What a week at the second major of the year.
Brooks Koepka nearly looked like “King of the World” and golf’s biggest choke artist in the same tournament. With a seven-stroke lead after three rounds, I thought the only scenario that could make things interesting, would be that Dustin goes three or four under to put pressure on Brooks and he comes back a couple of shots.
The way Koepka was playing I didn’t think it would actually happen. It did after fifteen holes (four straight bogeys) Koepka’s lead was down to one over DJ (three under at the time). We had a battle on our hands even after Koepka had dominated the field for three days.
DJ went on to bogey the sixteenth and seventeenth holes which gave Koepka enough breathing room to stumble in with another bogey and two pars. It was enough to win his fourth major. With four wins in his last eight major starts, the comparisons with early Tiger will start to be heard. Only time will tell but I believe it will be an unfair comparison for Koepka. He will likely never reach the number of major titles Tiger has, not because he isn’t as talented, but because the competition is much tougher in this era of golf (my opinion which can certainly be debated and will likely be a future article).
On to the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, TX. This is one of the longest running and most iconic stops on tour, Colonial Country Club. Some key course aspects per @SmartGolfBets; heavily bunkered, parklands, shotmakers track, greens are small and firm, accuracy critical, long driving not especially useful, nasty rough, water on 6-7 holes, and almost always windy. As talked about two weeks ago at the Byron Nelson “wind specialists” is something to take into consideration when playing in Texas.
Aside from the categories that are looked at in this article, it is always a good idea to look at players that do well in certain conditions and other courses that are comparable to the one being played this week.
As I will mention each week, there are a couple of different ways to look at who might contend at a tournament in any given week. The most popular is a current form (recent strong finishes in tournaments), statistics (generally a combination of important Strokes Gained data), and course history (play well at a particular course). Truly, some combination of these three would be the best way to determine contenders. In the end, however, we never truly know, we are just trying to make educated guesses.
I want to give a few golfers from each of these main categories that could contend at this year’s Charles Schwab Challenge. First off we will look at five golfers that have current form. This will be based solely on their recent performance in the last six tournaments on the tour schedule (although they could show up in other categories as well).
Rickie Fowler (14/1): In the last six weeks he has played four times with finishes of; T36 (PGA), T4 (Wells Fargo), T9 (Masters), and T17 (Valero). Fowler is 6th in my stats data. It’s not a major so Rickie can win it. Expect him to make a run at it this week.
Rory Sabbatini (40/1): In the last six weeks he has played four times with finishes of; T5 (Byron Nelson), T18 (Wells Fargo), T10 (Heritage), and T36 (Valero). Sabbatini is 19th in my stats data. Don’t see a chance to win this but I do see a top 10 being very achievable in this field.
Scott Piercy (50/1): In the last six weeks he has played three times with finishes of; T41 (PGA), T2 (Byron Nelson), and T3 (Heritage). Piercy is 7th in my stats data. If he hits fairways this week he could be in one of the last couple pairings come Sunday.
Jordan Spieth (12/1): In the last six weeks he has played five times with finishes of; T3 (PGA), T29 (Byron Nelson), T54 (Heritage), T21 (Masters), and T30 (Valero). Spieth is 63rd in my stats data. I normally don’t look outside the top 30 in stats data when it comes time to put money down but this would be one of the weeks to do it and this is the guy to look at.
Kevin Streelman (100/1): In the last six weeks he has played three times with finishes of; T45 (Wells Fargo), T6 (Heritage), and T6 (Valero). Streelman is 17th in my stats data. Certainly, top 20 potential for him this week. Doesn’t do anything great but doesn’t do anything terrible either.
Chez Reavie (60/1): In the last six weeks he has played three times with finishes of; T14 (PGA), T18 (Wells Fargo), and T28 (Heritage). Reavie is 20th in my stats data. At a track where accuracy is key and the distance doesn’t really matter, Reavie is your guy. He could go as high as a top 5 this week with an outside shot at winning.
Next is a list of five players with strong statistical data. These players come from a ranking list which is determined by weighted Strokes Gained stats. Those stats include SG: Ball-striking, SG: Approach, SG: Tee to Green, Birdies or Better (BoB), Bogey Avoidance, and Greens in Regulation (GIR). There are a few other ancillary stats thrown in and they are weighted from a couple of different timeframes as well. Rankings are looked at and weighted over the player’s last 12 rounds and last 50 rounds. I use Fantasy National to help easily choose stats that are relevant and rank players.
