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
2020 champion: Daniel Berger
It was less than one year ago at Colonial that golf returned from a three-month hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Charles Schwab Challenge was one of the first major sporting events to be played in the United States after sports shut down. Of course, it did so in an eerie silence without fans. If we ever needed a reminder of how much of a difference a year makes, look back just to last week when throngs of fans all but enveloped Phil Mickelson as he made his historic walk up 18 at the Ocean Course. Remarkably, just four days after becoming the oldest major champion ever, the nearly 51-year-old Mickelson will honor his commitment and tee it up this week.
Now ranked No. 32 in the world after winning the PGA Championship, Mickelson heads a strong contingent in this invitational field of 121. Twenty-three of the top-50 in the world are on hand, which is a really good turnout the week after a major. Breaking it down further, three of the top-10 – Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa and Patrick Reed – are entered, as are 10 of the top-25. Jordan Spieth is the co-headliner with Mickelson, and Will Zalatoris is also here after yet another top-10 in a major. Daniel Berger is the defending champion, having beaten Morikawa in a playoff last year in a loaded field filled with star golfers just itching to return to competition. In an effort to get more players involved, the Tour upped the field to 148 last year but its back to its normal level this year. With 65 and ties, more than half the field will make the cut.
A little refresher on this event, one of the most storied on the PGA Tour: 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 76 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, dog legs and some seven dozen bunkers, which is a big reason why Annika Sorenstam famously chose this track for her one and only venture onto the PGA Tour 18 years ago (she missed the cut). It's also why Colonial experience matters more than at most tracks. The bentgrass greens are tiny, averaging a mere 5,000 square feet, and there is water on six holes. All of this adds up to accuracy counting more than in most weeks. While accuracy with the driver and irons is paramount this week, a quality short game can be the difference in winning and just missing.
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.
Weather-wise, the official golf course superintendents sheet noted that the "area has suffered through its worst winter in 50 years and a cold spring followed." You may recall the debilitating winter storm that paralyzed parts of Texas a few months back. This week, there was and will be rain leading up to Thursday, with more forecast on Friday and Saturday. Otherwise, temperatures will be around 80. As always in Texas, the wind can change everything, and it can whip up at any time.
Key Stats to Winning at Colonial
The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key Stats" follow in importance.
• Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee/Driving Accuracy
• Strokes Gained: Approach/Greens in Regulation
• Strokes Gained: Putting
• Par-4 Birdie-or-Better
The past few years have been all over the map. Berger won at 15-under and Na at 13-under, but before that Rose was at a whopping 20-under, Kisner at a mere 10-under, Spieth in between at 17-under and Kirk at 12-under. Normally, there's a little more consistency on PGA Tour tracks 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, but he was outside the top-50 in driving distance for the week when he won). So being a bomber is not as big of an advantage as in many weeks. Last year, both Berger and playoff loser Collin Morikawa ranked inside the top-5 in the field in both SG: Approach and Tee-to-Green. As that tells us, 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. Historically, good putters have won here – Berger ranked eighth – though Rose and Scott were both outside the top-20. With only two par-5s, one of which is 635 yards and among the harder par-5s on Tour, par-4 scoring is accentuated. Golfodds.com put the over/under on the winning score at 263.5, which would be 16.5 under par.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS
Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap
Tier 1 Values
Jordan Spieth - $11,200 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 10-1)
When Spieth was in his prime, he won here in 2016 and was runner-up a year later. Even when his game was way off, he still found a way here, with top-10s the past two years. And that's with all his accuracy issues off the tee.
Justin Thomas - $11,000 (12-1)
It's a bit bewildering that Thomas is not the top guy on the board, even considering Spieth's track record here. Thomas made his Colonial debut a year ago and tied for 10th. He's coming off a missed cut at the PGA, which should only add to his motivation this week.
Collin Morikawa - $10,500 (14-1)
Morikawa was runner-up last year here, rallied for a top-10 last week at the PGA and was top-10 in his previous start at the RBC Heritage. He is ranked sixth in driving accuracy and first in SG: Approach. Despite being ranked 187th in putting, he's 14th in Par-4 Birdie-or-Better.
