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Culp's Corner

Charles Schwab Challenge Preview

by Josh Culp
Updated On: May 20, 2019, 12:23 pm ET

After a Brooks Koepka romping at Bethpage, it's time for a cooldown week. 

The TOUR heads back to Texas (Fort Worth) for a showdown with Colonial Country Club. 

The field is invite-only so it's limited to just 122 golfers this week. With normal cut-line rules of Top 70 and ties, a higher percentage of golfers will be playing all four rounds this week, compared to some of the recent events which have been pushed to the max with 156-man fields. 

The Course

Colonial Country Club is the host venue this week. It's been this event since the inaugural 1946 edition. Plenty of course history to lean on this week. 

The course is a par 70 that plays right around 7,200 yards. Pretty average in terms of length compared to other PGA TOUR layouts. It becomes shorter when you consider the turf conditions we usually see in Fort Worth. 

Off the tee, it's all about position at this classical, tree-lined design. With the firm Texas soil, it becomes more attractive to club down and play for position on your second shot. There will be exceptions, Jon Rahm most notably, who takes driver whenever possible in attempt to cut off a lot of extra yardage. In general, we are looking at a second-shot course where power is somewhat muted. 

For scoring conditions, this event has yielded the lowest Eagle Rate on the PGA TOUR since 2014.  It's also in the harder half of the spectrum when it comes to birdie rate. Luckily, it's only middle of the pack when it comes to golfers swallowing bogeys or worse. What does that leave us? A LOT of PARS. When conditions allow it, though, scores can get really juicy here. Six golfers share the course record of 9-under 61 and three of the last eight First-Round Leaders have posted at 8-under 62. 

Weather plays a big role in defending the course. Last year we saw uncharacteristically calm conditions the entire week but since 2014 we've seen average wind speeds of roughly 15 MPH at this event which sits at #6 windiest on TOUR over that time. I wouldn't expect any new course records this week. More on that in the weather section. 

What stats tend to matter here? Well, it's one of the rare weeks where driving accuracy does become important. Looking at top-10 finishers across all TOUR events, just 53% of them enter with positive form in driving accuracy. Here at Colonial, that number sits around 71% of top-10 finishers, since 2013.

Not surprisingly, we see the opposite interaction in terms of distance. Just 44% of top-10 finishers at Colonial have entered with driving distance greater than the field average over their last 5 lead-in starts. That number sits around 60% when looking at all PGA TOUR events. The studs will find a way to adapt to any course but if you are looking for sleepers this week, precision is probably the best place to start. 

For grasses, we have bermuda from tee-to-green but bentgrass on putting surfaces. The club was founded in 1936 by Marvin Leonard who was reportedly determined to bring bentgrass to the Southwest. He accomplished his goal. 


Course Quotes

Sifting through some past quotes over at the Fantasy Golfanac, let's try to break down the course to see how it will play.

Kevin Kisner: "It’s tight, first of all, so off the tee it’s very advantageous to be in the fairway.

Not overly long, which is the new trend on tour. It’s more of a position golf course. Get it in the fairway and then you don’t have very much club into a lot of the greens.

There are about three or four holes that you really just need to make par and move on, and then you can attack the rest.

Obviously you can tell by the scores on the wall it all depends on the wind. I think I was 12-under last year, or 10-under, and there has been as much as 22 or 24 win the tournament."

Zach Johnson: "I think first of all it requires patience more than anything. You can get after every hole, especially if the wind is benign. I think more than anything what it requires is keeping the golf course in front of you. You got to play the hole backwards.

It is one where the fairways are a premium; the rough can be difficult, especially from a control standpoint.

And then when the greens get firm, which is occasionally, this place can be pretty trying."

Webb Simpson: "It seems like most holes you have the option of hitting driver or as short as a 4-iron off the tee.

Greens are small so you have to be really accurate with your approach shots. Bent greens that are undulating. They’re not super quick but they’re not slow, so it’s that perfect speed to make a lot of putts."

Jon Rahm"It’s an old-school golf course and I believe old traditional golf courses give any kind of player a chance to win it.

So there are so many different ways of playing it. You can play it like I do and hit drivers all over the place and be aggressive. You can play it more conservative. Hit irons, make sure you hit fairways. There are just many ways to do two.

At the end of the day, you need to hit greens on this golf course. You need to be able to hit the greens and not be out of position too much."

Matt Kuchar: "It requires all shots, requires you to work the ball both ways. One of my favorite 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."

Overview: Hitting fairways and having patience. It's a plodder's course by nature but as Jon Rahm suggests, it does give you the option to attack it if you are feeling confident with the driver and want to take on a little risk of swallowing the big numbers. Kuchar brings up the comp to Hilton Head (Harbour Town). Will that show up in the correlated section below? 


Correlated Courses

Looking at grass types, geography, course attributes, and past performance, here are a few courses/events that I think could prove to be a good pointer this week: 

TPC Boston (Playoff Event)
Harbour Town (RBC Heritage)
Pebble Beach (Pebble Beach Pro-Am)
Sedgefield CC (Wyndham)
TPC Deere Run (John Deere Classic)
Silverado Resort and Spa (Safeway Open)

Short and tree-lined are the common themes here. Not all apply but that's the main idea. A lot of golfers draw the comparison to Harbour Town since it's so tight and tree-lined while also featuring small greens as targets. That grades out in the data, as well. 


The Weather

Thursday: Tiny chance of rain (10%). Partly sunng with a high near 90 degrees. Winds at 15-to-20 MPH with gusts up to 25 MPH. 

Friday: Partly sunny with a high near 88 degrees. Winds around 15 MPH with gusts up to 20 MPH. 

Weekend: Winds stay in the mid-teens with gusts in the low-20s. Should stay dry. 

We saw winds under 11 mph in all four rounds last year which helps explain 20-under as the winning score. That won't be the case this week as early wind forecasts call for mid-teens all week with gusts up into the 20s. This is the Colonial that we so often see. Keep a close eye on the wind specifics as there may be an option to target one wave over the other on Thursday/Friday. 

Josh Culp

Josh Culp joined NBC Sports Edge in 2014. The DFS enthusiast from Iowa State can be found on Twitter @futureoffantasy.