Following Phil Mickelson’s return to glory at the Ocean Course, claiming the sixth major title of his career and also becoming the oldest player ever to win a major championship, the 2021 PGA TOUR season continues this week with the Charles Schwab Challenge. This event has taken on many different sponsors and names throughout its time on the PGA TOUR calendar, but one thing that has never changed about this tournament is its venue. Since its inception in 1946, Colonial Country Club (par 70, 7,209 yards) in Fort Worth, Texas has been the lone home of this event. Last year’s edition of the Charles Schwab came down to a dramatic playoff between Daniel Berger and Collin Morikawa. The latter lipped out a short par putt to extend the playoff to another hole, sealing the fourth PGA TOUR win of Berger’s career.
Without question, strong iron play is the most important skill needed at Colonial. For the week, Morikawa and Berger ranked third and fifth in SG APP, respectively. In fact, Berger was the third straight Charles Schwab champion to finish the week inside the top-five in SG APP, clearly showing us that Colonial is a prime example of a second-shot course. Being long simply isn’t necessary this week, and we should see most players hit less than driver off the tee to improve their accuracy. As a par 70, Colonial is home to 12 par fours and only two par fives. Naturally, this makes par four efficiency a crucial stat to climb the leaderboard. Berger ranked third in SG on par fours a year ago, and was the fifth consecutive winner at this course to finish the week in the top-three for the stat.
In addition to elite work with your irons and on the par fours, the final ingredient to the recipe for success at Colonial comes on the Bentgrass greens. Five of the last six golfers to take home the big check in Fort Worth have ranked T7 or better in SGP during their victories. Gaining strokes with your flat stick is needed to win any golf tournament, but this is one of the rare weeks that we need to put a heavier weight on putting stats.
Last year, the Charles Schwab Challenge marked the return of PGA TOUR golf, after the season was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This resulted in a major-like field at Colonial, and while a year later the group of golfers competing has seen a dip in talent, this is still a very solid field we get to attack this week. Headlined by world No. 2 Justin Thomas and Texas native Jordan Spieth, 11 of the top-30 ranked players in the world are making the trip to the Lone Star State for the 2021 Charles Schwab. In total, there are 121 players in attendance and after the slight cut change at the PGA Championship, we get back to the standard top-65 and ties moving onto the weekend following the first two rounds this week. A higher percentage of the field will be making the cut than usual, and below I have featured four of my favorite value plays to utilize on DraftKings for the Charles Schwab Challenge.
Joel Dahmen, $7,400
Dahmen owns a pair of top-20s at Colonial Country Club, and now heads back to the venue in awesome form as a ball striker. Over his last two starts, which were at the PGA Championship and the Wells Fargo, Dahmen has produced 6.3 ST2G and 4.7 SG APP. His T55 at the Ocean Course last weekend extended his cut streak to four in a row, which is a run that began with a win at the Corales Puntacana Championship at the end of March.
Dahmen gained 2.2 strokes on the greens at Colonial last season, and if he can have another positive showing with his putter this time around, the 33-year-old has real top-10 upside.
Matthew NeSmith, $7,300
NeSmith has been very consistent, advancing to the weekend at nine of his last 11 events. During this stretch, he has gained strokes on approach in 10 of these 11 starts. Statistically, Bentgrass has been NeSmith’s top putting surface so far during his PGA TOUR career, and the last time he competed on this type of grass, the 27-year-old turned in a T8 finish at the Shriners Open.
In his Colonial debut last year, NeSmith carded a respectable T49 finish, and at the minimum, he should return value with four rounds of golf in his second attempt at the venue this week.
Russell Knox, $7,300
Knox has flourished over the last few weeks, finishing T21, T18 and T39 in that order. Over this stretch, his ball striking has been outstanding, ranking 11th in SG APP, 11th in SGT2G and 5th in GIR, while also ranking 12th in SG on par fours. Now, Knox will look to build off this impressive form at arguably his favorite venue on the PGA TOUR schedule.
In five appearances at Colonial, the 35-year-old has four top-25s on his course resume, and Knox is my favorite DraftKings value on the board this week.
Zach Johnson, $6,900
Ignore Johnson’s missed cut at the Ocean Course this past week, and confidently deploy him at this very low price. The two-time major champion made back-to-back cuts before the PGA Championship and Johnson has only missed two cuts in 15 starts at Colonial for his career. In those 13 made cuts, the Bentgrass specialist finished top-30 or better ten times, including two wins at this par 70, one coming in 2010 and the other in 2012.
Johnson is a very safe investment to make the cut this weekend in Fort Worth, and his ownership should be relatively depressed after being sent home early from Kiawah Island last week.
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is Hunta512) 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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