2023 Charles Schwab Challenge Preview, Picks & Analysis
SAM BURNS has a fight on his hands if he is to make a successful defence of his Charles Schwab Challenge title this week.
Usually, the week after a major sees a seriously weakened field but with the US Open just around the corner the likes of Scottie Scheffler, Tony Finau, Max Homa, Jordan Spieth and Tommy Fleetwood have opted to play.
Burns beat Scheffler in a playoff 12 months ago, overcoming a seven-shot deficit with a superb 65 in trying conditions at Colonial.
Scheffler was going for his fifth PGA Tour victory in 10 starts but a final round of 72 meant he missed becoming the first player since Tom Watson in 1980 with five wins in a season before the start of June.
(Image Credit: Kevin Diss Photography)
The tournament sees another start for Akshay Bhatia, who performed so well at the Mexico Open last month.
Despite his name, he was born in Northbridge, California on January 31, 2002.
The left-hander was runner-up at the 2018 US Junior Amateur and won two silver medals at the 2018 Youth Olympics, in the boys individual and mixed team with Lucy Li. He also played on the Junior Presidents Cup team in 2017 and Junior Ryder Cup team in 2018, finishing on the winning side in both. He also played in the Walker Cup in 2019.
He turned professional in 2019 and has been plying his trade on the Korn Ferry Ferry Tour and PGA Tour of Canada, where he quickly established a reputation for being a brilliant ball striker, despite weighing less than 140lb.
In August 2020 he won the ST11 on the Swing Thought Tour, the first of two wins. In 2021 he won the Biggs Classic on the GPro Tour and qualified for the US Open, where he finished in a tie for 57th place.
In January 2022 he won the Bahamas Great Exuma Classic on the Korn Ferry Tour. He earned special temporary membership of the PGA Tour after finishing second at the 2023 Puerto Rico Open.
Sometimes it is not all about the big-name players. Also getting a rare start this week is Erik Compton.
The 43-year-old has faced huge challenges in his life.
When he was nine, Compton was diagnosed with viral cardiomyopathy, a condition where the heart muscle is inflamed and unable to pump as hard as it should. This condition has resulted in him undergoing two successful heart transplants, the first being in 1992 when Compton was 12, and the second taking place in 2008.
During The Masters in 2009, Compton received the Ben Hogan Award which is given annually to a golfer who has stayed active in golf despite a physical handicap or serious illness. He also gained recognition for his attempts to be allowed the use of a golf cart during qualifying rounds for PGA Tour and Nationwide Tour events.
In 2004, he dominated the Canadian Tour, winning twice and also winning the Order of Merit title. He also won the 2004 Hassan II Trophy in Morocco. He played in 30 PGA Tour events from 2000 to 2011 through sponsor exemptions and qualifying, making the cut 18 times.
In 2011, Compton won the Mexico Open, his first win on a major golf tour. Compton finished 13th on the money list, good enough for a PGA Tour Card for 2012. In 2013 and 2014 he played well enough to qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs.
He lost his card in 2016 and has been plying his trade on the Korn Ferry Tour since then.
It was won in 2015 by Chris Kirk, in 2016 by Jordan Spieth, in 2017 by Kevin Kisner, in 2018 by Justin Rose, in 2019 by Kevin Na, in 2020 by Daniel Berger, in 2021 by Jason Kokrak and last year by Sam Burns.
Max Homa is enjoying another superb season, winning the Fortinet Championship and Farmers Insurance Open, as well as finishing second at the Genesis Invitational and tied third at the Tournament of Champions. Sam Burns will fancy his chances of a successful defence. He has missed four cuts this season but won the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play and also has four top-10 finishes to his credit.
Colonial Country Club is a par 70 measuring 7,209 yards. Bordered by the Trinity River, it was designed by Perry Maxwell and John Bredemus. Its tree-lined fairways put a premium on accuracy from the tee. It features several doglegs and smallish greens.
Max Homa. Shotmaker whose game is made for this course
Sam Burns. Will return with happy memories
Scottie Scheffler. Bound to be there or thereabouts
Five to Follow:
Max Homa. Hugely impressive
Sam Burns. Great iron player
Scottie Scheffler. Looking to go one better than last year
Tony Finau. Now one of the most consistent players on tour
Jordan Spieth. Has the short game to win here again
Five Outsiders to Watch:
Erik Compton. Sentimental favourite
Akshay Bhatia. One for the future
Christiaan Bezuidenhout. Brilliant ball striker
Zecheng Dou. Gifted Chinese player
Austin Eckroat. Promising rookie
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