Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Preview, Picks & Analysis
THE Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial has attracted its strongest field in years as the PGA Tour finally gets under way again. The only notable absentees are 15-time major champion Tiger Woods and Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama. Woods, of course, continues to have to carefully manage his schedule, while Matuyama has the small matter of travelling from Japan to contend with.
World No1 Rory McIlroy will be attempting to continue the astonishing run of form that took him back to the top of the rankings but he is going to have to be at the top of his game if he is going to come out on top. Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele, Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Jason Day and Phil Mickelson are all in the field, along with a healthy smattering of legends, including Bernhard Langer, Tom Lehman and Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker.
There were fears that only a handful of Europeans would tee it up on account of the two-week quarantine restrictions imposed in the USA but it appears that a compromise has been reached and Europe will be well represented. Many of our players live in America, of course, but McIlroy and Rahm will be joined by Justin Rose, Matt Fitzpatrick, Ian Poulter, Graeme McDowell, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Alex Noren, Russell Knox and Open champion Shane Lowry.
Picking a winner is a well-nigh impossible task and, quite frankly, who really cares? It is just going to be fun watching the world’s best golfers get back into the groove. Most of them have spent much of the lockdown in the gym so we know that they are all going to be fit. Many didn’t touch their clubs for weeks, most notably Johnson, while others have continue to play and practice throughout the pandemic.
But who knows what sort of form they are going to be in?
Spieth will have welcomed the break more than most. Incredibly, it is now almost three years since the American last won a tournament, The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale. There have been flashes of the form that saw him win three majors but he has struggled horribly with the driver in his hands, and that has put an incredible amount of pressure on the putting stroke that propelled him to the top of the rankings. How long ago that now seems. He heads to Fort Worth ranked 56th in the world. How would ever have believed it? Remember that this is a man who only needs to win the US PGA Championship to achieve the career grand slam. Right now, you get the impression that he would settle for victory in his club monthly medal.
But he loves this layout, having recorded one victory and two runners-up finishes here. Could it be the catalyst for a sustained return to form? Let’s hope so. Spieth is a thoroughly decent young man and it has been painful to see him struggling so badly.
Koepka is another for whom the break came at the right time. Since returning from injury the American has struggled to recapture the form that saw him dominate the game. You sometimes get the impression with Koepka that he just might spend too much time in the gym and has become too muscle-bound. It will be fascinating to see what sort of shape he is in.
Rose currently languishes outside the top 200 in the FedEx Cup standings and former world No 1 will be looking to rediscover his best form as quickly as possible. This should be a golf course that is tailor-made for his game.
Colonial is one of the few courses on the PGA Tour that favours shotmakers over bombers and that definitely brings Fitzpatrick into the equation. The Englishman is one of the shorter hitters in the top 50 but he hits the ball straight, is a wonderful iron player and has the touch of an angel on and around the greens. And don’t be surprised to see Kevin Na make a decent fist of defending his title - he loves this course and has an excellent record.
Colonial Preview Content
One of the most fascinating aspects of this tournament is going to be watching how the players react to having no crowds around. The likes of Kevin Kisner and Jason Dufner, who are both in the field, never interact with spectators anyway, while Mickelson, Rahm, Poulter and McIlroy are at their best when feeding off the fans. This tournament is going to be played out in an eerie silence and we will almost certainly hear every word the players utter, so they are going to have to be on their best behaviour. Mr Rahm, please take note.
And will they really be able to maintain social distancing? The TaylorMade Skins Challenge proved just how difficult this is going to be, with players frequently coming within touching distance of one another. In both that event and the pairs event featuring Woods, Mickelson, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady the players took care of their own clubs, but caddies and Tour officials will be in attendance at Colonial. How do you pass a golf club to a player while maintaining a distance of two metres? Answer: you can’t. Unless Harry Diamond is going to be throwing the clubs at McIlroy, and vice versa. Mind you, there are a lot of players who frequently throw clubs at their bagmen anyway!
It is certainly not going to be tournament golf as we know it. Donald Trump tells us he will be getting fans back to American sport as quickly as possibly. Thankfully, the powers-that-be at the PGA Tour are adopting a rather more sensible approach so we are going to have to live without fans for a while yet.
It was won in 2015 by Chris Kirk, in 2016 by Jordan Spieth, in 2017 by Kevin Kisner, in 2018 by Justin Rose and last year by Kevin Na.
Charles Schwab Challenge Picks
Rory McIlroy. Difficult to bet against him
Jon Rahm. Chomping at the bit
Justin Thomas. Looking for third win of season
Charles Schwab Challenge Fantasy Picks
Rory McIlroy. Looking for fast start
Jon Rahm. Has no weaknesses
Justin Thomas. Hugely impressive
Matthew Fitzpatrick. Course is made for him
Dustin Johnson. Looked rusty during the skins match
Kevin Na. Defending champion has a great record here
Xander Schauffele. Just goes about his business
Jordan Spieth. Hoping to turn the corner
Jason Day. Break will have done him good
Phil Mickelson. Still believes he can win on any course
For our weekly betting odds in partnership with Betway visit here. You can also get all the latest golf tips and odds direct from the Betway.com website. All odds correct at the time of posting. Bet the responsible way.
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