Following Phil Mickelson's incredible success at Kiawah Island on Sunday, the PGA Tour returns to Texas for the fifth time this season and Steve Rawlings is back with his in-depth preview here...
"I never seem to get Justin Rose right but I thought he was a great price here at 40.039/1 given he’s finished seventh in the US Masters and eighth in the USPGA Championship in two of his last three starts."
Formally known as, the Fort Worth Invitational, the Dean & Deluca, the Crowne Plaza, the Bank of America, the MasterCard and the Southwestern Bell, the Charles Schwab Challenge was first staged 75 years ago in 1946.
Winners of the event are given a plaid tartan jacket and their names are etched on to a Wall of Champions adjacent to the first tee.
Local resident, Ben Hogan, won the first two renewals before going on to win it again three more times in the '50s. Nobody else has won the title more than twice.
The Charles Schwab Challenge is one of just five invitational events on the PGA Tour so the field is smaller than usual, although the event was a full field event last June when it restarted the PGA Tour after a break of 14 weeks due to the pandemic.
Colonial Country Club, Fort Worth, Texas.
Par 70 -7,209 yards
Stroke Index in 2020 - 69.57
Designed by John Bredemus and opened in 1936, Colonial Country Club staged the US Open as soon as 1941, after Perry Maxwell had altered holes three, four and five. This wonderful classic course has hosted this event since its inception and on the PGA Tour, only the US Masters has been staged at the same venue for longer.
Colonial is a tight, tree-lined track with 12 dog-legged holes and small bentgrass greens that usually run at around 12 on the stimpmeter. Water is in play on six holes and the course is littered with strategically placed fairway bunkers.
The par five first hole once again ranked as the easiest hole on the course last year (averaged 4.57) and the par four second ranked the second easiest (3.80) but the next three faced, which were the only holes Maxwell altered prior to the US Open in 1941, are tougher and nicknamed the 'Horrible Horseshoe'. They were the three hardest holes encountered last year but they're not horrendously tough. Together the three combined played just over half a stroke over-par (0.52).
Colonial CC is often affectionately referred to as 'Hogan's Alley' after the five-time winner Ben.
Sky Sports are showing live coverage behind the Red Button from 13:00 on Thursday and Friday, with full coverage beginning at 21:00 (UK and Ireland time) for the first two days. The third and fourth round live coverage begins at 20:00 on Saturday and Sunday.
Last Six Winners with Pre-event Exchange Prices
2020 - Daniel Berger -15 120.0119/1
2019 - Kevin Na -13 90.089/1
2018 - Justin Rose -20 16.015/1
2017 - Kevin Kisner -10 32.031/1
2016 - Jordan Spieth -17 8.07/1
2015 - Chris Kirk -12 38.037/1
What Will it Take to Win the Charles Schwab Challenge?
Phil Mickelson ranked fifth for Driving Distance when he won in 2008 but none of the 12 winners since have ranked inside the top-ten for that stat and it's not one to consider at all. Colonial is short by modern standards and DD is an irrelevant stat. The first and second last year, Daniel Berger and Collin Morikawa, ranked 23rd and 45th and the 2019 winner, Kevin Na, ranked 58th for DD. There are just two par fives and irons are taken off several tees. The average DD ranking of the last ten winners is exactly 30th.
The last two winners have both ranked 17th for Driving Accuracy but six of the last ten winners have ranked inside the top-ten for that stat. It's not a stat to get hung up about though - Jordan Spieth only ranked 54th for DA when he won in 2016 and Chris Kirk ranked 60th six years ago! The average DA ranking of the last ten winners is 29.1.
Kirk was one of the strangest winners, statistically, that I've ever seen on the PGA Tour. He basically just putted incredibly well all week long, averaging an amazing 1.57, so we should perhaps ignore the fact that (in addition to only ranking 40th for DD, 60th for DA and 39th for Scrambling) he ranked a lowly 62nd for Greens In Regulation.
As many as 10 of the last 13 winners have ranked inside the top-ten for GIR and nine of those 10 ranked inside the top-six. Berger ranked fourth last year and the two winners before him both topped the GIR Rankings. As many as five of the top-six ranked inside the top-six last year and the average GIR ranking of the last ten winners is 10.7.
Berger only ranked 25th for Scrambling last year but Bryson DeChambeau in third ranked first and that's another key indicator. Kisner ranked second for Scrambling in 2017 when he won, and Spieth ranked first five years ago so an excellent touch around the green is usually a big plus. The average Scrambling ranking of the last ten winners is 18.6.
The driving metrics are the only stats we can disregard because in addition to the winners usually ranking highly for GIR and Scrambling, they nearly always putt brilliantly too! The last three winners have had a Putting Average ranking of eighth, fifth and fifth and other than Kisner in 2017, every winner in the last 17 years has ranked 17th or better. And 11 of the 17 have ranked inside the top-five for Putting Average. The average Putting Average ranking of the last ten winners is only 7.7.
Given we're in Texas, an ability to handle windy conditions is usually essential.
Is There an Angle In?
There are two possible course links here - Deere Run and Augusta. They don't appear to correlate visually but all three venues reward excellent ball striking and short game skills and form at the three courses crosses over well.
David Toms, Kenny Perry, Steve Stricker, Zach Johnson and Jordan Spieth have all recently won this title and the John Deere Classic, staged at Deere Run in Illinois. The 2017 runner-up, Sean O'Hair's first PGA Tour success was at Deere Run and Brandt Snedeker and Tim Clark have both finished runner-up in both tournaments.
