Jason Day makes his first start at Colonial is 4 years and falls right back into dominant form as he breaks out of his slump in a big way with a playoff loss to Billy Horschel. Billy Ho showing up out of no where to claim a Texas title. Billy rode his hot putter in rounds one and two into some ball striking form by Sunday to take down the Byron Nelson. Sergio made a late run on Friday to make the cut and then threatened on Saturday by going low before fading on Sunday, meanwhile Kokrak showed us the has a bit more game than 36 holes. Kokrak struggled on Saturday as predicted but then found some solid ground to mount another comeback on Sunday, ultimately coming up short but an impressive effort. This week the tour doesn’t have to go far, only across town to Colonial.
Colonial CC (CCC) has long been a part of the PGA Tour and one that will likely remain for years to come. A timeless design brought about by a Bentgrass fanatic, Marvin Leonard. Leonard combined individual holes from the numerous and varied designs submitted by Bredemus & Maxwell in a pioneering effort to bring Bentgrass to the Lone Star State in 1936. A 7,205 yard par 70 situated just Southwest of downtown Fort Worth and less than 400 yards across the Clear Fork Trinity River from an active railway exchange yard that can be heard occasionally throughout a players round, especially on holes 8/9/11/12/13 that are situated closest to the Trinity River. The mature trees lining the fairways do a good job of buffering most of the clattering and clanking of the train yard throughout the remainder of the course, at the same time providing some claustrophobic looking tee shots and approaches. The trees will come into play plenty this week as players failing to find the correct side of the 10 doglegs around CCC or worse yet those that spray it off the tee, will be forced to contend with narrow windows of escape and bogey inducing chip outs this week.
Since we are in Texas, not too much elevation change to worry about but the greens at Colonial are elevated and on the smaller end of the spectrum. That makes for a tough combination, mix in the 84 bunkers very strategically placed in fairway landing zones and protecting the tiny greens. You get the picture, Colonial is no picnic and requires golfers to work the ball in both directions from the tee and on approaches to the green. Whether avoiding fairways bunkers, working it around a dogleg, cutting an approach to avoid the green side bunker; players need to be creative and able to hit ALL the shots. Even the Great Ben Hogan warned of how dangerous a straight ball can be around Colonial.
I didn’t even talk about the 3 water hazards that are only in play a bit, but what Colonial lacks in water it makes up for in efficiency. The water is very effectively placed on holes 9/13/18. We will check out the scorecard in a bit and see why the water is so effective here but for now suffice to say that it has an impact on the outcome of the tournament…plus a guy did a cannon ball into one of the lakes in 2008 Phil won!
The other thing I forgot to mention and it carries over from last week is the wind, frequently and rapidly changing weather forecasts that make this tournament as unpredictable as all the other Texas tournaments. Annually, Fort Worth sees winds of 10 mph daily with the average gust at 25 mph. So expect the wind to play a factor at least one day this week.
The Win/Cut Chart below gives you an idea of the kind of tournament we are looking at this week.
So lately, the course has played towards the more difficult end of the spectrum just slightly. Not sure what happened in 2010 to make the course play a full 1.35 strokes easier than average but I would expect something closer to the 2011 or 2016 results this week.
The Fort Worth area had some showers roll through last week and the course should be in great shape with just enough moisture left in the greens for these guys to attack a bit more than usual. That said, we could see a bit thicker/lusher rough than usual with the potential for tournament officials and grounds keepers to cut it shorter than normal to help with play ability. This is just speculation, we will get confirmation on Tuesday with The Yardage Book and our on course reporting of exactly how Colonial is playing that week.
No matter the rough length, don’t expect to see a birdie fest this week since Colonial averages just over par and only has 2 par 5’s to take advantage of.
After a quick glance at the score card you can see why the previous sentence is a fitting description of scoring this week. The average length of the par 5’s this week is 600 yards, and there are only 2 and one of them yield birdies more like a par 4 and only yields birdies at a 26% rate. The par 5’s 11th while still a scoring hole, at 635 yards it isn’t an easy one. A long straight hole that will play as a 3 shot hole, look for a solid wedge player to make hay on this long ass par 5.
