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Posted Wednesday, May 24 at 12:00 PM EST. Odds subject to change.
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The Charles Schwab Challenge
Any hopes of a birdie-heavy jolly this week after such a tough assignment at Oak Hill can be quickly kicked to the curb at Colonial Country Club. Although it’s been around for the best part of a century, Colonial remains a decent test for even the best players, with narrow fairways and some dense tree-lines rewarding those who opt for a strategy-first mindset over a bombs away one. The tightness of the layout – and some considerable doglegs – lend themselves to missed fairways and greens, while some 84 bunkers will gobble up any shots straying off-line from tee to green.
With only two Par 5s in its Par 70 (7,204 yards), the field will have to take advantage of that pair of longer holes – they were just two of the four holes on the entire layout to average under par in 2022. There’s a trio of holes from three through to five known as the ‘Horrible Horseshoe’, although it’s four and five in particular that cause the players the most headaches. The fourth hole is a 247-yard Par 3, while the fifth is a demanding 481-yard Par 4 that provides a stern test of ball-striking. Both had a birdie-to-bogey ratio of around 1:3 last year.
What We’re Looking For:
It’s amazing to think that Sam Burns found just 54% of fairways and 65% of greens in regulation 12 months ago, and yet ranked sixth and 12th respectively for strokes gained off the tee and on approach respectively. That shows the importance of hitting quality irons and wedges out of the rough and scrambling appropriately, because these greens are on the small side and do tend to run firm and fast when the weather conditions allow for that.
In the recent past, the likes of Chris Kirk and Kevin Na have won this event, but then you have Burns and Jordan Spieth in the winner’s circle as well – neat and tidy and bomb and gouge have both worked at Colonial.
The Par 4s are key to success in this event, and so quality approach shots in the 150-175 yard range are vital – although it was notable from last year’s leaderboard how many quality operators within 100 yards of the flag also thrived, perhaps as a result of the low GIR count. There’s some continuity from the PGA Championship with speedy Bentgrass greens, but with the emphasis on tee-to-green play at Colonial that is likely to be where the edge is found. Visually, TPC Potomac and TPC Southwind are similar courses in style to Colonial, but how about this for a correlation: Burns is a two-time winner of the Valspar Championship, where he once downed Davis Riley (he was T4 in the Charles Schwab last year). Spieth has won at Colonial and Innisbrook, while Charles Schwab champions Jason Kokrak and Kevin Na have finished runners-up in the Valspar too.
To Win Outright:
Stephan Jaeger 66-1
Without setting the world alight, Stephan Jaeger is playing some outstanding golf right now. A Sunday 76 saw him slip down to T50 in the PGA Championship, but prior to that he’s compiled a run that reads T11 at the Byron Nelson, T18 at the Mexico Open and T27 at both the Wells Fargo and Valspar – that’s a solid profile indeed. A player that ranks 23rd on TOUR for Scoring Average and 25th for SG: Tee-to-Green should enjoy the technical test set by Colonial very much; Jaeger’s ball-striking should prove to be an edge-maker in the field this week. He also ranks 10th ON TOUR in Greens in Regulation. (Risking 0.2 units to win 13.2 units).
Hayden Buckley 90-1
The good times continue for Hayden Buckley, whose off-the-tee and approach stats in recent times have been elite. He used that as a springboard for top-10 finishes at the RBC Heritage and Texas Open, while a better turn with the putter at the PGA Championship secured him a T26 turn. Although his short game isn’t the greatest, Buckley knows how to put a score together – he ranks 22nd on TOUR this season for Scoring Average, and so he can continue his fine recent form at Colonial. He also ranks 8th ON TOUR in Total Driving and 34th in SG: Tee-to-Green (Risking 0.2 units to win 18).
