What is up PGA family??? You guys don't know how just how much I've wanted to write those words! Golf is back, the PGA Tour is back, PGA DFS is back, the Milly Maker is back...and I'm overjoyed to be back with you for all of it!
The Charles Schwab Challenge will be the first official PGA Tour event since The Players Championship was cancelled after one round waaayyyy back in March. Our world has changed in some significant ways since then, but I'm so happy that the PGA Tour has tried to take the lead in getting sports back up and running in the United States. After months of stress, worry, and unrest, I look forward to getting back to something resembling normalcy. I also must advise - that while we're all PUMPED to have PGA DFS back - don't go dumping your entire bankroll this week, as there are a lot of variables at play that we simply don't know how to predict, and hopefully, a great stretch of tournaments left over the coming months. Let's dive in to the Charles Schwab Challenge.
Horse For The Course is an article that highlights players in this week's field with elite course history and is part of our free PGA content here at RotoBaller. For my favorite DFS plays of the week check out my Core Four article here at RotoBaller every Wednesday. It's part of our amazing PGA Premium package that includes an all-new PGA Research Station, Lineup Builder & Optimizer, and some of the best articles in the PGA DFS industry! You can sign up now using Promo Code: NICE for an extra discount at checkout!Editor's Note: Golf is back! Come join the fun and win big with RotoBaller. Get our full-season PGA and DFS Premium Pass for 50% off! Our exclusive DFS Lineup Optimizer, Research Station, DFS Projections and weekly DFS/betting articles! Sign Up Now!
Charles Schwab Challenge Overview
If there were any concerns that PGA Tour players might not want to rush back to competition, they should now be put to rest, as this Charles Schwab Challenge field is absolutely STACKED! The competitors that will be in attendance at Colonial make up one of the best fields for a "regular" PGA Tour event that I've ever seen.
I should make it clear...we are all guessing this week. I think there's an old quote about Hollywood that says nobody knows anything - and that feels like it applies nicely to this tournament. While I unquestionably feel like those of us in the PGA DFS industry are grinding our asses off to put forth our best educated guesses for our readers, this is still an unpredictable and unprecedented situation.
With all that said, I do feel like we are pretty fortunate that this first tournament back will be held at Colonial Country Club, a course where we have years of history and trends to reference. What are some things that jump out immediately? Veterans do extremely well at Colonial. The average age of the past five winners is 31.4 years old - that number is brought way down by including Jordan Spieth who won at the age of 22 in 2016 - and Spieth is the only player under the age of 30 to win this event in the past decade!
We can also determine that short hitters are on equal footing on this classic layout. Bombers can certainly compete at Colonial, but guys like Kevin Na, Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson, and Boo Weekley have emerged victorious here since 2010 and aren't at a huge disadvantage due to their lack of length like they are at numerous stops on the schedule. I'm (obviously) a bigger believer in course history than most, but I would encourage those of you that might normally give little or no weight to course history, to at least consider it this week under these extraordinary circumstances.
You can also find out who the smart money is on by checking out Spencer Aguiar's PGA DFS: Vegas Report every week. And be sure to read all of our other top-notch weekly PGA DFS articles to help you win big!
The Course: Colonial Country Club
Par 70 - 7,209 Yards, Greens: Bentgrass
This 1936 design was recognized as an instant classic. Since Colonial made its debut on the PGA Tour in 1946, the event has been played under many names, but the course has continued to endure as a mainstay on the schedule. The legendary Ben Hogan looms large as a presence at Colonial, as he won the event back-to-back not once, but twice. In the same vein as Hogan, we have seen the same players repeatedly perform well at the Forth Worth layout.
The tight fairways and multiple doglegs that are cut through the course's pecan trees make this layout difficult to overpower, with a premium being placed on a player's ball striking, shotmaking, and scrambling abilities. While distance is not something we ever want to totally dismiss, it does take something of a backseat in importance at Ben Hogan's old stomping grounds.
This classic layout has certainly favored the "ballstriking-fairways-and-greens-course-management" type of player historically, but we've also seen guys like Tony Finau, Brooks Koepka, and Jon Rahm record strong finishes at Colonial in recent years. So while golfers that are short off the tee will find themselves able to compete with the big hitters more on a classic layout like this, the bombers can't be totally discounted, which muddies the waters a bit when trying to narrow this strong field down to a certain "type" of player.