The other and arguably more important par 5 is the 1st…yup the 1st hole is your best chance to score and will likely set the tone for the round for the field. Coming in at an almost 50/50 split in birdies/eagles vs pars/bogeys half of the field will feel good about their start and the other half will immediately feel like they are behind…and they are! On a course that averages over par, it is extremely costly to miss an opportunity like that on a course like Colonial.
Players will get another early look at birdie on the 2nd hole, which is 1 of only 5 holes on the course that give up a birdie rate of 20% or better. The 2nd will see a nearly 30% clip of birdies throughout the week, expect that number to be a touch lower when the pin is tucked on the right side. With a bunker short and bunker long, players going for the pin will be disappointed when they fail to hold the narrow right finger of this green. Otherwise, expect to see a lot of action on the opening 2 holes at Colonial. The way the opening holes set up, you had better get rid of all the bad shots on the range because Colonial gives you little time to adapt.
Hopefully, your players found some birdies on 1 & 2 because the next 3 holes are the defining stretch of the course and collectively playing 0.47 strokes over par will likely rob players of one or more of the opening birdies they just made. Comprised of 2 difficult par 4’s with a big boy 245 yard par 3 sandwiched in the middle, these holes average a 21.5% bogey rate with the 5th also popping up as 1 of 3 CARNAGE holes at Colonial. A carnage hole is any hole that clips the field for a 3% or higher Double Bogey or Worse rate, this week those holes are 5/9/13.
The 3rd hole is a dogleg left that demands a 295+ yard carry over the dogleg and bunkers or a draw that runs out into the dogleg without running into the bunkers. Then requires a long iron shot into a tough green, that is really tough with a right pin.
The 4th is brutally long 247 yard par 3 that generally plays down wind to an elevated green that is notoriously difficult to hold.
This tough stretch is capped off by the most difficult hole on the course in the 481 yard par 4 5th. Not only long but very narrow, think trees on the right with the Trinity River just beyond. The left looks like a decent bail, until you get there…no shot at all with a small ditch as well. Just a tough hole with a cross wind and no room for a miss off the tee or on approach, bunkers left and right. Long left is the only miss and it is a tough come back. There is a reason this hole annually claims close to 4% of the field for a double or worse.
The opening 5 holes will define the round and you should have a pretty good idea by the end of the front nine what kind of day to expect from your squad. That said, players starting on the back nine will enjoy a more traditional and consistent scoring environment prior to making the turn and having to close out their round on another one of the carnage holes in the 9th.
The 9th is tough with a long carry over water and generally into the wind, a mis-hit approach can quickly end up swimming in the lake short. If the wind gets whipping this week, expect to see some big numbers on this hole.
The back nine in general is benign compared to the front nine at Colonial, the par 5 11th is basically a glorified short par 4 from a scoring standpoint. Virtually un-reachable in 2 at 635 yards, most players will play two safe shots and set up a good wedge distance for their best chance at birdie here.
The remainder of the back nine is a combination mid-short length par 4’s and a couple of 190 yard par 3’s. From a scoring perspective the only other real note is the par 3 13th, a long iron carry over water to the front edge. The further right you go, the longer the carry over the water. Anyone that blocks a draw or pushes a fade will be sorry, and dropping another ball.
Digging into the key stats for the week, it takes little more than a quick glance at the chart to figure out that Driving Distance is all but a useless that stat this week with regard to placing top 10 or better historically. As we discussed earlier in the article that the tree lined and dog legged fairways of Colonial are designed to negate the bomber advantage, having been designed pre 1940, I doubt they had Tony Finau in mind when guarding against distance but stands as a testament to the timeless design of Colonial.
Intentional or not, Colonial requires players to be mindful of their drives. That might have something to do with the average fairway width (and numerous doglegs).
Driving the golf ball is difficult at Colonial and this gives a bit of a visual representation as to why. The average fairway width of PGA Tour Courses from 275-300 yards is 30 yards wide. Colonial only averages 25.5 yards of width at those same distances, on average Colonial is 4.5 yards narrower than average. As compared to last week at TPC Four Seasons, it is basically the same except for distances past 325. TPC Four Seasons last week rated out as more a bombers course with average width fairways and patch rough. Colonial is nothing of the sort, some of drives are wider than they appear and conversely some look much wider than they actually are.
All this is to say that driving accuracy is more important than distance this week, but more importantly Good Drive % is the stat to focus on off the tee this week. We want players that hit lots of fairways and greens, especially when they miss the fairway. That is exactly what Good Drive % measures, so if you are going to weigh any off the tee stats this week, make sure it is GD%.