Zach Johnson has won this title twice recently so of the nine men to win the last 13 editions, four have also won the US Masters - Johnson, Spieth, Mickelson and Adam Scott. And the 2018 winner, Rose, again came close to picking up a Green jacket when he contended in April.
Berger gave the angle in a bit of a boost last June. He was in the wilderness for a few years after winning back-to-back St Jude Invitationals in 2016 and 2017 so he has regressive form at both venues but he was fifth on debut at Deere Run in 2016 and 10th at Augusta in his first US Masters in 2017.
Is There an Identikit Winner?
With length an irrelevance, the wily old pros have a really great chance to add to their silverware here and I say add because the vast majority of winners here have already bagged plenty of titles.
Prior to Berger's win last year, and Spieth's victory five years ago, Sergio Garcia, in 2001, was the last player under the age of 30 to take the title and eight of the last 22 winners have been aged 40 or over. The average age of the winners here is just under 37.
Colonial is a course that takes a bit of getting to know and debutants have a poor record. Historically, the winners have already played the event eight times on average and it's rare to see someone win their first PGA Tour event here. Na was playing here for the 12th time when he won here in 2019 and he'd previously led the tournament three times after round one. He also led after round three (by a stroke) in 2015 before going on to finish 10th.
Garcia was the last first timer to win, in 2001, but he'd already won in Europe and before that, Ian Baker-Finch won his first PGA Tour title in this event in 1989 but he too had already tasted success, having already won Down Under. We all know how good the 2017 US Masters winner, Sergio, is and Baker-Finch won an Open Championship.
Given how impeccably good all areas of a player's game needs to be to win here, it's probably not surprising to see so many major champions, Ryder Cuppers and WGC winners have been successful here. The cream tends to rise to the top.
Is a full week at Kiawah a concern?
Last week's USPGA Championship was a grueling event, made even harder with a complete switch to the wind direction on Sunday, and its going to be interesting to see how the contenders at Kiawah Island respond here after such a mentally demanding week.
The market is dominated by players that teed it up around the spectacular Pete Dye - designed Ocean Course but the year's second major could well have left a mark on a few and not playing last week, or even missing the cut, could be an advantage here.
Winner's Position and Exchange Price Pre-Round Four
2020 -Daniel Berger T7 - trailing by two 29.028/1
2019 - Kevin Na led by two strokes 3.45
2018 - Justin Rose led by four strokes 1.42/5
2017 - Kevin Kisner T5 - trailing by three 11.010/1
2016 - Jordan Spieth led by one stroke 2.111/10
2015 - Chris Kirk T4 - trailing by three 13.5
As illustrated above, three of the last five winners were in front with a round to go but it's not always easy to convert from the front here. Spieth was actually the first third round leader to win since Phil Mickelson in 2008.
Being up with the pace is usually the way to go though and being on the heels of the leaders looks like the ideal place to be.
Berger sat tied for seventh and no more than two or three off the lead after rounds one, two and three last year. The two winners that preceded Spieth were seven and six strokes adrift and outside the top-ten at halfway but that's unusual. Prior to Adam Scott's victory in 2014, Rory Sabbatini in 2007 and Sergio Garcia in 2001, had been the only two winners this century to be outside the top-ten and more than four strokes adrift through 36 holes and 17 of the last 19 winners have been no more than two strokes off the lead with a round to go. Kisner and Kirk are the odd men out and they only trailed by three so although it's hard to win from the front, winning from miles back is very rare.
The 2016 winner, Jordan Spieth, has returned to form spectacularly of late and he has a brilliant bank of form around here with figures reading 7-14-2-1-2-32-8-10.
He will have been disappointed by his 74 on Sunday at Kiawah Island, which saw him fall from 13th to 30th, but he's a worthy favourite given he won in his home state just four starts ago at the Texas Open.
Last year's beaten playoff protagonist, Collin Morikawa, may feel some relief to have gotten his USPGA Championship defence out of the way last week and he looks highly likely to contend again this time around.
This venue looks absolutely perfect for this elite ball-striker and his 68 on Sunday, which saw him climb into a tie for eighth, is an encouraging effort. Morikawa has won three of his 25 starts since finishing second here (including a major!) and it's very hard to argue a case for him being too short at around the 15.014/1 mark.
Not playing at the weekend last week can be construed as a bit of a positive as he'll be better rested than most, but Justin Thomas' form has been patchy for some time. He won the Players Championship in March when he got red-hot over the weekend but that's starting to look like a bit of a fluke given his general form since he finished third at the Tournament of Champions in January has been mediocre by his standards.
Thomas was 10th here on debut last year but that was a disappointing effort considering he opened up with a 64 and he was just one off the lead with a round to go.
I've got at least three outsiders lined up, but I'll save them for the Find Me a 100 Winner column so my only bets at this stage are on Collin Morikawa at 16.015/1 and the 2018 winner, Justin Rose.
Morikawa's Strokes Gained on Approach and Greens in Regulation stats are incredible, and his strike-rate makes him a very obvious bet at the odds. It's hard to envisage him not contending given his recent form and I couldn't leave him out.
I never seem to get Justin Rose right but I thought he was a great price here at 40.039/1 given he's finished seventh in the US Masters and eighth in the USPGA Championship in two of his last three starts.
There was a weekend off in-between at the Valspar Championship but he plays this track so well I thought he was worth chancing after he shot the second-best round of the day at Kiawah on Sunday.
Collin Morikawa @ 16.015/1
Justin Rose @ 40.039/1
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter
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