Abraham Ancer - $9,700 (20-1)
Ancer certainly appears to be trending toward his first PGA Tour win, and he will be a popular pick in many formats this week. He's riding three straight top-10s, including last week at the PGA, and was top-20 last month at Harbour Town. Ancer is ranked second in driving accuracy and 12th in greens in regulation.
Tier 2 Values
Corey Conners - $9,400 (25-1)
Conners will be another popular pick, as he's been generating buzz on Twitter. He's been on an incredible run, with the latest result being a top-20 at the PGA. He was top-10 at THE PLAYERS, the Masters and RBC Heritage. He's ranked top-10 on Tour in SG: Off-the-Tee, Approach and Tee-to-Green, plus driving accuracy and greens in regulation.
Sungjae Im - $9,100 (30-1)
This track should suit Im's precision game nicely – and it did last year when he tied for 10th. He's coming off a top-20 at the PGA and had another one at Harbour Town. Im is ranked 14th in driving distance and 36th in greens in regulation.
Charley Hoffman - $8,700 (40-1)
Hoffman has made the cut all but once in a dozen visits to Colonial. That one happened to be last year, but Hoffman is playing so well in 2021 that it doesn't give us pause. He's made nine straight cuts, with top-20s in six of his past seven, including last week at the Ocean Course. Hoffman is ranked 32nd in Par-4 BOB.
Matt Wallace - $8,200 (60-1)
Wallace did not have a great PGA, but he did make the cut at $7,400. He's made seven of his past eight with four of them top-20s, including at the RBC Heritage. Wallace is ranked 10th on Tour in SG: Approach.
Tier 3 Values
Brian Harman - $8,000 (40-1)
Harman has had a great season but may have been overmatched by the length of the Ocean Course and he missed his first cut of 2021 at the PGA. He's made seven straight cuts at Colonial, five of them top-25s, with nothing worse than a tie for 31st.
Emiliano Grillo - $7,900 (60-1)
Coming off a tie for 38th at the PGA, Grillo was runner-up last month at Harbour Town as he's climbed back inside the top-80 in the world. He missed the cut here last year but was top-25 the previous three years. Grillo is ranked third on Tour in greens in regulation and is top-50 in Par-4 BOB – not bad for a guy who can't putt.
Chris Kirk - $7,600 (60-1)
The 2015 Colonial winner has had five other top-16s here in the past decade. Kirk has missed his past two cuts on Tour, but the PGA and the Valero do not suit him as Colonial does. He is ranked 25th on Tour in Par-4 BOB and is just outside the top-25 in SG: Tee-to-Green.
Matt Kuchar - $7,600 (60-1)
Kuchar has missed the cut at THE PLAYERS, the Masters and now the PGA. In his other four latest starts, he has four top-20s. Harbour Town, like Colonial, is more his style, and he tied for 18th at the RBC Heritage last month.
Rory Sabbatini - $7,100 (125-1)
It had been a brutally bad past four months for Sabbatini until he tied for 26th at the Byron Nelson two weeks ago. His track record at Colonial is too good to overlook. He's played the course 20 times with 14 made cuts with top-20s in four of his past five visits, including T14 in last year's loaded field.
Maverick McNealy - $6,900 (150-1)
We're not fond of going after young guys who have missed four of their past five cuts, but this week should be different for McNealy. He's made both his Colonial cuts, including T32 last year. He also finished in the top-5 at Harbour Town. McNealy is ranked 55th in Par-4 BOB.
Brian Stuard - $6,700 (250-1)
Stuard has made his past six Colonial cuts, albeit with just one top-25. He's also made three of his past four overall, with a top-20 at the RBC Heritage. The 38-year-old's biggest shortcoming is driving distance, which should be minimized this week. He's ranked third on Tour in driving accuracy.
Adam Schenk - $6,500 (200-1)
Schenk has made three of his past four cuts, two of them being top-25s, including at Harbour Town. He made the cut at Colonial for the first time a year ago. He's ranked a decent 83rd in Par-4 BOB.