Charles Schwab Challenge First Round Leader: Stick with Na

Na Colonial
Defending champ Na can make another fast start at Colonial.
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Matt Cooper takes a look at the opening round at Colonial and has three picks to set the early pace...

"In the last eight rounds played at Colonial, Na has been the low scorer three times and would have grabbed a full place payout on a fourth occasion."

Back Kevin Na @ 50/1

Each-way terms: 1/5, 6 places

Weather forecast for Forth Worth, Texas: A beautiful day has been predicted with morning temperatures in the late 80s and with very little wind (no more than 6 mph when gusting) it will feel more like the low 90s. In the afternoon temperatures will reach the mid to high 90s. The breeze will get up, but only in so much as it might reach a far from gusty 9 mph.

First round leader history:

2019 - 64 Tony Finau
2018 - 62 Kevin Na
2017 - 65 Kelly Kraft, JT Poston, Derek Fathauer
2016 - 64 Bryce Molder
2015 - 64 Jordan Spieth, Kevin Na, Boo Weekley, Ryo Ishikawa
2014 - 65 Dustin Johnson
2013 - 62 Ryan Palmer
2012 - 64 Zach Johnson

Strategy: Of those 13 early pace-setters in the last eight years the split is as tight as it could get with the morning starters edging it 7-6. That suggests little bias and there is nothing in the weather forecast to prompt temptation either way. We'll keep it simple and not second guess the tee times.

Hey Kevin

A glance down the roll call of previous round one leaders at Colonial has a touch of the closing stages of Paul McCartney's 'Hey Jude' about it, with defending champion Kevin Na featuring no less than three times.

A 63 in 2007 and a 64 in 2015 earned him a share of the early honours, but a barnstorming 62 in 2018 left him clear of the field on Thursday night.

Throw in a 65 on his debut in 2005 (which shared a three-way tie for fourth) and that's hefty returns from his 12 first round efforts.

One line of thought might be that the horse has bolted, but has it?

In 2018 he added a fourth round 61 to his earlier 62 and last year he again carded a 62, this time in Friday's lap.

In other words, he's gone sub-63 three times in the last two renewals, each of them best-of-the-day scores.

Moreover, he clinched the win last May with a final round 66 that only one player equalled and just the one bettered.

So, in the last eight laps at Colonial, Na has been the low scorer three times and would have grabbed a full place payout on a fourth occasion.

I'll happily take the 50/1.

Texas Ranger

He might hail from California and have studied in Nevada, but it's in Texas that Charley Hoffman finds himself truly at golfing home.

In 49 PGA Tour starts there he's claimed no less than 28 top 25 finishes which includes three seconds and a win (plus another triumph on the Korn Ferry Tour).

He's no less expert in making fast starts in the Lone Star state.

In ten of them he would have earned a return from an each-way wager on his first round effort, a tally that includes two solo leads and one shared.

He's yet to find himself the top dog on Thursday night at Colonial, but he was one shot back in second after a 65 in 2006 and solo second two years ago with a 63 that would have taken the spoils most years, but which was trumped by Na's spectacular 62.

Last year he reiterated his ability to go low at Hogan's Alley with a third round 63.

A peek at his Instagram page reveals a striking resemblance to his mother (especially if you recall his past haircut), but, more persuasively, a chipper mood as he returns to action.

Grab the 110/1.

Justin Time

He's a debutant this week, but if Justin Thomas can find plenty of fairways there's every chance that he can thrive on Thursday.

"I feel like my wedges are a strength of my game," he said in February, when explaining his success at GC Chapultepec, home of the WGC Mexico Championship, and, like this week's test, short and tree-lined.

This year he opened with laps of 67-66-65 there, last season he started with a 66 and closed with a 62, in 2018 he closed 62-64, and in 2017 he logged a pair of 66s.

Yet another short course, with plenty of doglegs and wedges into the greens, is Waialae, home of the Sony Open.

Thomas carded a second round 61 there on debut in 2015, then opened with a 59 and closed 64-65-65 when claiming the title in 2017.

If he has a solid game plan from the tee box there's every chance he can make the most of that wedge strength in a three-ball that includes his good friends Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth.

At 28/1 the former World No. 1 can give us an excellent run for our money.

Matt Cooper,

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