After an absolutely thrilling week in Rochester at the PGA Championship, the PGA Tour now heads south to Texas for the Charles Schwab Challenge, one of the longest-standing events of the PGA Tour. Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, remains one of the most iconic golf courses on the PGA Tour, and its narrow corridors and a large plurality of short to middle iron approaches will provide a far different test than what many of the world’s best were tasked with last week at Oak Hill.
While this will be a natural off week for many that were competing at the year’s second major, the Charles Schwab Challenge still boasts an incredibly strong field. Coming off a disappointing missed cut at Oak Hill, Sam Burns will return to defend his title. Both of last week’s second-place finishers, Scottie Scheffler and Viktor Hovland, will also attend. Former champion Jordan Spieth and top-25 players such as Max Homa, Sungjae Im, and Tommy Fleetwood will all be making the trek to the Lone Star State.
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CHARLES SCHWAB CHALLENGE: COURSE PREVIEW
Colonial Country Club is an old-school, classical golf course designed in 1935 by the great Perry Maxwell. Despite advances in modern technology, Colonial is one of the only sub-7,200 yard golf courses that can still truly challenge the world’s best. Is it in need of some updates? Absolutely, and I cannot wait to see the restorative work that Gil Hanse is in the midst of completing.
Unfortunately, we will not get to see the finished product until the 2024 event. Yet still, Colonial manages to provide an astute test. Colonial annually ranks as one of the harder courses on Tour despite its less than imposing length. Narrow tree-lined fairways and small, heavily bunkered greens play a role in that. Yet the amount of wind and rainfall that the course gets remain the true determining factor. Last year, we saw Scottie Scheffler and Sam Burns battle it out on an extremely baked out and windy Colonial. I’m not sure I would bank on this year being as threatful as last, but the weather forecast is always something to pay keen attention to in Texas.
This week, I will primarily be looking for players with strong course history, as Colonial has some of the stickiest year to year results on Tour. I will also be looking for players that have a proven track record of success on shorter, positional golf courses. Colonial is the type of course that has allowed players such as Zach Johnson, Kevin Kisner, and Kevin Na, amongst others, to find repeated success.
With that being said, we’ve also seen Jason Kokrak, Sam Burns, Scottie Scheffler, and Tony Finau take a more aggressive driver heavy approach in recent years that has also led to considerable success. There are many roadmaps to success off the tee at the Perry Maxwell classic, but the second shot still remains of upmost importance. Short to middle iron play this week is absolutely crucial, and I will also be looking for those that excel from 125-200 yards.
CHARLES SCHWAB CHALLENGE KEY STATS
- Strokes Gained Total: Short Par 70 Courses
- Long-term Proximity 150-200 yards
- Strokes Gained Off the Tee: Short Courses
CHARLES SCHWAB CHALLENGE: OUTRIGHT WINNER
Jordan Spieth (+1400) (Bet $100 to collect $1,500) BetMGM has the best Jordan Spieth odds
I’m not quite sure what others will make of Jordan Spieth’s PGA Championship, but I view it as a resounding positive. How Spieth, with slightly above-average distance, was able to gain nearly six strokes off the tee at Oak Hill is beyond me, but here we are. The three-time major winner entered the year’s second major with a serious injury concern, and he was coming to an extremely poor ball-striking performance at the Wells Fargo. He then withdrew from an event in his hometown, with whom he shared the presenting sponsor.
While the result at Oak Hill may not look as impressive on the surface, Spieth completely answered the bell from a ball-striking standpoint and fell victim to a faulty short game and putter. I would not expect that to continue this week at Colonial, where Spieth has gained around the green in nine of ten appearances, as well as a combined 23 strokes putting in his last four times on these greens. In 10 appearances at Colonial, Spieth has nine top-15 finishes, with a win and three runner-ups. He has by far the best course history in this field, he’s due for a win, and he’s in peak ball-striking form. I know that it’s a steep price to pay, but sometimes it’s wise not to overthink it.
Collin Morikawa (+1600) (Bet $100 to collect $1,700) FanDuel has the best Collin Morikawa odds
It’s hard to believe that a player of Collin Morikawa’s caliber has not found the winner’s circle since the 2021 Open Championship at Royal St. George’s. While he is elite enough to be judged on his victories, this has still been an incredibly impressive season for the two-time major winner. Morikawa is coming off a 26th at the PGA Championship, where he gained over four strokes on approach, and he put together one of the best ball-striking rounds on the course on Sunday.
Now he travels to a course that is far better suited for his skill set. Morikawa is an incredibly accurate driver of the ball, and he remains the best short-to-middle iron player in this field. While the short game and putting have certainly been a problem for him this season, he gained in both short game categories at the PGA Championship, an encouraging sign as he now heads to a golf course that should offer far more benign greenside areas and putting surfaces. Morikawa is simply too strong of a player to stay down for this long, and Colonial is the perfect spot for him to end his winless drought.
Source : Golf Monthly