Paul Casey (28/1): As long as he isn’t leading after 54 holes then he can win. Casey is a chaser, he chokes when he has the lead. He is as talented as the players on the top of the board when he is on. This would be a good week to get a discount on a great player.
Justin Rose (11/1): In this field, he is easily the top player. The problem is he hasn’t been on the top of his game of late. He could still be in contention without his A game but if the driver goes wayward it will be a long week.
Corey Connors (80/1): He will find fairways and hit greens. Can he putt just the field average for one week? Typically, the answer is no but if he finds a warm putter this week he will be in contention for a win.
Byeong Hun An (80/1): He has been atop the stats lists all season. The problem here is that he doesn’t hit enough fairways and he certainly doesn’t have a putter that can save him. Unless he can hit more fairways this week An could struggle to make the cut, even in the small field.
Jason Kokrak (45/1): Here is another statistical monster. Kokrak is a little more controlled off the tee than An is but he can go astray at times. If he can stick to fairways his ball-striking is superb and should give him plenty of looks at birdie. Kokrak could be looking at a top 20, with a hot putter he may have a shot at winning.
Lastly, here are five golfers with a strong history at Colonial CC.
Jordan Spieth (12/1): In his last five years he has finishes of; T32 (2018), T2 (2017), 1st (2016), T2 (2015), and T14 (2014). Spieth is 63rd in my stats data. The Texas boy has been improving his game steadily. His time to win is very close.
Danny Lee (100/1): In his last five years he has finishes of; T14 (2018), T6 (2017), T22 (2016), T10 (2015), and T38 (2014). Lee is 28th in my stats data. Lee has been sneaky good of late. Looking for him to make the cut and possibly have a run to the top 20.
Kevin Kisner (35/1): In his last five years he has finishes of; T52 (2018), 1st (2017), T10 (2016), T5 (2015), and MC (2014). Kisner is 50th in my stats data. If you believe in course history than you have to take a shot with this guy. Other than that his stats say he is heading in the wrong direction.
Brian Harman (110/1): In his last five years he has finishes of; T14 (2018), T7 (2017), T25 (2016), T10 (2015), and T30 (2014). Harman is 118th in my stats data. Four missed cuts in his last five events. Course history and extremely low ownership in DFS would be the only reasons to look his way.
Jon Rahm (12/1): He only has two starts here with finishes of; T5 (2018) and T2 (2017). Rahm is 8th in my stats data. The bright lights are off so I’m sure he will be in contention. For as much as I give him a hard time, Rahm could very well win this tournament.
Brandt Snedeker (50/1): In his last five years he has finishes of; T42 (2018), T48 (2017), T17 (2016), T2 (2015), and T45 (2014). Snedeker is 63rd in my stats data. Fairways and greens for this guy. This is the type of course built for Snedeker, where accuracy beats distance. He is coming off a T16 at Bethpage Black, one of the longest courses on the PGA tour. Look for him to be on the last page of the leaderboard on Sunday.
As I will say each week, there are certainly many other golfers to consider for contention in this tournament. This gives you a quick glance at some guys that could be in contention come Sunday based on particular information. Once again, the best method to narrow things down would be to take a combination of factors into consideration. There are many in the golf betting/fantasy community that look very strongly at one of these methods over any others. Some that discount a method, or two, completely (there is always a debate as to whether course history is really a thing).
This is one of those fun weeks where the winner could come from anywhere and some golfers that aren’t household names can have a great week. The fact that the course rewards accuracy over distance brings even more players into the fold. Look for those golfers that will pound the fairway, hit greens, and have the patience to play the wind.
At the top of the board, I will be looking at Spieth and Casey. What better way for Spieth to announce he is all the way back than to get a win in Texas. Give me Casey behind by two or three strokes going into Sunday. The middle of the pack has a ton to offer but I will be focused on Snedeker and Piercy. Both of these players are trending nicely and have the game to win here. As long shots I like Streelman and Lee. Neither of them necessarily to win but to make a run for top 10 or top 20 finishes. The golfer not on any of these lists that I will be on is Joel Dahmen (60/1). He keeps the ball in the fairway, strikes the ball excellent, and putts well. Fields like this, that aren’t terribly deep with big names, is where Dahmen will likely grab a win. Best of Luck!