Sam Stevens 115-1
Why not Sam Stevens? In his rookie year on the PGA TOUR, Sam Stevens has already twice knocked on the door of victory at the Corales Puntacana and Texas Open, and now he has performed admirably in a major too. Stevens opened up 71-72 at the PGA Championship, and while he fell away after such an impressive start there’s still plenty of positives to be taken. He hits the ball so far that he won’t be inconvenienced too much by clubbing down off the tee at Colonial when required, and his approach play in that typical 150-200 yard Par 4 range is certainly good enough to set up birdie looks. Born in Fort Worth, how many times do you think that Stevens has played at Colonial Country Club already? Probably a boatload. (Risking 0.2 units to win 23 units).
Akshay Bhatia 180-1
We have been behind Akshay Bhatia a number of times this season, and continue to be impressed by his ability to greatly outperform his price. Dude is close. Solo fourth at the Mexico Open and T43 at the Wells Fargo are evidence of that, and so good is Bhatia’s ball-striking that he offers an opportunity that’s too good to miss at this price point. It’s very rare to be able to back players near 200-1 that have a genuine chance of winning a tournament, so we have to take that opportunity with Bhatia when available. You might want to bet on him to finish Top-5 or Top-10 also. He ranks 11th ON TOUR in SG: Approach, 17th ON TOUR in Scoring Average and 19th in Total Driving (Risking 0.2 units to win 36 units).
For Fantasy Players or perhaps someone else you want to wager on for H2H or for anything else.
Denny McCarthy 60-1
The key sign that Denny McCarthy is in form comes when he starts linking together high finishes on leaderboards that haven’t solely been inspired by his elite putting ability. At the PGA Championship, he gained +1.14 strokes on the field on approach, and in elite company at a layout that doesn’t necessarily suit his game that’s eye-catching. Similar green numbers with irons and wedges were delivered in top-20 finishes at the PLAYERS and Valspar Championship, so McCarthy is hitting the heights without banking on his flat stick. That’s good news indeed ahead of this Colonial assignment.
Tom Hoge 60-1
When we talk about quality approach play, Tom Hoge hits the spot from many different yardage buckets. That led him to a fine 2022-23 season up until the start of spring, and while the wheels came off a bit after a T3 at the PLAYERS Championship, Hoge has since righted the ship with a solid T58 at the PGA Championship where he gained a mammoth +1.28 strokes on the field with iron and wedge. At home hitting out of the fairway or rough, Hoge runs nicely for many key stats and scoring metrics this week. A test of technical skill should be right up his street.
K.H. Lee 66-1
When you load up K.H. Lee’s recent strokes gained data, it’s a sea of green off the tee and on approach. That’s a fantastic sign, as is the fact he gained +1.01 strokes on the field putting on the slick Bentgrass greens of Oak Hill last week. The Korean has those converging trends we love, but a surprisingly weak record at Colonial – however, he brings form and is reliably good from inside 100 yards, so this is a Texan track that should hold no fear for him.
Brendon Todd 80-1
The likes of Kevin Kisner and Kevin Na have won at Colonial in the past, so assumptions about keeping your ball in play and finding the right angles into the greens hold some weight. Brendon Todd is perhaps as good as anyone at keeping his ball on a string, and his lack of length will not be exposed as much at a venue where there’s just two Par 5s and only three of the Par 4s are 450+ yards. You never get a true read of Todd’s form because there are some courses that he simply cannot compete at, but T8 at the Wells Fargo Championship earlier in May is a handy guide.
Alex Smalley 80-1
T18 at the Wells Fargo, T23 at the PGA Championship, with a combined +2.05 strokes gained on the field on approach – that’s handy form from Alex Smalley. That brought an end to a wretched run of missed cuts and acted as a timely reminder of Smalley’s talents, who continues to rank inside the top-50 on TOUR for SG: Tee-to-Green. He’s a curious animal who ranks higher for proximity from the rough than he does the fairway, so Smalley won’t be too perturbed by the claustrophobic conditions at Colonial – confirmed by a debut T27 here 12 months ago.
Charles Schwab Challenge (Risking 1 units - To Win: 0.00)