Charles Schwab Challenge: Spanish pointer barks 'Bezuidenhout!'

Bezuidenhout Colonial
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The Betfair Sportsbook is paying eight places as the PGA Tour returns to action with this week's Charles Schwab Challenge and Matt Cooper has three each-way selections for the action at Colonial ...

"With a proven capacity to play his best golf when journeying between the trees, he looks well worth following at the price."

Back Christiaan Bezuidenhout each-way @ 80/1

Main Bet: Christiaan Bezuidenhout each-way @ 80/1

Ahead of golfing lockdown 26-year-old Christiaan Bezuidenhout had enjoyed a stellar 12 months of action around the world.

It all started when he shared second in the 2019 Qatar Masters, his first European Tour top five, and he flatly refused to lift his foot from the accelerator, quickly adding top 15 finishes in Kenya, India and Morocco.

By mid-summer the South African had followed third place at the BMW International with a maiden European Tour win in the Andalucia Masters and in early autumn he made the top three in the BMW PGA Championship.

Five of those seven efforts were among the trees - at Karen, Royal Dar es Salam, Eichenried and the West Course at Wentworth, but it is perhaps the win at Valderrama which is most noteworthy for this week because, like Colonial, it is a tight and tree-lined test.

Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose have claimed wins at both venues, whilst Mike Weir, Bernhard Langer, Freddie Jacobson and Ian Poulter, all champions at the Spanish layout, have also contended in Fort Worth.

Bezuidenhout didn't idle after his European breakthrough: he ended 2019 with top 20s in the high-grade WGC HSBC Champions and DP World Tour Championship ahead of making a play-off in the Dubai Desert Classic where only an inspired Lucas Herbert stopped him claiming the win.

After adding a minor tour victory on home soil, he contended in the Arnold Palmer Invitational and opened his debut at THE PLAYERS Championship with a 7-under-par 65 that left him tied second ahead of the tournament's cancellation.

In just about a year, therefore, he's been transformed from a youngster without a top five on the European Tour to a winner now tussling at the top of PGA Tour leaderboards.

Undoubtedly there will be a degree of frustration attached to the swift application of the brakes to that rise, but in overcoming a childhood accident (he drank rat poison by mistake), and the health problems and stutter which followed, he has shown himself both patient and steadfast.

With a proven capacity to play his best golf when journeying between the trees, he looks well worth following at the price.

Next Best: Kevin Kisner each-way @ 66/1

There will be much discussion this week about the difficulty of preparation after three months of inaction.

Some players, naturally, will struggle to hit the ground running, needing to ease themselves back into competitive action, reacquaint themselves with tricky business of scoring every hole, or simply discover that swings are a little stiffer than expected.

With so many imponderables I'm directing my attention toward a man who is quite used to setting and resetting his focus at different stages of the year - a man, moreover, who is even experienced in targetting this particular week.

Kevin Kisner has regularly discussed the fact that modern courses force him out of the equation as a winner. As a consequence, when he plays traditional, and shorter designs, he's ready to maximize his returns.

For example, he said at Waialae earlier this year: "This is one of the few courses left on tour (that suits me). I've got to be able to make hay when the sun shines. I have to go for it."

In addition to Waialae, he also regularly highlights Harbour Town (next week's host) and Colonial so it's highly likely that he's itching to re-start and the notion of being extra-primed is familiar territory, rather than something to faze him.

Fifth at this week's venue in 2015, he was tenth a year later and claimed the win in 2017.

He said: "It's definitely at the top of my list when I set a schedule. I love the golf course. It reminds me of home.

"I grew up on a course with small greens pushed up, and you got to hit your numbers and be in the right quadrant. That's what Colonial is all about, and I just love being here, being able to compete.

"In my opinion, too many courses are getting too long, too big, and guys are having too much advantage with power.

"This is the kind of golf course that I dream about playing."

He'll face a stronger field than normal this week, but he's proved himself up against the world's finest in Texas before, when winning last year's WGC Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin.

Final Bet: Brooks Koepka each-way @ 22/1

It remains somewhat remarkable that Brooks Koepka has played with, and among, hundreds of professional golfers and yet the only one to have witnessed him in a frazzled state is Scotland's George Murray.

It was Murray, an enigmatic character who once punched himself in the face after missing a putt to win a Challenge Tour event, who shared a ride with Koepka in a taxi that went AWOL in the back streets of Nairobi.

The former World No. 1 feared for his future and it continues to be the only report of him ever getting in a flap.

His measured analysis of the stress levels of his opponents has helped earn him four major wins, last year he added the ability to troll his peers in deadpan fashion, and in recent days he's been at it again.

Having posted support of the Black Lives Matter campaign, he responded to those noting the criticism he had received with: "Don't throw a pity party for us cause ppl said something mean or negative."

It's another case of him being straight-forward, no-nonsense and clear-headed.

What does this have to do with his golf? Well, they're qualities that have surely helped drive his ascent of the world rankings.

They also prompted him, earlier this year, to note that the instructions of his coaches were falling short so he caught a plane to see Butch Harmon. His different words cut through the fog and, having limped through three PGA Tour starts early in the calendar year, he immediately opened THE PLAYERS Championship with an improved 2-under-par 70.

That effort, like Bezuidenhout's, has been wiped from the official slate, but it's worth recalling.

As is the fact that in his only previous visit to Colonial, in 2018, he twice carded a 63 on his way to solo second behind Justin Rose.

"It feels like we've got a good game plan on this golf course," he said after the first of those 7-under-par efforts before admitting after the second (in his final round) that he was slightly frustrated that he didn't grab the win.

His price reflects those early year struggles, but that first round at TPC Sawgrass, his course form and undoubted quality is good enough to complete the team.

Matt Cooper,

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