Steve Bamford

Steve Bamford's Charles Schwab Challenge Tips 2020

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Welcome to the resumption of the PGA Tour. These are uncertain times and when the Charles Schwab Challenge tees of this Thursday it will have been 90 days since the cancellation of The Players Championship back in March. The PGA Tour are taking a huge step forward with a return to action, being only the second sporting organisation in the United States, after the UFC, to resume operations. In a sport starved world it’s to be applauded and it’s great to be back – how long for, who really knows!

Before we talk through my Charles Schwab Challenge tips, the number of new visitors to Golf Betting System is sure to be strong, with new readers and those new to golf betting full stop. Welcome to you all and let me point you in the direction of our weekly Golf Betting System podcast (published Tuesday) the Golf Betting Show on YouTube and our hugely popular private group on Facebook – you can Join Here.

It’s a high-class 148-man field who travel down to Fort Worth, Texas for the Charles Schwab Challenge.  Played at the old-style classical Colonial Country Club, 16 of the World’s top 20 are playing with the likes of Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm and Dustin Johnson heading the field. Kevin Na defends his title.

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Course Guide: Colonial CC sits in the same classical course category as Torrey Pines, Augusta, Riviera, Quail Hollow and Muirfield, although it’s a far tighter affair from tee-to-green than most. At 7,209 yards, this Bredemus and Maxwell-designed par 70 cannot be overpowered. The tree-lined, parkland course features pure Bentgrass greens that are extremely small at an average size of only 4,500 square feet. Birdies are hard to come by at Colonial with the 2 par-5s amongst the toughest on Tour to birdie or better.

In these Covid-19 affected times, as we start the month of June, Colonial will be the first tournament on pure Bentgrass greens of 2020 on the PGA Tour. Naturally now as the PGA Tour hopefully returns to some form of normality, we move into summer where Bentgrass putting surfaces will be more regularly seen from week to week.

Colonial Country Club, Fort Worth, Texas: Designer: Bredemus/Maxwell 1936; Course Type: Classical; Par: 70; Length: 7,209 yards; Holes with Water Hazards: 5; Fairways Bermudagrass; Rough: Bermudagrass 3″; Greens: Bent, 5,000 sq.ft average; Tournament Stimp: 12ft; Course Scoring Average 2012: 71.13 (+1.13), Difficulty Rank 13 of 49 courses. 2013: 69.90 (-0.10), Difficulty Rank 24 of 43 courses. 2014: 70.27 (+0.27), Rank 19 of 48 courses. 2015: 69.78 (-0.22), Difficulty Rank 21 of 52 courses. 2016: 70.20 (+0.20), Difficulty Rank 18 of 50 courses. 2017: 71.15 (+1.15), Difficulty Rank 7 of 50 courses. 2018: 69.83 (-0.17), Difficulty Rank 20 of 51 courses. 2019: 70.86 (+0.86), Difficulty Rank 7 of 49 courses.

Fairway Widths (yards): Below are the fairway widths for Colonial Country Club and how they compare to recent courses on Tour:

  • Colonial: 250 yards from tee: 27 yards wide; 275:26; 300:27; 325:26; 350:23.
  • TPC Sawgrass: 250 yards from the tee: 31 yards wide; 275:32; 300:30; 325:28 350:20.
  • Bay Hill: 250 yards from the tee: 32 yards wide; 275:33; 300:33; 325:39 350:29.
  • PGA National: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:27; 300:25; 325:27 350:25.
  • Riviera: 250 yards from the tee: 33 yards wide; 275:27; 300:26; 325:26 350:28.
  • Pebble Beach: 250 yards from the tee: 33 yards wide; 275:33; 300:29; 325:30 350:26.
  • TPC Scottsdale: 250 yards from the tee: 33 yards wide; 275:30; 300:28; 325:27; 350:27.
  • Torrey Pines South: 250 yards from the tee: 26 yards wide; 275:27; 300:25; 325:24; 350:23.
  • TPC Stadium: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:27; 300:26; 325:26; 350:24.
  • Waialae: 250 yards from the tee: 34 yards wide; 275:32; 300:34; 325:37; 350:34.
  • Plantation Course: 250 yards from the tee: 59 yards wide; 275:61; 300:65; 325:60; 350:62.

Course Overview: Colonial provides its winners with a plaid jacket that’s extremely similar to those handed to the champions at Harbour Town. The similarities don’t end there as the two courses share traditional values in the modern world of the PGA Tour. Colonial is short by today’s standards, but the course only features 24 acres of fairway making tee shot target areas extremely small. Errant drives are captured by tough Bermudagrass rough with most fairways on the property being tree-lined ensuring plenty of blocked approach shots for those that deviate.

As with most classical courses, there’s no particular right or wrong game-shape which dominates the champion list. Both short game specialists (Kevin Na, Kevin Kisner, Jordan Spieth, Chris Kirk and Zach Johnson) and ball-strikers (Justin Rose, Adam Scott and Boo Weekley) have an equal chance of victory on this classical Colonial layout.

13 months ago, Kevin Na was accurate and efficient from tee-to-green, ranking 17th for Driving Accuracy, 1st for Greens in Regulation and 1st for Strokes Gained on Approach. Give a putter like Na a week like that from tee-to-green and he’s impossible to catch, and so it proved. In 2018 Justin Rose put on a typical ball-striking clinic: 6th for Driving Accuracy, 1st for Greens in Regulation, 1st for Ball Striking and 1st for SG on Approach, when he won in incessant heat. Little wind and watered greens helped him to amass a -20/260 winning total.

