After a sojourn for a week for the USPGA Championship, the PGA Tour heads back to Texas for the Charles Schwab Challenge, one of the better tournaments on the regular calendar which comes bang in the middle of an excellent run of events.
Jason Kokrak certainly has a positive opinion of this tournament after he won the title last year. He is back to defend the crown but a number of very good players will be out to deny him the chance to hold onto it for another year.
2021 – Jason Kokrak
2020 – Daniel Berger
2019 – Kevin Na
2018 – Justin Rose
2017 – Kevin Kisner
2016 – Jordan Spieth
2015 – Chris Kirk
2014 – Adam Scott
2013 – Boo Weekley
2012 – Zach Johnson
The Colonial Country Club will forever be remembered as the first course the PGA Tour used on its return to action. This is a regular stop for the tour although it is usually used a little earlier in the year than this. The one thing we know is needed around here is accuracy. This is a treelined track where the grass tends to be juicy, and a wet spell ahead of the tournament isn’t going to change that this week either.
If you look at the list of winners above, they are all clean ball strikers or exceptional putters and in some cases both, so that gives us an early indication of what to look for. There have been no actual changes to the course since last year so it remains a par 70 which measures 7,209 yards so it is far from long by modern standards. The rough is said to be three inches so it is significant. As ever when the tour heads to Texas the wind is a factor and is set to deliver a significant breeze from Friday onwards. We are all set up for a big week for the ball strikers.
We have a really good field on show this week even though there are only 120 players in the tournament. One of those is the man who lifted his second major title last week in Justin Thomas. Two other high profile players are the world number one Scottie Scheffler and the darling of Texas, Jordan Spieth. They are not the only class acts in the field though as the runner up in Oklahoma last week, Will Zalatoris, is also here.
The top drawer names doesn’t end there though. Collin Morikawa should have won this tournament two years ago but he’s back for another crack this year, as is Viktor Hovland. Sam Burns is another top level player teeing it up while the likes of Sungjae Im, 2020 winner Daniel Berger, Max Homa, Talor Gooch Tony Finau, Webb Simpson, Tommy Fleetwood, Abraham Ancer and Billy Horschel are all here. There will be no Bryson DeChambeau though as he withdrew earlier in the week.
The bookmakers can’t split the big three this week which means that Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth and Scottie Scheffler are all 12/1 joint favourites. Thomas is an easy one to get rid of after the highs and emotional exertions he went through at the USPGA Championship last week. The other two are much less easy to count out. Spieth has won this title in the past while Scheffler is doing nothing wrong at the present time. Only the price puts me off those two.
Collin Morikawa comes next in the betting at 18/1. He has had two spins around here and finished second and T14 so he gets on with the track and with the quality of his long game that is absolutely no surprise. His putting is just becoming enough of an issue to fade him at the minute. It isn’t a massive requirement to putt well around here because of the small greens but he has lost strokes with the short stick in his last three measured events which puts me off at the price.
Viktor Hovland is a general 20/1 to win the tournament this week. He has gone very quiet since he threw the Arnold Palmer Invitational away though with finishes since of 9-33-18-27-29-41. That is a real concern and his long game numbers have taken a hit in that period which is a big concern because we know he has a weakness around the greens. I’m sure Hovland will figure it out again soon because he’s a class act but you need to be tip top in the ball striking department to do damage around here and he isn’t quite flushing it as we would expect him to.
At 28/1 on the best prices, Will Zalatoris is the next in the betting. There is absolutely no doubt he has the long game to get the job done around here and I’d be amazed if he doesn’t win this title at some point in his career but he is still a maiden when it comes to wins on tour and it will take a huge effort to bounce back from the disappointment of last week so quickly. A lot of mental energy will have gone into that so he is entitled to be flat as a pancake. He’s a fair price but last week is too close to be backing him.
Max Homa was one of my main bets at the USPGA Championship last week and while he is getting closer to contending at majors it is clear that he isn’t quite there yet. He has no such problems at this level though and the fact he had his best effort at a major last week should be enough of a boost for him to have a serious run at this title instead. Homa is absolutely flushing it from tee to green at the minute and won the Wells Fargo as a result of that. Homa finished level pa at Southern Hills last week which was certainly no bad effort. He was fifth in a very good field on approach last week and gained almost two shots on the field with the putter which comes a start after gaining almost 8.5 shots on the dance floor when winning the Wells Fargo. That suggests he is starting to become consistent with the putter and if that is the case he is going to be a regular winner of tournaments with the quality of his long game. Homa is gaining shots on the field from tee to green at the minute as if he’s the only one in the field. He can add this title to a fast growing collection of pots.
Davis Riley is one of a few players on the PGA Tour for whom the dam is going to burst once he lifts silverware for the first time. He hasn’t got the experience of this place that most winners at Colonial tend to have and that is definitely a negative but given all the data, simulators and everything else these days more and more inexperienced golfers are winning at places where history says course knowledge is everything. What Riley does bring to the party is form. His last seven outings have yielded a run of 2-63-MC-4-5-9-13. He’s in good form. He is hitting the ball really well as highlighted by him being in the top 10 of strokes gained off the tee and on approach last week. At the Mexico Open he led the field in putting so when it all comes together he’ll be tough to beat. Riley won in Texas on the Korn Ferry Tour and can pick up a first PGA Tour title in the same state.
Ryan Palmer has a good record around here and that isn’t a surprise given how well he plays in the wind and how well he drives the golf ball. He missed the cut last week but he was only one shot out of making the weekend but prior to that he finished in the top five at the Byron Nelson Championship where his numbers right across the board were very good. He has four top 10 finishes here and knows how to play the golf course. If the putter can have a good week then he is entitled to be right in the mix once again this week.
Rory Sabbatini has won around here before and while it was a long time ago when he did so, I always take notice of a golfer returning to the scene of positive memories, especially when there are signs of life in that golfer. That is the case with the Slovenian this week. He finished in the top 25 at the Byron Neilson a couple of weeks ago but he ranked in the top 15 in strokes gained from tee to green and on approach – he hit the ball very well basically. His last six outings here have been 10-MC-20-6-14-67 however at the halfway mark in that latest outing last year he was sat on three under but had a mare of a weekend. Had he played the weekend in the same number as the opening 36 he’d have added another top 10 to his collection here. Clearly it is a long shot but Sabbatini likes it here and offered enough last time out to suggest he’s worth a go.
Back M.Homa to win Charles Schwab Challenge (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 36.00 with William Hill (1/5 1-8)
Back him here:
Back D.Riley to win Charles Schwab Challenge (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 41.00 with Betfair (1/5 1-8)
Back R.Palmer to win Charles Schwab Challenge (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 81.00 with Betfair (1/5 1-8)
Back R.Sabbatini to win Charles Schwab Challenge (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 151.00 with Coral (1/5 1-8)
Back him here: