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Charles Schwab Challenge 2024 Preview, Picks & Analysis

By: | Mon 20 May 2024

The superstars of the PGA Tour put their feet up this week after their exertions at Valhalla but there are still plenty of fascinating storylines at the Charles Schwab Challenge - and it just might be a good week for Europe.

Among those in the field at Colonial are Thomas Detry, Nicolai Hojgaard, Harry Hall, Robert MacIntyre, Justin Rose, Aaron Rai and Sepp Straka.

It remains one of the great mysteries to me that a player who strikes the ball as consistently well as Detry is still looking for his first victory in the paid ranks. It simply makes no sense. He has shown some decent form on the PGA Tour without being able to close the deal but I still remain convinced that if the Belgian can find a way to win then the floodgates just might open.

Hojgaard has already proved that he belongs in this company and his maiden success on American soil surely cannot be far away. He gained his playing rights after his stellar form on the DP World Tour in 2023, which culminated in a stunning victory at the DP World Tour Championship.

He briefly contended at The Masters and has quickly become a big-time player who thrives on tough golf courses.

MacIntyre was another who gained his PGA Tour card as a result of his play in Europe but he would be the first to admit that he has struggled to come to terms with the conditions in America. In truth, conditions on the other side of the Pond should suit a golfer who possesses a wondrous short game. He is one of the best putters in the game and his performance at the PGA Championship just mind turn things around for him.

But life as a fledgling PGA Tour player is very different. He was a big fish in Europe. 

Robert MacIntyre

(Image Credit: Kevin Diss Photography)

This is how he describes life in America: "I’m from a small town on the west coast of Scotland. A lot of people never leave Oban. They go on holidays and stuff, but they’re born there, they work there, they ultimately die there. My whole family and friends are there. They’re probably always going to be there.

"It’s just difficult when I come over here, me and my girlfriend. We’re trying to make it home, and it’s difficult when you’ve not got that family connection. We’re giving it our best shot, but it’s completely different to home life. I got home there for three weeks and managed to have somewhat of a normal life for three weeks.

"For me, life in America is a trial period. We’re trying to test out where home is going to be. Renting a place in Orlando, practicing out of Isleworth. The facilities are absolutely incredible. I thought that moving to the US was the only way of achieving my dreams in golf. I don’t know if that’s the answer.

"I feel like a happy Bob MacIntyre is a dangerous Bob MacIntyre on the golf course, and home life makes me happy. That’s why I’m probably going to go home after the next couple events. I’ll go home to Scotland rather than go to Orlando."

He admitted that trying to keep his card has turned out to be far more difficult than he imagined it would be. He said: "I’m trying to keep my card out here. It’s not easy. I’ve not had the greatest of starts, or after an alright start, I’ve not played the way I wanted to play. I want to be one of the best players in the world, so whatever I’ve got to play, I’ll play, whether it’s in the US, whether it’s in Europe, whether it’s further afield. It doesn’t faze me. I’m used to traveling."

"Is that why you came to the US and the PGA Tour, to try to be the best in the world, and how difficult of a decision was it actually to make to actually pull the trigger?" he was asked. "It wasn’t a difficult decision. The world ranking points, the financial gain and the practice facilities, it can only benefit me if I play good golf.

“I can go back to European tour anytime I want. I’ve obviously got that grace period with the 10 cards that we’ve got this year, and I’ve obviously got one in the back pocket from playing Ryder Cup. I’m comfortable. I’m just trying to become one of the best players in the world. I don’t know what limit I’ve got in golf. I don’t know where my limit is. I’m just trying my best every day to accept what score I get and work harder."

As we have said many times, it takes just one week for everything to change in an instant and there is no reason to believe that the Scot will not find a way to succeed on the PGA Tour.

Akshay Bhatia will be looking for his second success of the year. He is a hugely entertaining golfer who possesses a swing with many moving parts. At times he is a frustrating player to watch on account of his pace of play but when everything clicks with his swing he is one of the most exciting talents on the PGA Tour.

Max Homa is likely to start the week as favourite. After a slow start to the season, the American has begun to find his very best form. He has a wonderful temperament and has become on elf the best iron players in the world. And when he finds the fairway he is a very difficult man to beat.

Twelve months ago, Emiliano Grillo won despite a double-bogey six at the 72nd hole. He hit his drive into a penalty area, took a drop, played his third shot to just short of the green, then pitched on and two-putted for a six at the par four.

And it could have been worse. His ball had landed in a stream beside the cart path and travelled more than 50 yards back towards the tee, but he was allowed to take his drop where it first entered the hazard.

It left him tied with Adam Schenk and England’s Harry Hall, who still had to play the 18th. Hall, who had opened the tournament at Colonial with a sensational 62 and was still leading after 54 holes, could only finish with a bogey. But Schenk managed a par to finish alongside Grillo on 272.

Grillo and Schenk each two-putted for par on the first playoff hole, the par-4 18th, leading to a second playoff hole. Grillo made birdie on the second playoff hole, the par-three 16th, to earn his second PGA Tour title, but his first since 2015. 

"They say the second is harder than the first and it definitely was," Grillo said.

Grillo erased a four-stroke deficit entering the final round, carding six birdies in regulation and pumping his fist as his last of the bunch, a 20-foot birdie putt at 16, dropped in to take the lead. 

Grillo made four birdies on the front nine - all from inside 10 feet - and then his putter, which has been the biggest weakness in his game, warmed up. Grillo entered the week ranked No. 134 in Strokes Gained: Putting, but he ranked second at Colonial in that category. 

Tournament Winners:

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, in 2022 by Sam Burns and last year by Emiliano Grillo.

The Course:

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.

Form Guide:

On paper, this should be a straight shootout between Akshay Bhatia and Max Homa. Bhatia can lay claim to being the best left-hander in the world. He has already won in 2024 and possesses a magical short game. Homa has taken time to find his best form this season but a victory cannot be far away.

To Win:

Max Homa. A joy to watch

Each Way:

Akshay Bhatia. Exciting talent

Each Way:

Emiliano Grillo. Finding some consistency

Five to Follow:

Max Homa. Fabulous iron player

Akshay Bhatia. Never a dull minute

Emiliano Grillo. Has great memories

Nicolai Hojgaard. Has proved he belongs out here

Tony Finau. Always dangerous

Five Outsiders to Watch:

Robert MacIntyre. Fabulous putter

Harry Hall. Came so close to winning her 12 months ago

Thomas Detry. His time MUST come

Aaron Rai. Has shown some fine form

Kevin Kisner. Former champion

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Tags: PGA Tour Golf Previews FedEx Cup

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