Major momentum or mental rest: What predicts Colonial success?
7 Min Read
Written by Ben Everill @BEverillGolfbet
Momentum. Or rest.
What should we value more this week ahead of the Charles Schwab Challenge?
So far this season we have delved into the discussion about players mentality the week before a major championship but what about the week after a tough test like we just went through at Oak Hill for the PGA Championship?
Colonial Country Club is a known entity on the PGA TOUR which is partly why a steady stream of big-name players will back up after Oak Hill, headlined by Scottie Scheffler who has once again taken up world No.1 status following a runner up effort.
Is it players like Scheffler, Viktor Hovland and Cam Davis who were very close but ultimately short of Brooks Koepka last week, or a rested body with a point to prove after a disappointing effort? Perhaps someone who missed the cut, or who didn’t play in the major grind at all has a leg up?
Let’s rewind a year. Scheffler found himself in a playoff at Colonial against Sam Burns but ultimately lost. Burns had been T20 the week before at the PGA while Scheffler was a surprise missed cut.
Brendon Todd was third after a week off and Scott Stallings shared fourth after also missing the cut at Southern Hills. The rest of the top 10 at Colonial had played in Tulsa for four days but only Mito Pereira had contended heavily.
In 2021 the 13 players in the top 10 at the Charles Schwab Challenge consisted of six players who made the weekend at the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island the week before, three who missed the cut, and four who did not play. Winner Jason Kokrak and runner up Jordan Spieth played four days in Kiawah but did not contend.
While the schedule was jumbled in the COVID-19 affected 2020 season, back in 2019 the 12 players inside the top 10 at Colonial housed just four players who made the PGA Championship cut. Of those only Spieth, who was T8 at Colonial, had a high finish at Bethpage Black. But Spieth’s T3 was six behind the lead. Four missed the cut in New York, and the last four didn’t play.
Now while three seasons might not be a huge sample size, it is still giving us the beginning of a trend. Those drained of precious energy have mostly found it hard to get back up at Colonial, and if they did, they ultimately didn’t win.
Which brings us to the favorites to win this week. On top of the board is Scheffler at +400 with BetMGM. Runner up last week, runner up last year, nothing worse than T12 in his last 15 starts… hard to go past him right?
But odds this short, combined with the trend post PGA, have me fading Scheffler at this number. Remember he also played the week prior at the AT&T Byron Nelson and at some point, the energy levels have to fade just a little. Wait for a round, then decide if Scheffler investment is warranted.
Hovland (+1600) – the biggest challenger to Koepka last Sunday – is another player that should do well this week on paper. But seeing him personally in the aftermath of another near miss in a major has me hesitant. The emotional letdown is real. He gave it his all but ultimately came up short… and that takes a toll.
So if not those two, where is my focus landing?
First, let’s check what stats are important. We know bombers have no advantage here. Seven of the last eight Charles Schwab Challenge winners were inside the top 10 of Strokes Gained: Putting and the last seven were inside the top 10 in SG: Tee-to-Green.
The bulk of approach shots come from 150-175 yards. In fact, we see above TOUR average numbers on approach shots from 100-175 yards as a trend. So, I’ll be leaning into these numbers.
The next two players on the odds board are Jordan Spieth (+1400) and Tony Finau (+1400) and they land right behind Scheffler in Rob Bolton’s Power Rankings. They made the cut at Oak Hill without pressuring the lead so shouldn’t be too burned out.
In terms of Birdie or Better percentage from 150-175 yards this season Spieth is ranked ninth on TOUR and Finau 26th. Their ranking in scoring from this distance has Finau at 14th and Spieth 21st. I’ll roll with Spieth as the tournaments all-time leading money winner and former champion after I’m satisfied there were no issues with his wrist in Oak Hill’s deep rough.
I am tempted to go back to the well from last week to the man who burned me in Sungjae Im (+2000). But this would be a risky pick as there were unconfirmed reports that he was stiff and sore after his whirlwind trip to Korea where he won the Woori Financial Group Championship. And this appeared possible after rounds of 80-73. With the weekend to rest, and a skillset made for Colonial, he could easily burn me for not showing trust.
So, for my second outright option I’ll go with Cam Davis (+4000) who is right on the swing of the PGA/Colonial trend. Sure, he was T4 at Oak Hill but the truth is he was never really in a winning position. That mental load was not the same endured by Hovland and Scheffler.
Davis ranks 11th in relation to par from 150-175 yards. He is 29th on TOUR in SG: Tee-to-Green which is more than good enough considering he was ill for the majority of his starts this season. This is also why you shouldn’t be overly spooked by his 155th rank in SG: Putting.
Sure, it is not the Aussie’s strong suit… but he’s improved the metric over his last four starts. If he is to get a second TOUR win, he will need an above average week on the greens, a feat he did a year ago at Colonial, his third best putting effort of that season.
Here is where I’ll slate Tony Finau (+275 for Top 5) for the reasons above. He played the weekend at Oak Hill but was never really in the mix, meaning his mental load wasn’t heavily taxed. The Mexico Open winner also ranks fourth in SG: Approach and SG: Tee-to-Green and a respectable 64th in SG: Putting. A serious contender to win as well.
It’s been a run of near misses of late for Ryan Palmer (+550 for Top 10) and I think this trend will continue for the Colonial Country Club member. Palmer played in the final group Sunday at the AT&T Byron Nelson but settled for T8 and just this Monday was one shot off a playoff for a spot in the U.S. Open in the Texas sectional qualifier. Ranks 13th on TOUR in relation to par on approach shots from 150-175 yards.
I was hoping to be pointing to higher odds than +200 for Top 20 but I was reminded that BetMGM pays out all ties in full so there is still a chance to give some love to Brendon Todd. He’s 10th on TOUR in SG: Putting and a reasonable 77th in SG: Tee-to-Green. At 12th in Driving Accuracy, you can be sure he will be keeping the ball in play and he was T8 and third the last two years at Colonial. Is 33rd on TOUR in relation to par from 150-175 yards.
There is no doubt that Sam Ryder (+25000) has had some struggles with his tee to green game this season but given the importance on putting historically at Colonial this is a nice juicy number for the guy ranked second on TOUR. If he can find a way to keep it in play a little more often, he’s not that far removed from a T3 at the Valero Texas Open.
As always, good luck with all your picks!
Senior Writer, Golfbet Follow Ben Everill on Twitter.