SG Tee-to Green and GIR the stats to concentrate on
Deere Run and Augusta corelate nicely
Over 40s can shine at Hogans Alley
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 77 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.
Colonial Country Club, Fort Worth, Texas.
Par 70 -7,209 yards
Stroke Index in 2022 - 70.72
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 4.54) and the par four second ranked the third easiest (3.93) 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'.
The fifth and the fourth were the hardest two on the course 12 months ago but they're not horrendously tough. Combined, the Horrible Horseshoe (holes three, four and five) played exactly half a stroke over-par last year.
Colonial CC is often affectionately referred to as 'Hogan's Alley' after the five-time winner Ben.
Live on Sky Sports all four days, with coverage starting at 21:00 UK time.
Last Eight Winners with Exchange Prices
- 2022 - Sam Burns -9 32.031/1 (playoff)
- 2021 - Jason Kokrak -14 75.074/1
- 2020 - Daniel Berger -15 120.0119/1 (playoff)
- 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?
Last year's playoff protagonists, the runner-up, Scottie Scheffler, and the winner, Sam Burns, ranked first and third for Driving Distance and the 2021 winner, Jason Kokrak, ranked first for DD but that's unusual.
This is not a track that can be overpowered and length off the tee is usually an irrelevance.
None of the 12 winners prior to Kokrak ranked inside the top-ten for DD and, despite the last two results, it's not a stat to get hung up on. Colonial is short by modern standards and there are just two par fives.
Irons are taken off several tees and the average DD ranking of the ten winners before Kokrak was exactly 30th.
Kokrak ranked fourth for Driving Accuracy and eight of the 13 winners have ranked inside the top-ten for that stat.
Burns and Scheffler only ranked 21st and 38th but Brendon Todd, who finished third, ranked first for DA.
Hitting it straight off every tee isn't absolutely essential though - Jordan Spieth only ranked 54th for DA when he won in 2016 and Chris Kirk ranked 60th eight years ago!
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 12 of the last 15 winners have ranked inside the top-ten for GIR and 11 of those 12 ranked inside the top-seven.
Kevin Kisner ranked second for Scrambling when he won here in in 2017 and Spieth ranked first seven years ago but the last five winners have all got across the line with unusually ordinary Scrambling stats - ranking 42nd, 25th, 15th, 30th and 32nd but all four putting brilliantly.
The last five winners had a Putting Average ranking of ninth, eighth, fifth, fifth and fourth, and other than Kisner in 2017, every winner in the last 19 years has ranked 17th or better. And 12 of the 19 have ranked inside the top-five for Putting Average.
We've only had seven years' worth of Strokes Gained Data, but a pattern is emerging.
The worst any winner has ranked for SG Tee-to Green is ninth (Burns last year) and Justin Rose is the only winner in the last seven years to rank outside the top-eight for SG Putting but the second and third that year, Brooks Koepka and Emiliano Grillo, ranked second and first, so they're the two to concentrate on.
Given we're in Texas, an ability to handle windy conditions is usually essential and the forecasts suggest it will be again over the weekend.
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, Emiliano Grillo and Tim Clark have all finished runner-up in both tournaments.
Sebastian Munoz, who topped the Strokes Gained Putting stats when finishing third here in 2021 went on to lead the John Deere Classic through three rounds a couple of months later.
Lucas Glover, who had finished eighth at Colonial went on to win and the 2019 Colonial winner, Kevin Na, finished tied for second.
Zach Johnson has won this title twice recently so of the ten men to win the last 15 editions, four have also won the US Masters - Johnson, Spieth, Mickelson, and Adam Scott.
The 2018 winner, Justin Rose, has contended at Augusta on numerous occasions and Scheffler really should have won here last year after winning the US Masters in April. He led by two after three rounds and he was matched at a low of 1.75/7.
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.
Following Burns' success 12 months ago, three of the last seven winners have been in their 20s but prior to Spieth's victory seven years ago, Sergio Garcia, in 2001, was the last player under the age of 30 to take the title and eight of the last 24 winners have been aged 40 or over.
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 need 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 here, although the three winners before Burns were fairly big in the market, going off at 75.074/1, 120.0119/1 and 90.089/1.
