Course Spotlight: The power of par-4 thinking at Colonial
4 Min Read
Written by Keith Stewart @KJStewartpga
Composite skills are often overlooked when previewing a tournament. Betting storytellers love to break apart the talents and pick one set over another. For example, hitting the fairway at Oak Hill was a huge priority. Let’s agree it was the biggest determining factor toward success, but it wasn’t the only indicator. I know all of you research more than one statistical category. How many of you combine your skill research into a set that measures more than one competency?
The Charles Schwab Challenge and the host club Colonial Country Club is a perfect venue for vetting this subject. The PGA TOUR has played Colonial since 1946. This year marks the 76th edition of the championship. Each winner of this par-70 Perry Maxwell masterpiece has been an excellent par-4 player. The scorecard has 12 of them, ranging in length from 387 to 483 yards.
Nine of the 12 par 4s are under 450 yards. These are considered medium to short by TOUR standards. As a result, over 45% of approach shots at Colonial are taken from 125-175 yards away. That is eight percent more than the PGA TOUR average. For the field of 120 players, that is anywhere from a gap wedge to an 8-iron. When most hear that breakdown, they jump to the computer and start looking up the best players in that range.
· The top four from 125-175 yards in the field are: Chris Kirk, Jordan Spieth, Viktor Hovland, and Max Homa.
Based on that list, we can pick a winner. All four make perfect sense for the Charles Schwab Challenge. Before we get too impulsive, let’s look at the second approach bucket.
· The top four from 150-175 yards in the field are: Scott Piercy, Alex Noren, Si Woo Kim, and Sepp Straka.
This happens every week. The wider we make our skill search, the more likely we are to get conflicting data. Maybe we need another perspective. To take advantage of the approach game, we must be in or near the fairway. Good drives gained is a measure of a player’s ability to hit the fairway or barely miss.
· The four best at keeping the ball in play off the tee are: Scottie Scheffler, Denny McCarthy, Harris English, and Russell Henley.
Scheffler is the +400 tournament favorite, so do we pick him? How can we start to combine all these skills to start predicting who will win? The power of par-4 scoring is amazing on the PGA TOUR. The reason it is such a strong indicator of success has to do with the skill set needed to be great at a combined assortment of skills. Twenty-four of the top 50 in the OWGR are in Fort Worth. They will all have to contend with the Horrible Horseshoe (holes 3-4-5). Nos. 3 and 5 are two brutally tough par 4s. Conversely, No. 2 right before the horseshoe is just 389 yards and very scorable.
Par 4s make up two-thirds of the total holes these competitors will play. The top 10 par-4 scorers in this field are: Scottie Scheffler, Viktor Hovland, Denny McCarthy, Stephan Jaeger, Jordan Spieth, Tommy Fleetwood, Taylor Moore, Tony Finau, Justin Rose, and Austin Eckroat. Quickly, you can see why looking at a composite skill like par-4 scoring makes sense. On the list, we have two past champions (Spieth and Rose), the No. 1-ranked player in the world (Scheffler), and a couple of solid ball strikers (Hovland and Fleetwood).
Par 4 scoring isn’t the answer every week, but when we have a par 70, the data proves very powerful. Take Jordan Spieth (+1400 at BetMGM) who has 10 starts at Colonial Country Club. Spieth’s ability to hit those approaches close on the par 4s has led to eight top 10s and a win. If you are looking for more value on the betting board, try Tommy Fleetwood (+3000). Fleetwood has gained an average of nearly eight strokes (7.9) against the field in his last five starts. He’s a par 4 player in great recent form.
Since we all love even more value, I want to point out Denny McCarthy (+5000). McCarthy continually puts himself in play off the tee. At the PGA Championship, he also gained over four strokes on approach and putting against the entire field. Colonial contenders will need a hot putter and McCarthy has gained an average of 6.5 strokes in his last two starts!
Predicting winners on the PGA TOUR is a difficult task. Increase your win percentage by using combined skill set data. Don’t fall into the trap of separating every trait. Champions need to be well-rounded, and so do those who pick them in their thinking.
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Keith Stewart is a five-time award winning PGA Professional who covers the PGA TOUR and LPGA from a betting perspective. Founder of Read The Line, he is also published by Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News. Follow Keith Stewart on Twitter.