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Colonial is a perfect fit for Spieth

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Colonial is a perfect fit for Spieth

Former FedExCup champ has a win and two runners-up at Charles Schwab Challenge



    Written by Justin Ray, @JustinRayGolf

    Welcoming players back on the tee


    It’s a star-studded field this week at the Charles Schwab Challenge, but one of the most interesting players to watch will be a player whose recent struggles stand in stark contrast to his past performances at Colonial Country Club.

    It can be argued that no one has had more success at Colonial over the past few years than Jordan Spieth. In seven starts, he has a win (2016), two runner-up finishes and a pair of other top-10s. Twenty-one of his 28 rounds at Colonial have been in the 60s. Of players with at least a dozen rounds in the Charles Schwab Challenge over the last 30 years, Spieth’s scoring average leads all players (67.8).


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    But before competition halted in March, Spieth’s ball-striking numbers were far from his peak.

    Spieth is 195th on the TOUR this season in Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green and 198th in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee. For the fourth consecutive season, his greens in regulation rank has dropped – from fourth in 2017, all the way down to 221st so far in 2019-20. Spieth has hit less than 48% of his fairways this season – only four of 231 qualified players on the PGA TOUR currently have a lower percentage.

    Comparing Spieth’s career Strokes Gained statistics at Colonial with what he’s done the last two seasons on TOUR provides an even starker contrast.

    SPIETH'S STATS AT COLONIAL
    CategoryStatisticRank
    Scoring average67.81st
    Score to par62 under1st
    Birdies/eagles per round4.71st
    SG: Total+2.411st
    SG: Tee To Green+1.831st
    Note: since 2013

    Over the last 15 years, no player has averaged more Strokes Gained: Total (+2.41) and Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green (+1.83) per round at Colonial than Spieth. Spieth is ranked 82nd and 166th (of 205 players) in those two statistics since the beginning of last season.

    He has gained 1.28 strokes per round at Colonial in ‘long game’ – a statistic that combines Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee and Strokes Gained: Approach. That’s fifth-best among players with 12 or more rounds at Colonial since 2005. Over the last two seasons, he’s losing -0.69 strokes per round in that stat, ranking 187th.

    STROKES GAINED: TEE-TO-GREEN LEADERS AT COLONIAL SINCE 2010
    NameSG: T2G
    Jordan Spieth+1.83
    Russell Knox+1.55
    Sergio Garcia+1.43
    Jason Dufner+1.34
    Webb Simpson+1.33
    Note: minimum 10 rounds

    Colonial could provide a great opportunity for Spieth to rediscover his best self on the golf course. Statistically speaking, the venue plays to Spieth’s strengths and masks the less glittering aspects of his performance.

    For one, missing fairways at Colonial is not as penalizing at other PGA TOUR events. ‘Missed fairway penalty’ is the difference in the field’s average when hitting the fairway versus missing it. Last year at Colonial, only one hole (the fifth) had a penalty of a half-stroke or more. Spieth is the all-time leader in scoring average at this tournament despite hitting just over 50% of his fairways at Colonial.

    Driving distance does not reap huge rewards at Colonial, either. Not that Spieth has ever been a short hitter off the tee – he’s always ranked among the top half of PGA TOUR players in driving distance – but the typical benefits reaped by the longest players just aren’t present at Colonial. A player outdriving the field average by 25 yards will gain one stroke less throughout the course of a tournament compared to the average PGA TOUR event.

    Throughout his career, Spieth has struck his approach shots better at Colonial than anywhere else on TOUR. Jordan’s average proximity to the hole in 28 career rounds at Colonial is 31 feet, 10 inches. To put that into perspective, that is about two feet closer, on average, than his proximity for the entirety of his FedExCup-winning 2015 season. Spieth has averaged +0.88 strokes gained approach per round at Colonial – fifth-best among all players over the last 15 years.

    Fans seemingly remember Spieth making every putt he looked at when he played his best – from the famous ‘Go Get That’ at The Open Championship, to the putts he made all over East Lake in his 2015 TOUR Championship win.

    But narratives, often punctuated by highlights, can mask the statistical reality behind performance. Such has often been the case with Spieth in his career. When Spieth was playing his best golf, it wasn’t because he was making every putt in sight. It was because he was outperforming the field with his irons.

    Consider his aforementioned halcyon season of 2015. That year, Spieth actually ranked better on the PGA Tour in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green (fourth) than he did in Strokes Gained: Putting (ninth).

    Colonial, a place where Spieth has had immense success, reflects that, too. Spieth is ranked 20th among all players at Colonial since 2005 in Strokes Gained: Putting per round – a worse ranking than any of his ball striking metrics in that span. Spieth has been putting better in regular PGA TOUR events the last two seasons (+0.73 strokes gained per round) than he has at Colonial in his career (+0.58 per round).

    It’s been Spieth’s exceptional performance tee-to-green at Colonial that has set him apart. Over the last decade, no player has averaged more strokes gained tee-to-green per round than the Texan has (1.83).

    If there’s one place best suited for Spieth's on-course revival, Colonial just might be it.

    SPIETH'S STATS AT COLONIAL COMPARED TO THE PAST TWO SEASONS
    StatAt ColonialPast two seasons
    Total+2.41+0.35
    Off-the-Tee+0.40-0.44
    Approach+0.88-0.25
    Putting+0.58+0.73
    Short Game+1.13+1.03
    Long Game+1.28-0.69
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