Pat Mayo and Geoff Fienberg preview the course and run through the odds while making their 2021 Charles Schwab Challenge Picks. The guys give their fantasy golf picks, provide their one and done strategy for the event from Colonial CC. Plus, the guys recap the 2021 PGA Championship.
2021 Charles Schwab Challenge: Field
121 Players | Top 65 & Ties Make The Cut
First Tee: Thursday, May 27
Defending Champion: Daniel Berger
We’re just short of a full calendar year since golf returned from its COVID hiatus, but we have made it to the course where the Tour first came back. Not quite the same field in 2021, however. Last year, every player was itching to get back on the links and, in turn, the Charles Schwab Challenge saw its strongest field in tournament history. This is saying a lot considering Colonial CC has been the host venue since 1946. That officially makes it a Baby Boomer.
While the 2021 Charles Schwab Challenge, or any future Charles Schwab Challenge for that matter, will likely never reach 2020 field strength heights again, the event apparently did enough to entice a decent collection of those names to double down this year. On paper, after 2020, the 2021 trek to Fort Worth may be the second strongest incarnation of the event.
After last year’s expansion to 156 players to accommodate the demand for golf’s comeback event, the field has returned to its regular 121 invitees. The Top 65 and ties will make the cut, which means over half the field will be playing the weekend at Colonial. Barring a disaster for a couple of the big names, expect the Charles Schwab Challenge to have the highest six-of-six percentage on DraftKings in some time.
World No. 2 Justin Thomas headlines the field, along with reigning champ Daniel Berger, Collin Morikawa, Tony Finau, Patrick Reed, Abraham Ancer, Will Zalatoris, Louis Oosthuizen, Joaquin Niemann, Corey Conners, Scottie Scheffler, Sungjae Im, Jason Kokrak, Lee Westwood, Si WOOOO Kim, Matt Wallace, Justin Rose, Kevin Na, Billy Horschel, Chris Kirk, Kevin Streelman, Branden Grace, Sergio Garcia, Gary Woodland, Colonial member Ryan Palmer and some local kid named Jordan Spieth.
Oh, this is also another event to lose money on Doug Ghim. So that’s always exciting.
2021 Charles Schwab Challenge: Key Stats
Strokes Gained: Approach
Par 4s Gained: 350-400 Yards
Proximity 100-125 Yards
Mayo’s Key Stats powered by FantasyNational.com
2021 Charles Schwab Challenge: Course
Course: Colonial CC
2021 Charles Schwab Challenge: Past Winners
2020: Daniel Berger -15
2019: Kevin Na -13
2018: Justin Rose -20
2017: Kevin Kisner -10
2016: Jordan Spieth -17
2015: Chris Kirk -12
2021 Charles Schwab Challenge: Notes
Unlike a year ago, the fan grandstands will be back on the course in 2021, so some angles may not be available this time around. Some bombers found hacks across the course by cutting dog legs over trees with nothing else on the grounds, and it remains to be seen if those shots are available to the field again.
With its classical design, Colonial is one of the regular PGA TOUR courses where all skill sets appear to have an equal opportunity to win. It’s akin to Harbour Town (Heritage), TPC Sawgrass (THE PLAYERS), Sedgefield (Wyndham), East Lake (TOUR Championship) and Waialae (Sony Open) in that way. Distance will always play a significant advantage, but it’s mitigated at Colonial.
At a course playing just a hair over 7,200 yards, strategy from the tee will prove to be far more important. Because, really, that’s a fake 7,200 — the course stacks length in its par 3s (all four at least 190 yards) and a three-shot, 635-yard par 5. It’s like the bizarro Riviera. Take out those five holes, and the field is left with nine par 4s measuring less than 445 yards. Regardless of driving distance numbers, those holes are scoreable for everyone. Of those nine, seven of them come in at 430 yards or less, and five of which annually play under par. Looking at past leaderboards, the top five finishers almost exclusively share the trait of gaining a little off the tee, slightly less around the greens and a WHOLE LOT on approach and putting. You’d think with below-average-sized greens, that chipping would play a major factor. That just doesn’t materialize at the top of the leaderboard, though. While a few well-timed up and downs will be critical, a great week from off the green means you’re simply not generating enough birdie tries to actually contend. Pin stalk with short irons, make putts, hoist a novelty check on Sunday.