Kevin Kisner played some lovely, balanced, plotting golf – 1st Driving Accuracy, 2nd Greens in Regulation, 2nd Scrambling, 3rd Strokes Gained Putting – when he won this in 2017 on a firm course with gusting 25 mph to 30 mph winds a feature. Jordan Spieth (2016) and Chris Kirk (2015) were wayward off the tee and scrambled and putted their way to victory; prior to that Adam Scott (2014) and Boo Weekley (2013) who diligently plotted their way around the Par 70, both ranking in the top 10 for Driving Accuracy and Greens in Regulation.

Power isn’t a huge advantage around this layout where birdies are hard to come by if the wind blows – Colonial has ranked 3rd, 20th, 6th, 15th, 14th and 13th toughest in Birdie Average across the past 6 renewals. Only 2 par-5s, namely the 1st and the 11th, ranked 3rd and 15th toughest on Tour for Birdie or Better in 2019 and 2018, so look for players who are comfortable to score on both par-3s and par-4s.

Colonial really plays as difficult as turf and wind conditions dictate. Last year saw firm fairways and watered greens, which were in play as the famous Texas wind was very much a factor. 1 Eagle, 17 Birdies combined with a field best 4 bogeys and one double bogey, got the job done for the then World Number 52, Kevin Na. 2017 saw Kisner make only 16 birdies, but with a field-best 4 bogeys and a double bogey, he outlasted the freer scoring O’Hair, Rahm and Spieth. But, an eagle (a rarity here) and 21 birdies for Kirk, 22 birdies for Spieth and 25 birdies for Rose highlights that Colonial, if conditions allow, can yield birdies for those who can manufacture scoring opportunities on the Bentgrass green complexes which have nuances that take real time to understand. No wonder therefore that experienced players, with a liking for tight, tree-lined layouts, tend to thrive here.

charles schwab challenge tips

Winners: 2019: Kevin Na (-13); 2018: Justin Rose (-20); 2017: Kevin Kisner (-10); 2016: Jordan Spieth (-17); 2015: Chris Kirk (-12); 2014: Adam Scott (-9); 2013: Boo Weekley (-14); 2012: Zach Johnson (-12); 2011: David Toms (-13); 2010: Zach Johnson (-21).

Tournament Stats: We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s event that are well worth a look. Naturally they’ll help to shape a view on players who could go well this week: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader | Combined Stats.

Published Predictor Model: Our published predictor is available here. You can build your own model using the variables listed on the left hand side. Top 10 of my published predictor are Webb Simpson, Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth, Matt Kuchar, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose, Kevin Kisner, Kevin Na and Rory McIlroy.

Recent Player Skill Rankings: These rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the Farmers Insurance Open and Dubai Desert Classic, which includes PGA Tour and European Tour (where recorded) events. Players must have played in a minimum of 2 Tour events to be included and rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Driving Accuracy: 1) Bronson Burgoon; 2) Matthew Fitzpatrick; 3) Daniel Berger / Chez Reavie; 5) Jim Furyk; 6) Brian Stuard; 7) Tyler Duncan / Kevin Kisner; 9) Brendon Todd; 10) Corey Conners / Collin Morikawa; 12) Scott Piercy; 13) Chad Campbell / Sungjae Im; 15) Jason Dufner; 16) Scott Brown / Ryan Moore; 18) Doc Redman; 19) Joel Dahmen / Viktor Hovland / Mark Hubbard / Vaughn Taylor.
  • Greens in Regulation: 1) Collin Morikawa; 2) Shane Lowry; 3) Rory McIlroy; 4) Corey Conners; 5) Sergio Garcia; 6) Gary Woodland; 7) Brooks Koepka; 8) Webb Simpson / Brendan Steele / Harold Varner III; 11) Jon Rahm; 12) J.T. Poston; 13) Cameron Davis / Harris English / Adam Long; 16) Cameron Champ / Tony Finau / Sungjae Im / Matthew NeSmith / Victor Perez.
  • Scrambling: 1) Maverick McNealy; 2) Webb Simpson; 3) Brendon Todd; 4) Kevin Kisner / Marc Leishman; 6) Daniel Berger / Shane Lowry; 8) Sungjae Im; 9) Adam Hadwin; 10) Max Homa; 11) Byeong Hun An / Ian Poulter; 13) Steve Stricker; 14) Christiaan Beziudenhout / Ryan Moore / Danny Willett; 17) Bryson DeChambeau; 18) Jason Dufner / Jon Rahm / Xander Schauffele.
  • Putting Average (Putts per GIR): 1) Christiaan Beziudenhout; 2) Zac Blair; 3) Josh Teater / Justin Thomas; 5) Max Homa; 6) Jon Rahm; 7) Viktor Hovland / Matt Kuchar; 9) Graeme McDowell; 10) Branden Grace / Talor Gooch; 12) Charley Hoffman / Mark Hubbard / Victor Perez; 15) Marc Leishman / Vaughn Taylor; 17) Joel Dahmen / Carlos Ortiz / Scott Piercy / Jimmy Walker.

