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Two metrics that stand out when finding a FRL candidate at Colonial

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Two metrics that stand out when finding a FRL candidate at Colonial

    Written by Brady Kannon @lasvegasgolfer

    At last week's PGA Championship, I noted in our First Round Leader column how trying to pin down who would go low on Thursday felt the same as trying to figure out who would be hoisting the Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday. The handicap felt the same: encapsulating all skill sets required to tackle Oak Hill in full would probably be necessary for solely conquering Thursday as well. Given the overwhelming challenge that Oak Hill presented for last week's field, it did not feel like it could be broken down into just a few areas that might work well for just one day.

    This week the PGA TOUR is back in Texas for the Charles Schwab Challenge and on a run of honoring some pretty notable players, by the way. Two weeks ago, it was Byron Nelson. This week we revisit Colonial Country Club - or "Hogan's Alley," where Ben Hogan won five times, and next week we are on to Jack's place - Muirfield Village for the Memorial, a course created by tournament host, Jack Nicklaus. Colonial is a more known commodity than last week's renovated Oak Hill. Colonial is the longest-running course to host a non-major on TOUR, having hosted this event since 1946.

    With a stronger base of data, observations, and course history - and not necessarily the complexity a major championship venue often presents – I feel we can better hone in on a just few skill sets that could produce in an instant. As for the entire handicap this week, I looked at Strokes Gained: Approach, Greens in Regulation Gained, Hole Proximity from 125-200 yards, Strokes Gained: Par 4's from 350-450 yards, Good Drives Gained, Driving Accuracy, Scrambling, and Strokes Gained: Putting (Bentgrass).

    For our purposes here, I want to lean on simply approach and putting. These are typically the two areas in which we see the most strokes gained by a First Round Leader and I feel they especially apply at this golf course. Good driving and accuracy off the tee are going to surely help - as will other areas of the game, of course - but I'm going to place my emphasis on these two individual skills.

    The weather is always something we must consider as well. Thunderstorms have been taking place in the Fort Worth area leading up to the tournament kicking off - and there is a slight chance they could hang around for a bit on Thursday morning as well. The point is, I believe this golf course will have softened up by the time the Charles Schwab Challenge is in a full sprint. I have a feeling the early wave of start times on Thursday may get the best crack at the softer conditions. I believe scoring conditions will be favorable all day long - but the morning wave may have an edge. With that, I've landed on two players from the early window and one teeing off in the afternoon wave.

    Sungjae Im (+3300) (1:55 p.m. ET start time)

    Im got a couple of extra days rest following the PGA Championship, after blowing up the first two days in Rochester and missing the cut. I expect a bounce back here on a course at which he's finished 15th and 10th in four visits. Over the last 36 rounds, Im is 40th in this field for SG Approach and 19th for SG: Putting on bent grass. He ranks 17th on TOUR in First Round Scoring Average, 13th in Birdie Average, 19th in Driving Accuracy, and 13th for SG: Off the Tee.

    Tommy Fleetwood (+3300) (9:26 a.m. ET start time)

    The solid season for Fleetwood continued at the PGA Championship with an 18th-place finish, giving the Englishman two top-5 finishes and two top-20 finishes in his last six starts. Over the last 36 rounds, he ranks 10th in this field for SG: Approach and he's 40th on TOUR in SG Putting. It was six starts ago that Fleetwood finished third at the Valspar Championship, another shorter, accuracy-based, precision, golf course, like Colonial. Three weeks ago, Fleetwood opened with a round of 65 at the Wells Fargo Championship.

    Ryan Palmer (+6600) (8:31 a.m. ET start time)

    Palmer, a Texas native, is a member at Colonial and often is at his best in his home state. He's finished inside the top 6 at this event four times and opened with a round of 62 here 10 years ago. Palmer ranks 15th in this field for SG: Approach over the last 36 rounds. While his putting is not elite, it is solid and he does make a lot of birdies, ranking 39th on TOUR in Birdie Average. It was just two weeks ago that Palmer finished eighth across town at the AT&T Byron Nelson, firing four rounds in the 60s and opening with a 64.

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