Additionally, it’s worth noting very few eagles are made at Colonial. Hole No. 1 is really the only plausible eagle hole (outside of random approaches finding the bottom of the cup from 115 yards out). Even though it’s reachable to some in two shots, No. 1 still hovers around a 2% eagle rate historically. General DraftKings strategy points to distance as it typically leads to more eagle opportunities, which are worth eight DKFP as opposed to three, but past results show that isn’t the case at Colonial. That’s why there’s an over-emphasis on the 100-125 proximity range. While it may not be applicable to every player in the field for their approaches, with a good drive, that is the range where the pins will be most accessible on the scoring holes. Ditto at the longer par 5 (No. 11) for most of the field.
So if there aren’t many eagle bonuses to rely on in the DraftKings game, there is an exploitable single-day DraftKings Showdown contest trick to make work to your advantage. While it may not always come to fruition, players starting on the back nine for their rounds will have a much greater chance of getting the birdie streak bonus versus their counterparts beginning their rounds on hole No. 1.
Colonial opens with a par 5 and a short par 4 that are the two easiest holes on the course. Expect birdies. Over the past five years, the field has made birdie or better on Hole 1 a total of 47% of the time and 27% of the time on Hole 2. Hole 3? Well, that’s where the Horrible Horseshoe begins, home to three of the four tougher holes on the course. That should have been deduced from the nickname — you’d be surprised how little the simple stretches of golf courses get nicknames. With an 11% birdie rate, No. 3 is just very difficult to keep a birdie streak alive. Doable, just unlikely.
The back-nine starters have far more runway to achieve that birdie streak. If a golfer starts on Hole 10, they get the runway of Holes 17 and 18 leading into the simple opening stretch. Holes 17 and 18 have around a 20% birdie or better rate. Doesn’t seem like much, but the three-hole birdie streak points in DraftKings Showdown contests are the likely separator between first and not so much money. Take any tiny edge when you’re dealing in fractional points.
2021 Charles Schwab Challenge Picks
Corey Conners ($9,400)
Maybe Conners missed his opportunity. After gaining strokes on the greens in five consecutive events, (besting his previous career-best streak of two, BTW), he’s been back in the negatives in three straight. Only Wells Fargo was an abject disaster (-4.4), but at an event where it’s nary impossible to complete without being firmly in the positives putting, it’s not encouraging to see that number drop. Still, the ball striking is elite on TOUR, and he ranks Top 10 in the field from both key proximity ranges over the past 36 rounds. Because of that, he doesn’t need to lap the field on the greens, he merely needs to be good. And he’s shown enough life in the flat stick over the past two months to make that outcome possible.
Maverick McNealy ($6,900)
It’s bizarre targeting a player who misses so many cuts and rarely gains with his approaches at a course where that’s a necessity. So let’s go with a hunch over the stats with Mav. Almost all of his best finishes come at a combination of short courses, very old courses, courses with smallish greens or all three. And the glorious part about McNealy is when he pops, it’s near the top of the leaderboard. So far in 2021, he’s made only four of 10 cuts, but produced two top-four finishes. And, as mentioned, the approach numbers aren’t encouraging, but in two career starts at Colonial, he’s beat the field with his irons both times and advanced to the weekend in each try.
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Pat Mayo is an award-winning video host and producer of long and short-form content, and the host of The Pat Mayo Experience daily talk show. (Subscribe for video or audio). Mayo (@ThePME) won the 2020 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and Golf Writer of the Year awards, along with the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Best Sports Betting Analyst award, and was a finalist for four FSWA Awards in 2020 (Best Podcast, Best Video, Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year). His 21 FSWA nominations lead all writers this decade and are third-most all-time. Mayo has been recognized across multiple sports (Football, Baseball & Golf), mediums (Video, Writing & Podcasting), genre (Humor), and game formats (Daily Fantasy and Traditions Season Long). Beyond sports, Mayo covers everything from entertainment to pop culture to politics. If you have a fantasy question, general inquiry or snarky comment, ship it to Mayo at ThePatMayoExperience@gmail.com and the best will be addressed on the show.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is ThePME) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.
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