Recent Player Strokes Gained Rankings: These top 20 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the Farmers Insurance Open and Dubai Desert Classic, which includes both PGA and European Tour events where recorded. Players must have played in a minimum of 2 Tour events to be included and rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Top 20 SG Off The Tee: 1) Jason Kokrak; 2) Bryson DeChambeau / Sungjae Im / Collin Morikawa; 5) Xander Schauffele / Bubba Watson; 7) Shane Lowry; 8) Jon Rahm; 9) Harry Higgs / Dustin Johnson; 11) Sergio Garcia; 12) Jhonattan Vegas / Danny Willett; 14) Viktor Hovland; 15) Corey Conners / Joel Dahmen; 17) Matthew Fitzpatrick; 18) Ryan Moore; 19) Cameron Davis / Victor Perez.
  • Top 20 SG Approach: 1) Collin Morikawa; 2) Rory McIlroy; 3) Webb Simpson; 4) Marc Leishman / Victor Perez; 6) Justin Thomas; 7) Bud Cauley / Gary Woodland; 9) Tony Finau / Sergio Garcia; 11) Christiaan Beziudenhout / Daniel Berger; 13) Corey Conners / Robby Shelton; 15) Byeong Hun An / Joel Dahmen / Ian Poulter; 18) Bryson DeChambeau / Brice Garnett; 20) Maverick McNealy / Cameron Davis.
  • Top 20 SG Around The Green: 1) Byeong Hun An; 2) Cameron Davis; 3) Charles Howell III; 4) Harris English; 5) Christiaan Beziudenhout / Sungjae Im; 7) Rory Sabbatini / Jhonattan Vegas; 9) Tom Lewis / Matt Kuchar; 11) Adam Hadwin; 12) Daniel Berger; 13) Tony Finau / Shane Lowry / Kevin Na; 16) Jason Dufner / Branden Grace / Rory McIlroy / Chez Reavie / Jordan Spieth.
  • Top 20 SG Tee to Green: 1) Marc Leishman; 2) Byeong Hun An / Sergio Garcia; 4) Daniel Berger / Collin Morikawa; 6) Cameron Davis; 7) Rory McIlroy; 8) Bryson DeChambeau; 9) Harris English / Tony Finau / Jhonattan Vegas; 12) Webb Simpson; 13) Shane Lowry / Maverick McNealy; 15) Christiaan Beziudenhout / Xander Schauffele; 17) Sungjae Im; 18) Victor Perez; 19) Max Homa; 20) Corey Conners / Jon Rahm / Bubba Watson.
  • Top 20 SG Putting: 1) Jon Rahm; 2) Christiaan Beziudenhout; 3) Beau Hossler / Brendon Todd; 5) Ian Poulter / Webb Simpson; 7) Max Homa; 8) Zach Johnson / Patrick Rodgers; 10) Denny McCarthy; 11) Marc Leishman / Maverick McNealy / Tyler McCumber / Keith Mitchell / Robby Shelton; 16) Daniel Berger; 17) Matt Wallace; 18) Harris English; 19) Abraham Ancer; 20) Zac Blair / Adam Hadwin / Matt Kuchar / Louis Oosthuizen.
  • Top 20 SG Total: 1) Daniel Berger; 2) Jon Rahm; 3) Christiaan Beziudenhout; 4) Marc Leishman; 5) Maverick McNealy / Rory McIlroy; 7) Max Homa / Collin Morikawa; 9) Bryson DeChambeau / Webb Simpson; 11) Ian Poulter; 12) Matt Kuchar; 13) Victor Perez / Xander Schauffele; 15) Sergio Garcia / Sungjae Im; 17) Shane Lowry; 18) Harris English / Keith Mitchell / Patrick Rodgers.

Winners & Prices: 2019: Na 70/1; 2018: Rose 20/1; 2017: Kisner 33/1; 2016: Spieth 7/1F; 2015: Kirk 35/1; 2014: Scott 18/1; 2013: Weekley 100/1; 2012: Z Johnson 16/1; 2011: Toms 33/1; 2010: Z Johnson 50/1.  Past 6 Renewals Average: 31/1. Overall Average: 38/1. For a full summary of winner’s odds on the PGA Tour since 2010 click here.

Historical Weather:

  • 2019: Thursday: Partly cloudy. High of 89. Wind SSE 15-20 mph, with gusts to 30 mph. Friday: Partly cloudy. High of 90. Wind SSE 12-18 mph, with gusts to 25 mph. Saturday: Weather: Partly cloudy. High of 90. Wind SSE 7-14 mph, with gusts to 17 mph. Sunday: Partly cloudy. High of 89. Winds S 10-16 mph, with gusts to 22 mph.
  • 2018: Thursday: Mostly sunny. High of 92. Wind SSE 6-12 mph. Friday: Partly cloudy. High of 94. Wind SSE 7-13 mph. Saturday: Partly cloudy. High of 97. Wind SSE 7-14 mph. Sunday: Mostly sunny. High of 99. Wind ESE 5-10 mph.
  • 2017: Thursday: Sunny with a high of 93. Wind S 20-25 mph, with gusts of 30 mph. Friday: Sunny with a high of 98. Wind SW 15-20 mph, with gusts of 25 mph. Saturday: Partly cloudy with a high of 96. Wind SSW 15-20 mph, with gusts of 25 mph. Sunday: Mostly cloudy with a high of 82. Wind N 10-15 mph.
  • 2016: Thursday: Mostly cloudy with a high of 83. Wind S at 15-20 mph, gusting to 30 mph. Friday: Mostly cloudy early turning to partly sunny skies in the afternoon. Warm and humid, with a high of 86. Wind SSE at 10-15 mph. Saturday: Mostly cloudy early turning to partly sunny skies in the afternoon. Warm and humid, with a high of 86. Wind SSE at 10-15 mph. Sunday: Due to early morning thunderstorms, the original tee times featuring twosomes off of one tee beginning at 7:30 a.m. were changed to a two-tee start with threesomes at 10:19 a.m. Mostly cloudy. High of 85. Wind SSE at 10-15 mph
  • 2015: Weather: Thursday: Cloudy, but drier in the afternoon, with highs reaching only into the lower 60s. North wind at 10-20 mph. A total of 1.3 inches of rain fell overnight and into the morning. Friday: Overcast, with intermittent rain throughout the day. High of 76, with N wind at 7-12 mph. Saturday: Overcast, with a high of 76. Wind SE at 15-25 mph. Sunday: Due to the likeliness of inclement weather, final-round tee times were between 7-9 a.m. Cloudy with rain most of the day and a high of 79. Wind SSW at 10-20 mph.

