PGA Tour Charles Schwab Challenge preview and predictions
The time for exhibition events has come and gone. They were all well and good; the Tiger Woods/Phil Mickelson/Peyton Manning/Tom Brady extravaganza was great, in fact. But now we are talking about the real thing, and the real thing returns this week. Yes, despite the ongoing coronavirus crisis the PGA Tour is back from a three-month hiatus with the Charles Schwab Challenge. Although Woods is not playing, this is one of the best player fields of the entire year outside of the majors.
Charles Schwab Challenge
Where: Fort Worth, Texas
Course: Colonial Country Club
Prize money: $7.5 million ($1.35 million to the winner)
Defending champion: Kevin Na
Top players in the field (by world ranking): (1) Rory McIlroy, (2) Jon Rahm, (3) Brooks Koepka, (4) Justin Thomas, (5) Dustin Johnson, (7) Patrick Reed, (9) Webb Simpson, (12) Xander Schauffele
Rory McIlroy +750
Jon Rahm +1200
Justin Thomas +1600
Webb Simpson +2000
Bryson DeChambeau +2200
Brooks Koepka +2500
Dustin Johnson +2800
Patrick Reed +2800
Xander Schauffele +2800
Sungjae Im +3300
Remember, there are no spectators allowed this week and therefore no grandstands. Errant tee shots are not going to hit anyone or anything, so they could travel for miles and miles (relatively speaking, of course) in the wrong direction before coming to a halt. Accuracy is going to be key at Colonial—even more so than usual. Fairways are not especially wide and they are lined by trees, while the greens are small. Right from the start, players are going to have to strike the ball well. The third, fourth and fifth holes make up a stretch known as “The Horrible Horseshoe.” Miss the fairways there and players’ scores could take a turn for the worse before they can even sink their teeth into the round. Don’t be surprised if a brilliant ball-striker like Sergio Garcia or Rickie Fowler (who is also one of the tour’s best putters) finds success. But big bombers like Brooks Koepka or Dustin Johnson could be in trouble if their tee shots are wayward.
Rickie Fowler (+2800) – Fowler was without question the best player at last month’s Taylor Made Relief fundraiser that also included McIlroy, Johnson, and Matthew Wolff. The 31-year-old American placed a decent T18 at the most recent tournament (Arnold Palmer Invitational) before the PGA Tour went on break and he was T14 at the Charles Schwab Challenge in 2018.
Jordan Spieth (+4000) – Perhaps no one will benefit more than Spieth from some unexpected time off. The former world No. 1 has been slumping since he basically dominated the tour in 2015 and won the British Open in 2017. But he is a former champion of this tournament (2016) and also finished runner-up in 2015. Spieth is a Dallas, Tex. native so a return to his hometown may be just what the doctor ordered.
Justin Rose (+4000) – Like Spieth, Rose is not at his peak these days. That also means there was no momentum to be halted by the three-month break. The Charles Schwab Challenge is a good spot for Rose to return, as he won it back in 2018 with a 20-under performance (three shots ahead of Koepka).
Phil Mickelson (+10000) – Mickelson is too good to pass up at 100-to-1 odds. Sure it was only a hit-and-giggle exhibition event, but it has to be said that the lefty was hitting the ball extremely well during “The Match: Champions for Charity.” Mickelson finished third at Pebble Beach in February, so it’s clear that the game has not passed him by even at 49 years old. It is also worth noting that he is a two-time champion of this tournament.