The PGA TOUR heads back to Texas this week as Colonial Country Club hosts the Charles Schwab Challenge. The course is a par-70, measuring at 7,200 yards with bentgrass greens. The weather usually plays somewhat of a factor at this event, so we should definitely not expect a birdie-fest.
I’ll be highlighting the best cash game/single-entry plays on the DraftKings main slate, but these players are often great options in any contest.
My analysis will frequently reference Strokes Gained, a set of proprietary metrics generated by the PGA TOUR using millions of data points to calculate how many shots on average it takes a player to get the ball in the hole from every distance and situation. Strokes Gained is now available in the FantasyLabs PGA Models.
There are a variety of Strokes Gained-related metrics, but the six main categories you need to know include:
- Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee (SG: Off-the-Tee)
- Strokes Gained: Approach (SG: Approach)
- Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green (SG: Around-the-Green)
- Strokes Gained: Putting (SG: Putting)
- Strokes Gained: Ball-Striking (SG: Ball-Striking), which is SG: Off-the-Tee + SG: Approach
- Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green (SG: Tee-to-Green), which is SG: Ball-Striking + SG: Around-the-Green
For more information on Strokes Gained data and how to use it, check out this article from Bryan Mears on The Action Network, which unpacks each of the above metrics in detail. I also recommend Chris Murphy’s Strokes Gained column after each round of that week’s PGA TOUR event, which highlights golfers to buy and fade, along with Matthew Vincenzi’s weekly “Stats That Matter” column, which highlights which Strokes Gained sub-metrics matter the most for a given course. The following players listed are based on DraftKings scoring and pricing.
Collin Morikawa ($10,500 DraftKings)
If paying up this week, look no further than Morikawa. He’s coming off another impressive showing at the PGA Championship where he followed up his win last year with a T-8 at Kiawah Island. Few players on TOUR are as locked in as Morikawa right now, as the Cal Berkley product ranks No. 1 in this field over his past 16 rounds in SG: Tee-To-Green, SG: Approach and SG: Ball-Striking, while sitting No. 2 in total strokes gained as well.
His bugaboo of late, as usual has been his flat stick, as he’s now lost strokes putting in six of his past seven rounds. The good news is we’re still on bentgrass this week, which is Morikawa’s preferred surface. All he has to do is be a neutral with his putter on the week and he should coast to a top-10 finish. He had to settle for a runner-up finish here last year when he lost in a playoff to Daniel Berger. Morikawa is simply striking the ball too well to ignore right now, and I don’t believe you need to go to JT or Spieth in cash with him sitting there at $10,500.
Abraham Ancer ($9,700 DraftKings)
Ancer is having the best season of his young career thus far and is coming ever so close to notching his first career PGA TOUR victory. He comes into play this week on the heels of three consecutive top 10s, which by the way came on three extremely difficult tracks: Kiawah Island, Quail Hollow and Innisbrook. In his three career starts at Colonial he’s yet to miss a cut and posted his best finish last year with a T-14.
I mentioned how Morikawa ranks No. 2 in total strokes gained over his past 16 rounds in this field, well that’s because Ancer ranks No. 1. He’s clicking with all facets of his game right now, ranking seventh in SG: Tee-to-Green, eighth in SG: Putting and No. 1 in SG: Off-the-Tee over that same 16-round stretch. You can easily start your rosters with him and work your way down this week as he’s one of the safest plays on the board.
Corey Conners ($9,400 DraftKings)
Conners was the first-round leader at Kiawah Island this past week before putting his way out of contention the rest of the week. His short game had him settle for a T-17 despite hitting it as well as anyone in the field. Sometimes that’s just what you get with Conners. We’ll turn the page to Colonial, where the Canadian has really strong history, going T-8, T-31, T-19 in his three trips.
He’s actually been putting pretty well this year and has missed only one cut on the season, which was right on the number at Riviera back in February. Conners ranks No. 1 in this field in both SG: Ball-Striking and total strokes gained over his past 48 rounds. He’s been one of the most consistent players on TOUR and should continue that trend this week at a track that rewards elite ball strikers.
Brian Harman ($8,000 DraftKings)
Harmon had previously been a beacon of consistency before stubbing his toe at the PGA Championship. The good news however, is that it was his short game that let him down, which is normally his biggest strength. In his two rounds at Kiawah, Harman gained over three strokes on approach and 1.5 off-the-tee, while losing strokes putting both days. That’s likely a trend that will not continue as he ranks No. 10 in this field in SG: Putting over his past 48 rounds.
Harman is way too cheap for his upside this week, especially at a course he loves. In eight starts at Colonial since 2011 he’s missed just one cut while finishing inside the top 31 on every other occasion, including two top 10s in 2015 and 2017. Harman has made 16 of 18 cuts this year and should bounce right back this week. His price is silly on DraftKings and is really tough to get away from in cash.
Emiliano Grillo ($7,900 DraftKings)
Grillo showed some serious gumption last week at Kiawah, birdieing two of his final three holes to make the cut on the number. He ended up with a very respectable T-38 finish at one of the harder courses we’ll see all season. Another guy with strong course history, Grillo has three top-25 finishes at Colonial including a solo third in 2018.
He’s been extremely strong with his ball-striking all season, but especially of late where he ranks second in this field on approach and 10th in SG: Tee-to-Green over his past 16 rounds. Grillo should not be $7,900 in this field and makes for one of the better values on the slate this week.
Chris Kirk ($7,600 DraftKings)
Kirk had been playing some incredible golf before missing his past two cuts, but I think we can give him a pass being they were two very tough courses. Much like the rest of the guys in this column, Kirk also boasts exquisite history at this Colonial. He won this event back in 2015 and has made all nine cuts here in his career, which include five top 25s and an additional T-5 as well.
Kirk ranks 10th in this field in SG: Tee-to-Green and 12th in total strokes gained both over his past 36 rounds in this field. His price on DraftKings does not reflect his price in the betting market, where he sits about 40/1 and is shorter than many of guys in the $8,000 range. Hopefully a return to a familiar course will be the elixir for Kirk to get back on the right track, and at just $7,600 there’s not really a good reason to fade him.
Will Zalatoris ($9,900 DraftKings)
This one will not require much explaining as Willy Z has established himself as one of the premiere ball-strikers on the planet. He posted one of the quietest T-8s at a major championship you’ll ever see and has now conquered almost every obstacle thrown his way in his short career. We know that the tougher the course gets, the better Zalatoris plays, which is why we like to target him at non birdie-fests, which is likely what we’ll have again this week.
He gained the second most strokes in the field last week on approach, and its just basically a matter of time now until he wins his first event. Where better than in his home state of Texas? At $9,900 on DraftKings he’s still remains a solid discount from the top guys without losing a shred of upside. He’s a great play in all formats.