Weather Forecast: Latest weather forecast for Fort Worth, Texas, is here. Expect sweltering conditions in Texas this week. Temperatures between 33 and 35 degrees Celsius are set for tournament week and rain won’t be a factor. No discernable rain since 25th May also means that fairways will be firm and fast. 156mm of rain in totality across May suggests to me that Colonial’s Bermuda rough will be in a healthy state, but with such severe temperatures greens will have to be watered, so I think will be accessible. Southerly wind gusting up to 20 mph will also be in play on Thursday, with AM tee-times potentially gaining an advantage with softer greens as well.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of the 10 winners here at Colonial since 2010 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this:

  • 2019, Kevin Na (-13). 292 yards (58th), 60.7% fairways (17th), 77.8% greens in regulation (1st), 29’1″ proximity to hole (1st), 68.8 % scrambling (15th), 1.68 putts per GIR (5th).
  • 2018, Justin Rose (-20). 306 yards (17th), 66.1% fairways (6th), 79.2% greens in regulation (1st), 25’3″ proximity to hole (2nd), 66.7% scrambling (30th), 1.61 putts per GIR (5th).
  • 2017, Kevin Kisner (-10). 293 yards (39th), 71.4% fairways (1st), 73.6% greens in regulation (2nd), 33’3″ proximity to hole (21st), 78.9 % scrambling (2nd), 1.76 putts per GIR (28th).
  • 2016, Jordan Spieth (-17). 299 yards (14th), 50.0% fairways (54th), 70.8% greens in regulation (17th), proximity to hole 34’8″ (59th), 85.7 % scrambling (1st), 1.65 putts per GIR (4th).
  • 2015, Chris Kirk (-12). 277 yards (41st), 50.0% fairways (60th), 63.9% greens in regulation (62nd), proximity to hole 33’9″ (57th), 61.5 % scrambling (39th), 1.57 putts per GIR (1st).
  • 2014, Adam Scott (-9). 290 yards (52nd), 66.1% fairways (8th), 72.2% greens in regulation (13th), proximity to hole 29’2″ (4th), 70.0 % scrambling (16th), 1.73 putts per GIR (17th).
  • 2013, Boo Weekley (-14). 299 yards (17th), 71.4% fairways (6th), 75.0% greens in regulation (5th), proximity to hole 25’9″ (1st), 61.1% scrambling (40th), 1.65 putts per GIR (5th).
  • 2012, Zach Johnson (-12). 289 yards (51st), 58.9% fairways (26th), 62.5% greens in regulation (38th), proximity to hole 35’3″ (26th), 70.4% scrambling (3rd), 1.62 putts per GIR (2nd).
  • 2011, David Toms (-15). 299 yards (28th), 67.9% fairways (4th), 72.2% greens in regulation (4th), proximity to hole 28’1″ (2nd), 70.0% scrambling (5th), 1.58 putts per GIR (1st).
  • 2010, Zach Johnson (-21). 291 yards (45th), 69.6% fairways (10th), 84.7% greens in regulation (1st), proximity to hole 25’10” (6th), 72.7% scrambling (13th), 1.66 putts per GIR (11th).

Tournament Skill Averages:

Driving Distance: 36th, Driving Accuracy: 19th, Greens in Regulation: 14th, Proximity to Hole: 18th, Scrambling: 16th, Putting Average 8th.

Strokes Gained Tournament Trends:

  • 2019, Kevin Na (-13). SG Off the Tee: 18th, SG Approach: 1st, SG Around the Green: 58th, SG Tee to Green: 2nd, SG Putting: 2nd.
  • 2018, Justin Rose (-20). SG Off the Tee: 4th, SG Approach: 1st, SG Around the Green: 19th, SG Tee to Green: 1st, SG Putting: 21st.
  • 2017, Kevin Kisner (-10). SG Off the Tee: 30th, SG Approach: 23rd, SG Around the Green: 2nd, SG Tee to Green: 5th, SG Putting: 3rd.
  • 2016, Jordan Spieth (-17). SG Off the Tee: 5th, SG Approach: 30th, SG Around the Green: 6th, SG Tee to Green: 7th, SG Putting: 2nd.

Strokes Gained Tournament Skill Averages:

  • SG Off the Tee: 14th, SG Approach: 14th, SG Around the Green: 21st, SG Tee to Green: 4th, SG Putting: 7th.

Let’s take a view from players as to how Colonial sets up and what skill sets the course favours:

Kevin Na (2019): Yeah, I like this golf course. One of those golf courses I look forward to coming to. Fits my game; I’ve got a good record. You got to take advantage of those weeks because there is not too many golf courses like this on tour anymore. I’d rank Colonial in the top 3 of PGA Tour courses with Riviera and Hilton Head.