Winner's 54-hole Position and Exchange Price
- 2022 - Sam Burns T17 - trailing by seven 250.0249/1
- 2021 - Jason Kokrak solo second - trailing by one 3.3512/5
- 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 seven winners were in front with a round to go but Scheffler demonstrated 12 months ago that it's not always easy to convert from the front here and no 54-hole leader or co-leader won here between 2008 and 2016.
Being up with the pace is typically the way to go though and being on the heels of the leaders is usually the ideal place to be.
The two winners that preceded Spieth's victory in 2016 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 18 of the last 21 winners have been no more than two strokes off the lead with a round to go.
Recent winners, Kevin Kisner and Chris Kirk, trailed by three, so although it's hard to win from the front, winning from miles back is very rare but we did witness it 12 months ago...
Having been matched at a high of 570.0569/1 and having begun the final day trailing by seven strokes and trading at 250.0249/1, Sam Burns teed off an hour and 25 minutes before the final two-ball and when he set the clubhouse target of nine-under-par, it didn't look like it would be enough.
With still eight holes to play, the third-round leader, Scheffler, who had started the day trading at odds-on and leading by a stroke on -11, was tied with four others on ten-under-par.
Although conditions weren't great and the wind was still picking up, it was still very long odds-on that someone would remain ahead of Burns but nobody got past him and he ended up beating Scheffler with this sensational birdie at the first extra hole.
Having returned to the top of the world rankings after his tied second at last week's US PGA Championship, Scottie Scheffler returns to his home state in search of his third PGA Tour title in ten starts and redemption after last year's poor final round.
Scheffler was matched at a low of just 1.75/7 12 months ago after he'd entered the final round with a two-stroke lead, but he never got going on Sunday and he needed to hole lengthy par saves on 15, 17 and 18 just to get into the playoff.
His second last year, which came a week after a missed cut in the US PGA Championship, was a huge improvement on his previous form here given he'd finished 55th on debut three years ago and that he'd missed the cut in 2022.
Although he's returned to the top of the world rankings, Scheffler may be starting to get a little frustrated and he'll feel like he really should have added to his PGA Tour tally of six wins.
Since he won the Players Championship at Sawgrass in March, he's traded at odds-on at the WGC World Matchplay, finished 10th at the US Masters when defending, finished 11th at the Heritage, having sat second at halfway, and he'll be disappointed by his last two events too.
He traded at odds-on at the Byron Nelson Championship when finishing tied fifth two weeks ago (led by a stroke at halfway) and his three-over par 73 on Saturday at Oak Hill proved costly last week. He was matched at just 2.1211/10 there having been tied for the lead at halfway.
Having won the title in 2016 and having finished runner-up on three occasions, Jordan Spieth, has a remarkably good record at Colonial.
The world number 11 has only finished outside the top-ten here twice in the last ten years. He was tied for 14th nine years ago and 32nd in 2018 and its tournament he never misses but he's hard to fancy with any confidence this year.
Following his fourth in the Masters and his playoff defeat to Matt Fitzpatrick when defending his Heritage title, Spieth missed the cut at the Wells Fargo before withdrawing before the off at the Byron Nelson due to a left wrist injury.
Spieth admitted that his injury cost him a few strokes last week when he finished 29th at Oak Hill and had there been any other event on this week I suspect he'd have taken the week off.
Viktor Hovland will have his supporters after last week's valiant attempt to stop Brooks Koepka from winning his fifth major but there's bound to be a bit of mental let down to overcome and failed to break the top-20 here in his two previous visits.
Tony Finau was a huge disappointment last week (finished 72nd), as he so often is in major championships, but he has course form figures reading 19-34-29-2-23-20-4 and he was very impressive when winning in Mexico three weeks ago, so an improved effort is expected.
I like a number of outsiders and I'll be back later today or tomorrow with the Find Me a 100 Winner column but I'm happy to chance the Arnold Palmer Invitational winner, Kurt Kitayama, after he signed off the US PGA Championship with a five-under-par 65 to finish fourth.
Kitayama was only 40th on debut 12 months ago but he shot 65 in round two and he ranked third for Strokes Gained Approach, 13th for SGT2G and 12th for SGP last week. If he plays to that level this week he'll be there or thereabouts.
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter