes, he looked awful at his charity match and wasn't great before the break. But he was sneaky good at Riviera, his T10 not really indicative of how close he was to contending. Johnson played Colonial only once in the past decade, tying for 14th in 2014. He shot a 65 and a 66 but was done in by a third-round 74 in a week he finished four strokes back of winner Adam Scott.
Tier 2 Values
Sungjae Im - $9,300 (30-1)
Im was the hottest player going when play was halted, having won the Honda Classic and finishing third at Bay Hill. Of course, that means little now. But what it showed was that Im is becoming one of the best players on Tour, and that almost always counts for something. Im's all-around game really has no super strength, but also no weakness, a great characteristic to take to Colonial. He missed the cut in his debut here a year ago.
Patrick Reed - $9,200 (30-1)
Like DJ, nothing seems to bother Reed, so he could adapt to this new regimen better than most. Reed is not accurate with his driver or his irons, which would seemingly be a red flag this week, but he won at another tricky track among an elite field earlier this season at Chapultepec. That's because Reed's wedge-putter game can overcome almost any problem. He is third on Tour in SG: Putting and second in Par-4 BOB. Reed finished 15th in his previous visit to Colonial in 2016.
Tony Finau - $8,700 (40-1)
Finau tied for 19th in his Colonial debut in 2015 and was runner-up last year. Why? Putting, that's why. The man who simply cannot get the ball in the hole somehow does it with regularity here. Three of the four years he ha played the event he has finished in the positive in strokes gained with the flat stick. We don't know why, but does it matter? When you factor in the rest of Finau's game, he could win here, and of course he almost did last year. Finau is ranked sixth on Tour in SG: ATG and seventh in SG: T2G.
Matt Kuchar - $8,500 (50-1)
This is the kind of track Kuchar loves to play – more of a chess match, to use his words. As such, he's had success here through the years. He was runner-up in 2013 and has also notched two other other top-10s and two more top-16s. We often joke about Kuchar's propensity for backdoor top-10s, but that would be very welcome this week, especially at this price. We'll also note that Kuchar rarely misses a cut anywhere, and that includes Colonial, where he played the weekend in nine of his last 10 appearances.
Tier 3 Values
Daniel Berger - $7,700 (80-1)
Berger's career arc was pointing nearly straight up until he suffered a debilitating wrist injury, but he was finally was showing signs of cobbling his game back together when play was halted. He recorded top-10s in Phoenix, at Pebble Beach and in the Arnold Palmer Invitational – different kinds of tracks for sure, but that didn't make a difference to Berger. Across the SG: categories there is not a weakness to his game, as he was ranked 29th in T2G and 26th in Putting. Berger tied for 53rd last year at Colonial, but he was a different golfer then.
Kevin Na - $7,600 (60-1)
Na is the defending champion and, yes, the field is far tougher this year, but he has a terrific track record at Colonial. He was fourth the year before and has a couple other top-10s through the years. So far this season, Na has had GIR issues, but at least some of that can be attributed to being such a short driver. That won't be an issue this week. Last year, he led the Colonial field in GIR. Na has one of the best short games on Tour – he's ranked sixth in scrambling and seventh in SG: Putting.
Maverick McNealy - $7,300 (125-1)
The 24-year-old was really playing well in his first full season on Tour. He made 11 straight cuts before that streak ended at Bay Hill in the final full event before the stoppage. Three of his previous four events he finished among he top 15. McNealy was better than average with his longer clubs, but he really was excelling on and around the green, ranking 11th in scrambling and 24th in SG: Putting. He was even 44th in Par-4 BOB. McNealy is not completely unfamiliar with Colonial, having played here in 2018 and finishing T42.
Danny Lee - $7,200 (125-1)
For whatever reason, the native New Zealander loves himself some Colonial. Before a tie for 48th last year, Lee finished in the top 25 four years running, including a T14 and a T6. He's 7-for-7 in cuts. Lee was also playing well before the break with three top-10s, one of which was a tie for fifth at Bay Hill. Lee has some awful short-game stats, but this is an instance of not trying to overthink a "horse for the course."
Talor Gooch - $7,000 (200-1)
We'll forgive if you don't remember that Gooch owns the longest streak of made cuts on Tour with 12. He finished top-25 in five of those, including among the loaded fields at Riviera and Bay Hill. Accuracy with longer clubs has not been his forte, but Gooch still managed to tie for 29th last year in his second go-round at Colonial.
Charles Howell III - $6,900 (150-1)
No one really wanted play to be halted back in March, but that may have been a blessing in disguise for Howell, who was stuck in a tough stretch. In his last four events, he missed two cuts and did not finish inside the top 50 in the others. That followed a very good fall season. Through it all, Howell was a GIR stalwart, ranking 24th on Tour. He's also 30th in Par-4 BOB. Howell has played Colonial just once during his two-decade-long career, and that came way back in 2002. While Howell can't be very familiar with the course, he's savvy enough to pick it up quickly, and we're willing to gamble on unfamiliarity more in this price range than higher up.
Adam Long - $6,800 (200-1)
Long came out of nowhere to win the 2019 Hope-Amex-La Quinta, but that was the only cut he made in a nine-event span, and he recorded just four other top-25s throughout the season. This season he has been far more consistent, tallying seven top-25s, including a runner-up at short-course Mayakoba. He finished a solid T19 in his Colonial debut a year ago. Long is ranked 42nd in Par-4 BOB. He's another guy whose shortcomings off the tee should be negated this week.
Nate Lashley - $6,500 (250-1)
We've seen Lashley in action more recently than most players – he took part in the Scottsdale Open about a month ago. He opened with a scintillating 62 before ending up T16. Lashley's most recent PGA Tour round was a 68 at THE PLAYERS, indicating the injury issues that plagued him shortly before were in the past. Until then, he had had a great season going, with a pair of third-place finishes. Lashley is another one of those players often hurt by short drives, but by now you should know that's not such a big deal this week.