Yeah, 1st hole (par-5) I hit a good drive off the tee. Keeping in the fairway is huge there. I had a biggest cut. 3-wood was too much and my hybrid is enough, so I had a big cut. Ended up about three feet and felt like a bonus starting day. This is a golf course you don’t do anything different. You play your game. You see that white stone in the middle of the fairway? That’s where I’m trying to be every hole.

It’s a great designed golf course. You got to hit a lot of draws off the tee. Just some of the way the hole sits, I like it. Few cut holes. I can cut it when I need to. Mostly I think a lot of my draws work out here.

And I mentioned this many times, I feel like it’s a second-shot-in golf course. The golf course, everyone kind of puts it in the same position off the tee and same spot. It’s about how good you can hit it with the irons and how well you can putt. I’m a pretty good player fairway in.”

Justin Rose (2018): “Every hole tempts you to hit driver in a way, you know. Every hole is just wide enough to hit driver, but it’s narrow enough if you miss it it’s going to be,  you’re going to have some type of challenge. The fairway bunkers are so good here you can almost challenge them and feel like if you’re in them it’s not such a penalty because they play firm. You don’t get many balls that sit down in these bunkers. I think that’s why guys do tend to be aggressive. It’s the type of rough here where you catch a lot of fliers and the greens are small and tricky. So catching fliers into these greens you’ll make a lot bogeys. For me, keeping it in play. I’m pretty confident in my iron play right now. If I am around that 150, then I’m pretty comfortable right now.

I think the rough is tough enough around here if you catch a bad lie it’s hard to get it to the green. If you have a decent lie, huge fliers in play around here. The greens are small. If the ball is in play it takes it out of the equation. I chanced my luck a little bit. Hit a bad tee shot on 18. I did the right things at the right time today. I was getting a little frustrated early in my round not making a few putts, and then made a putt at the right time, which kind of just kept my head up and kept things moving forward.”

Kevin Kisner (2017): “Played nicely coming down the fairway, which you got to do around here. I’ve played really conservative on the pins I didn’t like. I just love the golf course. I feel super comfortable. I know the pins I wants to go after and the pins I don’t. It’s just like what I grew up on, so that’s why I love it. Most important thing about playing well around here is getting the ball in the fairway, because you just can’t get to the small greens out of the rough. You get so blocked out with the trees if you’re in the rough that you hit so many run-up shots you’re just not going to hit the greens with. Probably hit 11, 12 fairways both days. You’re going to hit some short irons. If you hit the green, you don’t have more than about a 25-footer for birdie.

Chris Kirk (2016): “I’ve played well here over the years, but I don’t think people would consider me an elite ball striker or shot maker necessarily. It’s been a course that’s suited guys who hit the ball right to left over the years, Zach Johnson, Kenny Perry, Stricker, some other guys like that, and I definitely fit in that category. I think that I’ve always been a very good iron player. I may not have driven the ball as well as some guys over the years, but I’ve always been a very good, solid iron player and control my distance really well and usually play well in the wind, and if you pair that with making a putt here or there, that usually does well around here.

The course appeals to more of a feel player. If you can kind of flight your shots and work the ball with the wind here and there, you’re going to have a big advantage out here because there’s a ton of cross-winds that you play in on this course. You’ll get a lot of off the left and a little in or maybe a little help. It’s just a lot of sort of calculating exactly what that wind is doing on those iron shots, and you have to be very precise with how small the greens are here. So yeah, I would think that a feel player and being able to judge those distances and judge that wind just right is crucial here.

Jordan Spieth (2015): “I think it’s going to be easier to hit fairways because one of the harder parts when this is firm and fast is holding the fairway. So it’s going to be easier to hit fairways, but I think if you don’t hit the fairway, I would imagine the rough’s going to be very healthy. You’re going to have to judge if it’s going to come out fat or if it’s going to come out as a flyer. And if you get above the hole around here, it doesn’t matter if they’re wet or not, they’re going to be fast, and you’re going to struggle. So it’s still going to be a test. I think that, yes, I think that the scores, if it’s moist, they’ll be lower. I don’t know about record setting, but doesn’t really change much about the tournament, though. It doesn’t make it a bomber’s course. It doesn’t make it favour I don’t think any type of player. It’s just going to be more of a premium on hitting fairway.

Adam Scott (2015): “But this is going to be a really good week to, you know, really play within myself. You can’t be wild around this golf course. You have to really hit the fairway this week. There’s a premium on that. The rough is up. It will be very hard to score well playing from off the fairway this week. So I think it’s a good week for me to really, you know, kind of tone things down a little bit and be very patient, which is pretty much how I played last year and it worked well. Well, the course is not too soft at the moment. So it’s in good shape. But ideally it would stay this way. When the course gets soft and quite soggy, it plays a lot easier for us because the ball doesn’t run so far off line as fairways get wider, greens become bigger. So I would say scoring is better. And certainly around this course, when this gets firm, it presents challenges, because you can’t bite off corners on holes that dogleg because the fairways are so narrow if the ball is running, and you have to be very precise into the greens when it’s firm as well leaving it under the hole. It’s the old style of golf that will prevail over 72 holes if you’re fairly cautious and make few mistakes, you’ll have a good score.

