The PGA Tour returns to the venue where it all restarted 12 months ago this week when the Charles Schwab Challenge takes place in the Lone Star state of Texas on what is usually a very good week of golf even with it following a major championship.
Daniel Berger got the better of Collin Morikawa in a play-off last year and the American is back to defend the title and he’ll do so against a pretty good field, albeit not quite as strong as the one he beat when the sport returned from the Covid lockdown last year.
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
2011 – David Toms
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, although as we saw recently at the Byron Nelson, the freezing cold winter has affected the areas around the greens.
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 2.5 inches so it is significant. As ever when the tour heads to Texas the wind is a factor and is set to deliver gusts on Thursday. We are all set up for a big week for the ball strikers.
You can understand why the field isn’t as good as it was last year but there are still plenty of the best golfers in the world on show this week. The home favourite Jordan Spieth is one of those while Justin Thomas will be looking to put a terrible showing at the USPGA last week behind him. Other leading lights who could easily contend this week include the defending champion Daniel Berger, the popular Mexican player Abraham Ancer and the Farmers Insurance Open winner Patrick Reed.
There are a few former champions in the field this week. They include Justin Rose, Kevin Na, Chris Kirk and Kevin Kisner while the likes of Will Zalatoris will be looking to win on the PGA Tour for the first time this week. He will need to defy history to do that as Sergio Garcia in 2001 was the last winner whose first tour title came here. Tony Finau, Corey Conners, Scottie Scheffler and Sungjae Im are just some of the other players who tee it up this week.
Jordan Spieth is usually the favourite whenever he tees it up in Texas and that is the case this week too. He was favourite for the Texas Open which he won and also the Byron Nelson which he didn’t get over the line in recently. His USPGA tilt never really got going, partly due to some poor putting stats and that is a slight concern because he didn’t hole a huge amount at the Byron Nelson, or The Masters which preceded it. At 11/1 I respect Spieth but the price is plenty short enough to be left alone.
Collin Morikawa and Justin Thomas are the 14/1 second favourites this week. Thomas remains one of the best players in the world but his win at The Players Championship is starting to look more and more like the rarity in a patch of bad form than anything else. He never made an impression at all in a missed cut at Kiawah Island last week and will need a huge improvement to win this. Morikawa missed a short putt to hand Daniel Berger the title in the play-off last year but he looks to be hitting the ball well and could be set for a big few weeks. His price is skinny enough though.
Abraham Ancer and Daniel Berger come next in the betting at 20/1. If you remain a believer in historical stats after the last two weeks then you wouldn’t be going near Ancer despite his good form. History tells us players don’t pick up their first win here but then history told us 50 year olds don’t win majors before last week too! Berger doesn’t have any historical stats to worry about but his time will be taken up a little more than usual as the defending champion which is a concern although I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go well again.
Tony Finau and Patrick Reed follow them in the betting at 22/1. If you never watched golf and just looked at the Finau results you would think he is something of a contention machine but even though he gets a lot of top 10s, rarely does he threaten to win and when he does he looks uncomfortable. Reed would be much more for me here but his driving always leaves a lot to be desired so I’m happy to leave both of these alone.
I prefer to be on elite ball strikers around here and there aren’t many hitting the golf ball better than Corey Conners these days and he is my first main bet. He has won a title in Texas in the past which is definitely a help and although he was in the top 20 in the USPGA last week, he wasn’t really in contention over the weekend so I don’t think he would have used up too much in the way of mental energy. We saw actually in the opening round when the winds were probably at their worst just how well he can putt on his day when he carded the second lowest round of the week. That caught the eye but you don’t need to be a good putter to win here. You do need to be accurate with the long game which the Canadian is and I think he has a standout chance of lifting silverware this week.
Justin Rose is a former winner around here and even last year when his game wasn’t in great shape and just off the back of a lengthy break he led the tournament after the first round so this is a course he enjoys and why wouldn’t he when one of the best ball strikers in the sport over the last 15 years comes to a place where pure hitting comes to the fore!? Rose looks to be what the kids of today would describe as trending in the right direction with his game. There have been sporadic signs for a while that he is bubbling to the fore not least the opening round at Augusta and the final round last week at Kiawah Island. He overwhelmed the field in strokes gained with the putter in that event too which is quite something given that putting is widely acknowledged to be the weakest part of his game. Rose has three top 10s in his last six starts – all at big tournaments in the Saudi International, The Masters and last week. Now he’s back on a course he thrives this could be the week he returns to the winning circles.
Matt Wallace doesn’t fit the historical trends but after last week I’m more than happy to tear those things out of the water, especially when Collin Morikawa almost won on debut here last year. Wallace hasn’t won on the PGA Tour yet which would make him the first player in 20 years if he picks this title up as his maiden title, but he’s won regularly on the European Tour and has been knocking on the door on this side of the world for a while. Since the beginning of April only three men have gained more strokes from tee to green in this field than Wallace and that is an excellent starting position around here. It isn’t like he is terrible around or on the greens either so while some of the courses in American suit the bombers and probably marginalise him to the fringes of winning expectation, this one certainly doesn’t. He was third in Texas just before The Masters when he played in the final group and sixth at The Heritage where Stewart Cink led the field a merry dance. He was just getting himself into position for the weekend last week when he got caught up in that ridiculous Erik van Rooyen incident. He’s another bubbling and I’ll pay to see if he goes well this week.
My last two outrights are in the elite ball striker category at huge prices. If you have followed this site throughout its existence then you are probably waiting for the time when Kyle Stanley appears in the previews again and you need wait no longer as this could be his week. It is well known that Stanley is one of the best ball strikers on the PGA Tour and elite from tee to green with his issues being with the shorter clubs. Bad putters can and do win here which is encouraging. Despite him being poor with the putter, there are a couple of instances this season where Stanley has putted well. If the third comes this week he could be very hard to beat.
The other player I’ll take a chance on this week is Brice Garnett, a player who has already gone well for me without reward at The Honda Classic this season. I said going into that week that Garnett hits a lot of fairways and greens and nothing has changed in that regard although to be fair his form isn’t as strong now as it was then. I wouldn’t expect it to be though because three of the last four events he has played have been low scoring affairs and the other was at Quail Hollow where you need to have a tip top all-round game to compete. The facts are though that he has made the cut in seven of his last 12 events and in each of them he has ranked in the top 15 for driving accuracy and four times in the top 20 in greens in regulation. That suggests he is still hitting the ball well. He does have a top 30 finish here seven years ago when his ball striking wasn’t as good so if he can get the putter cooperating early he might have a deeper say this year.
Back C.Conners to win Charles Schwab Challenge (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 26.00 with William Hill (1/5 1-8)
Back him here:
Back J.Rose to win Charles Schwab Challenge (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 29.00 with 888sport (1/5 1-8)
Back M.Wallace to win Charles Schwab Challenge (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 61.00 with 888sport (1/5 1-8)
PLACED – Back K.Stanley to win Charles Schwab Challenge (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 151.00 with 888sport (1/5 1-8)
Back them here:
Back B.Garnett to win Charles Schwab Challenge (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 251.00 with Sky Bet (1/5 1-8)