Recent Champions & Winning Scores
2019: Kevin Na (-13)
2018: Justin Rose (-20)
2017: Kevin Kisner (-10)
2016: Jordan Spieth (-17)
2015: Chris Kirk (-12)
Jordan Spieth (DraftKings - $8,000)
Notable Course History: T8 ('19), T32 ('18), T2 ('17), Win ('16), T2 ('15)
Whew boy...there always seems to be a lot to unpack when discussing Jordan Spieth. We all know the deal with Spieth - he started his career on fire, won multiple tournaments and majors, seemed destined to be an all-timer, etc. - who has been battling his swing for roughly the last 24 months. Battling it to the extent that it is sometimes almost weirdly painful to watch the former wonderboy play golf.
There have been some flashes - a string of three consecutive top-10 finishes around this time last year and a great ball striking week at Pebble Beach earlier this season - but if we’re being gentle, Spieth’s game can conservatively be labeled as wildly inconsistent over the last couple of years.
All that said, there are some things to like about the Texan in this spot. He’s historically played great at Colonial, logging a win and two runner-up finishes on the classic layout since 2015, including a T8 during a stretch of good play last year. He also leads this star-studded field in Strokes Gained: Total at Colonial since 2015 by a huge margin.
It can be debated which players this layoff will help or hurt, but it feels like the break should benefit a struggling player like Spieth - a guy who lost over five strokes in each of his last two 2020 starts - by giving him time to mentally reset, work on his game, and figure some things out with his swing. Obviously, this line of thinking requires something of a leap of faith...a theme that we’ll have to get comfortable with for this event.
He’s simply not the type of player you can bet the farm on anymore, but I will be keeping a close eye on Spieth’s ownership projections as we inch closer to Thursday - as he is certainly capable of being a key, high-upside piece in Milly Maker lineups - and I’ll definitely be in on him in GPPs if he isn’t trending toward heavy ownership.
Remember, we’re not trying to figure out if Spieth is all the way back here, we’re trying to envision a scenario in which he can play well this week, and that definitely seems doable for him at the friendly confines of Colonial. He’s popping up at around 50/1 at most sportsbooks and comes in at a reasonable $8k on DraftKings, which is certainly intriguing.
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Webb Simpson (DraftKings - $9,800)
Notable Course History: MC ('18), 5th ('17), T3 ('16)
I’m kinda embarrassed to admit how heavily I’ve leaned on Webb Simpson this season, but I’m in the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” camp when it comes to PGA DFS, so I’m firing up the Webber again here.
There’s obviously some big-time names available this week, but Simpson sticks out to me for a couple of reasons. He’s played really well at Colonial, logging top-five finishes in two of his last three starts on this layout. That success can be attributed to his natural fit for the course - he’s a short hitter that hits tons of fairways and greens, and possesses a tremendous short game both on and around the green.
It might be reaching a bit, but I also like the fact that Simpson has always been a player that takes extended breaks. It's not that unusual to see him go 3-5 weeks between starts a couple of times during the regular season. So while this length of layoff for the entire PGA Tour is not anything we've ever seen before, it feels like Simpson might be able to handle it better than most, as he's never been an "every week" type of player.
Rickie Fowler (DraftKings - $9,400)
Notable Course History: MC ('19), T14 ('18), T5 ('12)
I think we're all searching for any type of narrative to latch on to this week. While it might be pretty thin, Rickie Fowler is at least one of the few pros that we've actually seen play golf recently.
Fowler was a part of the TaylorMade charity match at Seminole a few weeks ago and looked to be the sharpest of bunch. We've also seen some video posted to social media of him teeing it up with Justin Thomas over the break, so while it's not exactly the strongest leg to stand on, we know that Rickie has at least been playing somewhat regularly, which is more than we know about the majority of the Schwab field.
Fowler's only teed it up at Colonial a couple times since 2015 - a missed cut last year and a T14 in 2018 - but earlier in his career this event was a regular part of his schedule. He notched a T5 here back in 2012 and there should be a very good familiarity with this layout.
Rickie was off to an inconsistent start to 2020, alternating missed cuts with strong outings. We can attribute that to some tinkering with his grip and equipment, though he did gain strokes on approach in each of his last three starts prior to the stoppage of play. That, coupled with his play during the break and experience at Colonial, is enough for me to feel encouraged about his outlook in this spot.
Matt Kuchar (DraftKings - $8,500)
Notable Course History: T32 ('18), T12 ('17), T6 ('16), 2nd ('13)
There are two types of people in this world - some will go to a restaurant and try something different almost every time, while some will order the same thing like clockwork for 20 years. I personally fall into the latter category, which is probably what sends me looking in Matt Kuchar's direction fairly often. He's kinda like a cheeseburger and fries - not really exciting to order, but you are very rarely disappointed when you get finished eating.
If we're looking for a type of player for the Schwab, Kuch falls smack dab into the mold...he's a veteran that's been in almost every situation you can think of, has lots of experience at Colonial, and plays the smart, conservative, fairways-and-greens type of golf that historically performs well on this layout.
It's hard to know just how much golf Kuchar has played during the break, but he's a veteran that knows how to prepare himself. He always screams "Cash Game Play", but his GPP ownership % was routinely less than 10% in each of the last four events before the PGA Tour halted play.
Kevin Na (DraftKings - $7,600)
Notable Course History: Win ('19), 4th ('18), T10 ('15)
I don’t usually include defending champions in this article - I find it kinda lazy and obvious (they won on this course last year...duh) - but I’m gonna make an exception here for Kevin Na.
Calling Na mercurial is an understatement. Sometimes it feels like the dude is 50/50 at best to even make it to the first tee for a tournament. The veteran has battled lots of mental demons over the years with his golf game, but one thing I’ve noticed about idiosyncratic-type guys like Na or Bubba Watson, is that they always seem to repeatedly perform well on tracks they like.
On a week where we’re dealing with tons of unknowns, and variables that we can’t calculate, I’m drawn to things we at least think we know...and thus a little more willing to take a walk down #NarrativeStreet than I usually am. Na has publicly stated that he feels confident at Colonial because it’s one of the few stops on the schedule where he feels he can truly compete with the bombers. He has been lights out here in the past and had gained strokes on approach in five of his last six starts prior to the PGA Tour’s stoppage.
If - and it is a legitimate concern - he doesn’t withdraw, I like his chances of playing well. Another thing to consider: Na won’t have to deal with 99% of the normal duties a defending champion would be required to perform due to the safety restrictions that will be in place at Colonial.
Harris English (DraftKings - $7,500)
Notable Course History: T20 ('18), T29 ('17), 2nd ('16)
With a layoff of over three months, it’s tough to give much weight to recent form, but the Harris English bandwagon is one I’ve been happily riding this season. After being in the weeds with his game for a while, English resurfaced in a big way during the fall season, racking up four top-six finishes in five starts at one point. After a couple of middling outings in California, he ran off three straight top-20 finishes before the season was halted.
So...while I’m not going to give too much consideration to recent form, it is something I have in the back of my mind as I evaluate English’s very solid course history at Colonial. He’s hasn't finished worse than tied for 29th in three starts since 2015 and scored a runner-up finish in 2016.
English also fits into the “mold” that we’re looking for this week: a 30-year-old veteran that’s had some success both on the PGA Tour and at Colonial, and has a very solid overall game that grades out sixth - in this stacked field - in Strokes Gained: Total over a long-term 50 round measurement. He’s a solid DraftKings value at just $7,500.
Danny Lee (DraftKings - $7,200)
Notable Course History: T48 ('19), T14 ('18), 6th ('17), T22 ('16), T10 ('15)
A pure course history play here, as Danny Lee routinely activates Beast Mode at Colonial. He's made five consecutive cuts in Fort Worth since 2015, with two top-10s mixed in for good measure.
Lee is a player who's whole career has been plagued by inconsistency. Just this year he's went: MC-WD-T25-MC-T47-T5! However, with that volatility comes some sneaky upside and in 12 2019-20 starts, Lee has almost as many top-10s (3) as missed cuts (4).
That's the type of game log that sends you running in the other direction when it comes to cash-game formats, but in order to make a run in a huge GPP like the Milly Maker, we must be willing to embrace some volatility. Rostering Lee might cause you to lose a little sleep at night, but he's also the type of player that can lead you to huge wins when he comes through. On a week when we're being forced to guess more than we normally would, Lee's a boom-or-bust player with flashes of recent form and airtight course history that could pay huge dividends in large tournaments.