Boo Weekley (2014): “We just kind of broke the golf course down into places where we know that we can take advantage. If we hit it in the right spot, we can take advantage because we’ve got wedge in our hand or what I feel like 7 iron down are scoring clubs. I feel like I can hit it inside 10 feet. So to me that’s where I had to break it down the golf course to where if I hit it here, 3 wood off this hole is going to leave me an 8 iron or 7 iron. If I can get aggressive it’s feeling good, or if I hit driver, pitching wedge to gap wedge. I kept it in front of me. That to me I felt like I was driving the ball good the whole week. As long as I could just keep it in play and keep it out of that little bit of rough around here, you know, I felt like I could get it on the green somewhere and just two putt or make a putt coming in. I felt like every time I stand over it, if my mind’s right, and I feel like I’ve got the right club, I felt like I could knock it in at any moment.

Matt Kuchar (2014): “It was interesting watching Ryan Palmer go around last year, being a local guy that plays here quite a bit. When you feel like it’s more your home course when you’re playing just for fun, you’re not playing out of irons, irons just aren’t that much fun to hit off the tee. So Ryan is used to hitting driver off most tees. So hitting drivers off the tee, I flip flop every now and then between a driver, sometimes as a 3 wood. Watching a local guy pull driver there, maybe there is something to it. I hit driver there a bit, but that being said, my drive is a little different than some of the longer guys. But my driving accuracy is pretty strong. I think that’s a strength of mine. I try to use those strengths on certain holes where I can take an advantage. Maybe 9, if I’m feeling good with the driver to make that into a birdie hole and try to turn what a lot of times to get a par and get out of there into a legitimate shot at making birdie.

Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for the last 10 Colonial winners:

  • 2019 – Kevin Na: Round 1: 38th, Round 2: 2nd, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2018 – Justin Rose: Round 1: 8th, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2017 – Kevin Kisner: Round 1: 7th, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 4th.
  • 2016 – Jordan Spieth: Round 1: 9th, Round 2: 3rd, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2015 – Chris Kirk: Round 1: 26th, Round 2: 15th, Round 3: 4th.
  • 2014 – Adam Scott: Round 1: 64th, Round 2: 36th, Round 3: 11th.
  • 2013 – Boo Weekley: Round 1: 23rd, Round 2: 9th, Round 3: 2nd.
  • 2012 – Zach Johnson: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 2nd, Round 3: 2nd.
  • 2011 – David Toms: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 2nd.
  • 2010 – Zach Johnson: Round 1: 5th, Round 2: 7th, Round 3: 3rd.

Shots From the Lead: Below are the last 10 Colonial winners and where they were positioned in terms of shots from the lead during the tournament:

  • 2019 – Kevin Na: Round 1: 6 back, Round 2: 1 back, Round 3: 2 ahead.
  • 2018 – Justin Rose: Round 1: 4 back, Round 2: 1 ahead, Round 3: 4 ahead.
  • 2017 – Kevin Kisner: Round 1: 2 back, Round 2: level, Round 3: 3 back.
  • 2016 – Jordan Spieth: Round 1: 3 back, Round 2: 1 back, Round 3: 1 ahead.
  • 2015 – Chris Kirk: Round 1: 4 back, Round 2: 7 back, Round 3: 3 back.
  • 2014 – Adam Scott: Round 1: 6 back, Round 2: 6 back, Round 3: 2 back.
  • 2013 – Boo Weekley: Round 1: 5 back, Round 2: 4 back, Round 3: 1 back.
  • 2012 – Zach Johnson: Round 1: 1 ahead, Round 2: 2 back, Round 3: 1 back.
  • 2011 – David Toms: Round 1: level, Round 2: 7 ahead, Round 3: 1 back.
  • 2010 – Zach Johnson: Round 1: 2 back, Round 2: 4 back, Round 3: 1 back.

Incoming form of winners since 2010:

  • Kevin Na: MC PGA/38th Trinity Forest/10th Heritage/46th Augustan.
  • Justin Rose: 23rd Sawgrass/19th New Orleans/12th Augusta/52nd Houston.
  • Kevin Kisner: 56th Sawgrass/MC Eagle Point/2nd New Orleans/11th Heritage.
  • Jordan Spieth: 18th TPC4S/MC Sawgrass/2nd Augusta/13th GC of Houston.
  • Chris Kirk: 13th Sawgrass/69th Heritage/33rd Augusta/8th TPC San Antonio.
  • Adam Scott: 38th Sawgrass/14th Augusta/3rd Bay Hill/25th Doral.
  • Boo Weekley: MC TPC4S/48th Sawgrass/58th Quail/6th New Orleans.
  • Zach Johnson: 2nd Sawgrass/69th Quail/2nd Heritage/32nd Augusta.
  • David Toms: 2nd Sawgrass/24th Quail/18th New Orleans/24th Augusta.
  • Zach Johnson: MC San Antonio/22nd Sawgrass/51st Quail/47th Heritage.

First Round Leader Analysis: First round leader(s), their wave and winning score since 2010. Full First Round Leader stats are here.

  • 2019 – Finau – AM -6/65 – 40/1.
  • 2018 – Na – PM -8/62 – 66/1.
  • 2017 – Fathauer / Kraft / Poston – 1AM/2PM -5/65.
  • 2016 – Molder – AM -6/64.
  • 2015 – Ishikawa / Na / Spieth / Weekley – 2AM/2PM -6/64.
  • 2014 – D Johnson – PM -5/65.
  • 2013 – Palmer – AM -8/62.
  • 2012 – Johnson – AM -6/64.
  • 2011 – Reavie / Toms – AM -8/62.
  • 2010 – Adams / Bohn / Overton – 2AM/1PM Split -7/63.

