Mears: Be Careful About Relying on Course History at Colonial

Mears: Be Careful About Relying on Course History at Colonial article feature image
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Photo credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Zach Johnson

  • How important is course history at Colonial Country Club? Is it predictive of future performance?
  • We analyze the pros and cons of rostering top-tier golfers with history at this golf course.

Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, home of this week’s Charles Schwab Challenge, is a fairly short course that seemingly favors a certain type of golfer: ball-strikers.

And we’ve seen some guys with very elite top-end history like Jordan Spieth (two runner-ups and a win across three years) and Zach Johnson (two wins and another top five).

It might be tempting to load up on the golfers with good history — maybe even target some of the golfers who did well last year like Justin Rose, Emiliano Grillo, Kevin Na and Kevin Tway (all in the top five). But historical data from the FantasyLabs Trends tool shows that course history, on the whole, is not very predictive of future success at Colonial.

DraftKings points are highly correlated with real life performance in golf (that isn’t the case in all fantasy sports), so our Trends tool can set an expectation for a golfer based on his DraftKings salary and see how certain ones have historically performed. Golfers who have ranked in the top 90th percentile in course history over the past five years, have actually underperformed the following year.

I dug a little further and charted all golfers who finished in the top five at Colonial and how they did in their following five appearances.

Some numbers on that: Of the 52 golfers who placed in the top five at Colonial and then played the following year, just eight of them made it into the top 10. Of those 52, a whopping 36.5% of them missed the cut the following year.

Among the ones that did perform well again, there are also blunders. Webb Simpson, for example, had back-to-back top-five finishes but then missed the cut last year.

Johnson, who has perhaps the best Colonial history, finished 63rd in 2017 and missed the cut last year. Matt Kuchar, a seemingly perfect fit, finished second in 2013 and missed the cut the following year. Adam Scott won in 2014 and has followed that up with finishes of 24th, 55th and 52nd.

Of course, Spieth might be the one exception here. Here are his finishes historically:

  • 2013: 7
  • 2014: 14
  • 2015: 2
  • 2016: 1
  • 2017: 2
  • 2018: 32

But Spieth brings up another issue, which is something my colleagues have discussed already this week: This tournament is now the first one after a major.

Guys like Spieth and last year’s winner in Rose are coming off a grueling weekend at Bethpage Black at the PGA Championship. Spieth hung around on the weekend, and history shows us that majors typically take a toll on players, especially the week after.

Course history isn’t unimportant at Colonial. Those who have shown high upside in the past tend to show it again. Ryan Palmer, for example, was in the top five in 2014, missed the cut in 2015, but placed third in 2016. Johnson has been a bit up and down, but the ceiling is obviously there at this course.

But overall, don’t blindly bet or roster DFS golfers solely because of history. The FantasyLabs Trends tool indicates that recent form has been more predictive at Colonial than course history: Some of the most predictive metrics include recent birdies and current form in hitting greens.

Don’t be afraid in a vacuum to take a chance on a new contestant, and be careful with some of the high-end names with elite history.