Now that we know why GD% is a key stat, lets look at the rest of the stats from 09-16. I am not going to put much weight into scoring average an strokes gained against field average moving forward and if I do, ill explain specifically why but until then treat them similarly to SG T2G. While important the stat doesn’t really help us isolate what kind of game excel at a course. Instead they tell us what we already know, if you finished inside the top 10 in past years at a course, there is a pretty good chance that you gained strokes over field average and that you scored better than most of the field…shocking!
So in the interest of attempting to isolate specific traits and skills that lead to success at a course, we will be looking elsewhere. While we are leaving some stats behind, we are not going to be leaving Birdie or Better % behind any time soon. While a good birdie or better rank doesn’t necessarily lead to a success at a course, it does tell us who is scoring Draftkings points. After all that is what we are looking for, finish position is great and incredibly unpredictable, so let’s focus on what we can predict more accurately, birdies. Even though we expect less than average this week, that just makes the ones made even more important.
With the par 5’s not being the most accessible in 2, that means guys will likely be approach the green with a wedge and not a long iron. This is where I am picking up the approaches inside 100-125, they pop up as the most relevant overall approach distance and will be crucial this week for scoring on the par 5’s as well as the short par 4 2nd, the 3rd most relevant scoring hole.
Looking closely at the approach distance, you can see that while you don’t need to be stellar from 125-150 or 200-225 if you want to finish in the top 10, but if you wan to win…then you better be at your best. The last 8 years on average, the winner has significantly outperformed the field with their 125-150 and 200-225 yard clubs. To the tune of 30 places in the ranks overall, not a small difference. While it is a trend it is not a surprising one, given the length of the par 5’s and the longer than average par 4’s that spit out bogeys more often than players would like; those key approach distances make total sense.
We are not only looking for winners but scorers each week, that is why these two key approach distances are in the satellite stats and not the core stats.
Right next to the approach distance in question we have some more approach stats, namely the strokes gained approach, proximity, and rough proximity. You would think that for a course with hard to hit fairways, that proximity from the rough would be important but at Colonial, you really need to find the fairway if you have any chance at competing come Sunday. The lush and deep rough is enough to make even the longest hitters thinking twice about pulling the big stick this week, favoring a fairway lie over one in the rough 50 yards closer. This is very much a course that you need to be in the fairway if you wan to be aggressive into the tiny greens. While the rough is usually playable it is not predictable and holding the small greens is incredibly difficult from the think and deep rough.
Those players finding the fairway will need to be good with their irons to hold the small and elevated greens for any chance at scoring around Colonial. It is hard to say whether or not Colonial is a 1st or 2nd shot course. Mainly because if you screw up the 1st, you aren’t going to have a 2nd. So they are entirely dependent upon each other this week. A good drive is necessary on most hole to have any chance for attacking a pin this week.
After we identify the players we want off the tee, go ahead and make sure they rate out well enough in the strokes gained approach category as well. The tiny greens make for even smaller spots to hit in order to hold the green, let alone getting close to a pin. Player’s that are on with their irons and hitting from the fairway will have a great opportunity to hang around a weekend leaderboard this week.
- Birdie or Better %
- Good Drive %
- Par 4 Scoring
- Strokes Gained Approach
- Approaches 100-125
- Par 70 Scoring
- Approaches 125-150
- Approaches 200-225
- Sand Save %
- Par 5 Scoring
Since this is Sunday and we are playing in Texas, I am not going to go too in depth here…because it will 100% change.
Again this will change but right now we are looking at calm conditions for Thursday AM with winds picking up in the afternoon to a steady gale of 20+ mph and gusts up to 30 mph. Friday will bring more of the same throughout the entire day. The breezy conditions roll on into Saturday, very similar to Friday before calming down just a bit for Sunday. Just a bit meaning only 14-16 mph winds and 25-30 mph gusts.
It will be another typical Texas tournament where weather plays a significant and dynamic role in how the week unfolds. Pay close attention to the weather as we could see a wave advantage develop as we move on into the week. I will be finalizing the weather and any wave advantages in The Yardage Book on Tuesday and stay tuned for our picks in The Winning Element on Wednesday!
Best of Luck this week.