For the record, here’s the breakdown of pure Bentgrass green PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:

  • 7 – Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose.
  • 5 – Zach Johnson, Jordan Spieth.
  • 4 – Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Kevin Na, Webb Simpson, Steve Stricker, Justin Thomas, Bubba Watson.
  • 3 – Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Ryan Moore.
  • 2 – Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner, Rickie Fowler, Sergio Garcia, Lucas Glover, Brian Harman, Marc Leishman, Troy Merritt, Patrick Reed, Xander Schauffele, Jhonattan Vegas.
  • 1 – Dylan Frittelli, Bill Haas, Jim Herman, Charley Hoffman, Billy Horschel, Chris Kirk, Russell Knox, Kevin Kisner, Danny Lee, Joaquin Niemann, Louis Oosthuizen, Ian Poulter, Chez Reavie, Rory Sabbatini, Kevin Streelman, Brendon Todd, Nick Watney, Danny Willett, Matthew Wolff.

Colonial has a habit of producing shorter-priced winners. Justin Rose won at 20/1 in 2018, whilst Kevin Kisner won at 33/1 in 2016 and Jordan Spieth was the 7/1 favourite in 2015. Chris Kirk delivered at 35/1 in 2015, whilst Adam Scott was 18/1 in 2014. Previous to that, winners’ prices at the Crowne Plaza Invitational read: 2009: 28/1; 2010: 50/1; 2011: 33/1; 2012: 16/1. Outside of that, the in-form Boo Weekley scored here in 2014 at a very nice 100/1, and we need look no further than defending champion Kevin Na, who won this at 70/1 in 2019. Hardly outlandish prices in themselves. Indeed take the past 6 renewals here and we see an average winning price of 31/1.

It’s clear that experience wins around Colonial with only World Number 1 (at the time) Adam Scott winning here with less than 3 tournament appearances prior. But as with many a classical golf course, both short-game specialists or grinding ball-strikers can get the job done at Colonial Country Club, where scoring is generally mid-teens to late-teens under par unless the wind really blows. As we know, PGA Tour professionals can score when conditions allow, especially when wind is not factor, so I can see late-teens being the winning target this week, with 54 holes of non-wind affected play forecast.

From a course form perspective, we’ve seen mixed looks in terms of winners’ profiles here of late. Justin Rose’s victory here in 2018 was his first ever in Texas and came in his 5th appearance at Colonial. In those preceding visits to Fort Worth his best finish had been 13th way back on course debut in 2005. Adam Scott won here with nothing better than 64th and 65th in 2 previous appearances. But conversely Na, (4th, 7th, 9th and 10th), Kisner (5th and 10th), Kirk (5th), Weekley (9th), Zach Johnson (1st, 4th, 9th) and Toms (2nd, 3rd, 4th) all had top 10 results here before triumphing since 2011.

The level of unknowns coming into this week are pretty daunting. 90 days will have passed since the PGA Tour suspended its season at TPC Sawgrass on Thursday 12th March. Who really knew the impact that Covid-19 would have back then, and that impact has been felt everywhere including the world of top-level professional golf. The world’s best will face fresh challenges this week with active testing, no fans and a purer golf course set-up with no stands or hospitality suites. A small number of players have played some low-key events over recent weeks, so they may have an advantage in terms of removing competitive rust, but for me I’m keeping it simple, selecting the right kind of players to score well around a tight, tree-lined Colonial.

My Final Charles Schwab Challenge Tips Are As Follows

Webb Simpson 2.5pts EW 22/1 (8EW, 1/5) with William Hill

I like Colonial because I grew up on a golf course that’s short, fairly tight, some doglegs. It does look good to me, and I like these greens. These greens are bent, and they roll really well. They remind me a lot of what I grew up on.” The words of Webb Simpson, who’s my first selection this week.

Simpson is the sort of player who comes to the party on shorter golf courses. The 6-time PGA Tour winner and 2012 U.S. Open champion thrives on Par 70/71 formats and 5 of his 6 main Tour victories have come on Bentgrass or Bentgrass-topped putting surfaces. That includes TPC Scottsdale this year where he won the Waste Management Phoenix Open in a play-off from Tony Finau. Undoubtedly Webb is having a stellar season with his win also being supported by 7th at TPC Summerlin, 2nd at Sea Island and 3rd at Waialae. He’s back into the Official World Golf Ranking top 10 and in a week when scoring should be possible with watered greens, he currently ranks on the PGA Tour 1st for Birdie Average,  1st for par-4 Birdie or Better Conversion and 2nd for Scoring Average.

I’m also a believer that players who were confident pre-Covid-19 suspension will hit the ground running in the resumption. So across my 8-week Strokes Gained trackers in this field which includes Round 1 at The Players, Webb sits 3rd for Approach, 12th for Tee to Green, 5th for Putting and 9th for SG Total – which is effectively Total Strokes Gained in the 8 tournaments leading up to the PGA Tour suspension.

At TPC Sawgrass his last competitive round was a  -5/67 and that excites at a Colonial venue where he finished 3rd in 2016 and co-led after 54 holes in 2017 before finishing 5th. Correlating course form across the likes of Waialae, Harbour Town, TPC Sawgrass, Sedgefield, and TPC Boston speaks volumes that Simpson is a horse for the course. 40% top-5 and 50% top-10 finishes on seasonal debut – 3rd (2012), 3rd (2014), 8th (2019) at Kapalua and 4th (2018) & 3rd (2020) at Waialae also signal a player who can hit the ground running after periods of competitive inactivity. RESULT: MC

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Matt Kuchar 1.5pts EW 50/1 (8EW, 1/5) with William Hill

Every winner here at Colonial since 2001 apart from Jordan Spieth (2016) has been in their 30s or 40s. On top of that, half of the winners here have been 37 or older. So 41 year-old Matt Kuchar, although not the sexiest of selections, is the sort I can back here quite easily. 11 visits to Colonial have gleaned 9th (2008), 16th (2011), 2nd (2013), 6th (2016) and 12th (2017) and when you tie his play around here all together he sits with an average score of 68.89 which ranks joint 4th for players who have played more than 3 renewals here. Safe to say that “Kooch” can play the tight confines here, very nicely.

To summarise, in Matt’s own words from 2016, “Oh, the course is fantastic, one of the best of the year. It requires all shots, requires you to work the ball both ways. One of my favourite events and weeks of the year is Hilton Head. Here is not too dissimilar. It’s tight, it’s tree-lined. If you hit it off line you can make some fun recovery shots, but driving the ball is just a crucial element of playing well here.”

10th (2005), 7th (2008), 1st (2014), 5th (2015), 9th (2016), 11th (2017) and 2nd (2019) at the RBC Heritage highlight that Matt also plays well at Hilton Head and his form in 2020 is hardly disastrous. 1st at the Singapore Open (-18/266) beating Justin Rose and Jazz Janewattananond was Kuchar’s 3rd global win in 14 months. He then popped up in mid-February with 2nd at Riviera Country Club at Tiger’s stacked Invitational-status event. The St Simons Island, Georgia resident can still mix it with the world’s best on the right shorter courses.

Across my 8-week Strokes Gained trackers in this field which includes Round 1 at The Players, Matt sits 10th for Around the Green, 21st for Putting and 12th for SG Total – which is effectively Total Strokes Gained in the 8 tournaments leading up to the PGA Tour suspension. Top 25 for Driving Accuracy and top 10 for Putts per GIR is also hugely attractive this week on a course where accuracy, patience and good putting ultimately triumph.

4 top-10s in his last 10 seasonal debuts highlight a player who’s ready to contend after prolonged gaps of inactivity and if extra motivation was needed then Kuchar is winless in Texas amongst 9 PGA Tour victories. But his ability in Texas is top notch with 19 top-10 finishes in the Lone Star state including really close calls with 2nd at Austin Country Club (2019), 2nd at the GC of Houston (2014), 3rd at TPC Las Colinas (2016) and 4th at TPC San Antonio (2014), over the years. RESULT: MC

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Harris English 1pt EW 66/1 (8EW, 1/5) with William Hill

Harris English is an obvious mid-priced pick, but I like his chances this week. 4 top-6 finishes in the 2019 part of this current season highlighted that he’s a player to watch and when the fields got deeper in 2020 his play continued to impress. 16th at TPC Scottsdale, 17th at PGA National and 9th at Bay Hill shows a level of new-found consistency and let’s not forget his opening -7/65 at the Players Championship pre PGA Tour suspension.

The deal with Harris has always been that he plays his better golf on tighter, shorter courses and Colonial fits the bill perfectly. 5th here on debut in 2012 and 2nd here in 2016 behind Jordan Spieth, Harris was also 29th and 20th across his past 2 visits here when playing some pretty inconsistent and dire at times stuff. The same can’t be said for the Sea Island, Georgia resident these days who’s up over 200 OWGR places this season already.

The 2-time PGA Tour winner (at short tests TPC Southwind and El Camaleon), who has critically straightened his driving sits, 13th for Greens in Regulation, 27th for SG on Approach, 4th for SG Around the Green, 10th for SG Tee to Green, 18th for SG Putting and 18th for SG Total across my last 8 tournament analysis. Those are strong numbers for a player who’s priced far longer than many players who aren’t playing anywhere as nicely. 4th in Texas last time he visited the Lone Star State at the 2019 Houston Open in October, I would not be surprised to see Harris near the top of the leaderboard this week. RESULT: MC

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Joel Dahmen 1pt EW 80/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Boylesports

Finally I’ll plump for Joel Dahmen who’s been garnering plenty of interest as of late. That’s understandable for a player who has finished 5th on his last 2 PGA Tour outings at Invitational-status events at Riviera Country Club and Arnold Palmer Invitational. Top-5 finishes against some of the best players in the world will always boost a player’s confidence and Dahmen has a habit of popping up on courses which correlate very nicely with Colonial Country Club. 9th at TPC Las Colinas (2017), 5th at Old White TPC (2018), 2nd at TPC Deere Run (2018), 8th at Glen Abbey (2018), 2nd at Quail Hollow (2019) and 6th at El Camaleon (2019), Joel has a liking for old-style, parkland golf courses in the main.

53rd for par-4 Birdie or Better Conversion and 17th for Proximity to Hole so far this season, Dahmen’s Strokes Gained numbers are also impressive: 24th for Off the Tee, 22nd for Approach and 11th for Tee to Green is elite-level stuff. Far more comfortable putting on Bentgrass-based putting surfaces, I’m guessing that Joel will be looking forward to a 3rd visit to Colonial where he finished 20th on course debut back in 2017. The Scottsdale, Arizona resident also has the small advantage of some recent competitive action in Covid-19 affected times. He played the Scottsdale AZ Open in mid-April, where he went off as a single-digit favourite at course where he had won previously. He may have disappointed win-only backers, but showed enough for me, as he was 2nd after 36 holes (54 hole tournament), eventually finishing 8th. RESULT: T19

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Charles Schwab Challenge Tips. Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 12:05 BST 8.6.20 but naturally subject to fluctuation.