PGA Tour Picks: 75th Charles Schwab Challenge

Michael Weinstein photo

By TOM LaMARRE

Texas native Jordan Spieth has had great success at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, and he’s back this week for the 75th edition of what is now the Charles Schwab Challenge.

Spieth (pictured), who grew up in Dallas and played at the University of Texas, claimed one of his 13 PGA Tour titles at Colonial in 2016 and has finished second three times, including last year, among his seven finishes in the top 10.

But he knows Colonial belongs to Ben Hogan.

“Colonial, it’s Hogan’s Alley,” said Spieth, who collected another victory in Texas at the 2021 Valero Texas Open and has finished second in the Houston Open and the AT&T Byron Nelson in the Lone Star State.

“Fit it into tight windows, trying to hit fairways, and control the ball on the green. I’ve putted these greens historically very well, that’s No. 1. I’ve had a knack for reading and dialing in the speed out here.”

Hogan was a five-time winner of what was then the Colonial National Invitation, winning for the first time by one stroke in 1946, when he closed with a 65.

Then he successfully defended the title in 1947, won back-to-back again in 1952 and 1953 when he was in his early 40s, and won the event for the fifth time at Colonial in 1959, when he was a few months shy of his 47th birthday.

That was the last of Hogan’s 64 PGA Tour victories.

Colonial is a par-70 course that plays to 7,209 yards on the card, and for Spieth it has similarities to Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla., where the 104th PGA Championship was played last week, and also was designed by Perry Maxwell.

“(Southern Hills) reminds me a lot of Colonial, just a little bit on steroids, a little more undulation and driver in your hands more,” said Spieth, who finished in a disappointing tie for 34th in the PGA when he could have completed the Career Grant Slam with a victory. “They didn’t have to wait long to get the trimmed-down version.”

“There’s always a place you can get into big trouble around the greens (at Colonial), and there’s a place where you can kind of end up being able to make an easy par. You’re going to get enough wedge opportunities, I think that, if you just kind of play patient golf and, again, don’t make those mistakes.

“You just kind of let the round start to get settled versus having to force things. I think I’ve done a good job of that here.”

Jason Kokrak, who defeated Spieth by two strokes to win the Charles Schwab Challenge last year, leads the field this week along with top-ranked Scottie Scheffler, fourth-ranked Collin Morikawa, PGA champion and fifth-ranked Justin Thomas, seventh-ranked Viktor Hovland of Norway, 10th-ranked Sam Burns, Abraham Ancer of Mexico, Sungjae Im of South Korea, PGA runner-up Will Zalatoris, Gary Woodland, Tommy Fleetwood of England, Max Homa, Bryson DeChambeau and Webb Simpson.

But Spieth will again try to make like Ben Hogan.

BEST BETS

1. Scottie Scheffler, United States – The top-ranked player in the world will try to bounce back from missing the cut in the PGA Championship. Scheffler has won four times among seven results in the top 10 and 11 in the top 25 this season. He missed the cut last season in the Charles Schwab Challenge and tied for 55th the year before, closing with a 73 after starting 68-69-69.

2. Justin Thomas, United States – If the fifth-ranked Thomas can come back down to earth after winning the PGA Championship on Sunday, he should be a factor again this week. He has eight results in the top 25 this season, including thirds at Mayakoba and in the Valspar, in addition to three fifths. He tied for 10th in 2020 and tied for 40th in Charles Schwab Challenge last year.

3. Abraham Ancer, Mexico – Up to 19th in the world after tying for ninth in the PGA Championship, Ancer also tied for fifth in the WGC-Dell Match Play and tied for seventh at Mayakoba this season after claiming his first PGA Tour victory in the WGC-FedEx St. Jude last season. He has tied for 14th in the Charles Schwab Challenge each of the last two seasons.

4. Viktor Hovland, Norway – The seventh-ranked Hovland has won three times around the world this season, including his third PGA Tour victory at Mayakoba among four top-10 finishes, including a tie for second in the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He finished 68-66-66 last year in his first appearance at the Charles Schwab Challenge to wind up in a tie for 23rd.

5. Jordan Spieth, United States – The ninth-ranked Spieth claimed his 13th PGA Tour victory in the RBC Heritage in addition to finishing second at Pebble Beach and in the AT&T Byron Nelson among his five finishes in the top 25 this season. He captured the 2016 Charles Schwab Challenge title and has finished second three times among seven finishes in the top-10.

6. Collin Morikawa, United States – Two years ago, the now-third-ranked Morikawa lost to Daniel Berger in a playoff at the Charles Schwab Challenge, before tying for 14th in the event last season. He has five PGA Tour victories, including the 2020 PGA and the 2021 Open, and this season finished second in the CJ Cup and the Genesis among six results in the top 10.

7. Tommy Fleetwood, England – Coming off his best result of the season, a tie for fifth in the PGA Championship in which he played the weekend in 69-67, after tying for seventh in the Zozo Championship, tying for 10th in RBC Heritage and tying for 14th in the Masters. Also tied for 12th in Dubai Desert Classic. Fleetwood is making his debut in the Charles Schwab Challenge.

8. Will Zalatoris, United States – The 2020-21 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year recorded the second runner-up finish of his career in a major championship when he lost to Justin Thomas in a playoff at the PGA Championship. Zalatoris also was second in the Farmers among six top-10 finishes this season. He tied for 59th in his debut at the Charles Schwab Challenge last season.

9. Sungjae Im, South Korea – After claiming his second PGA Tour victory and fifth as a pro in the Shriner’s Childrens Open early this season, Im has posted four other top-10s, including a tie for eighth in the Masters. He withdrew before the PGA after testing positive for Covid-19. Tied for 10th in the 2020 Charles Schwab Challenge, but missed the cut in 2019 and last season.

10. Sam Burns, United States – Climbed to 10th in the World Golf Rankings by tying for 20th in the PGA Championship  after winning the Sanderson Farms Championship and the Valspar Championship earlier this season, in addition to finishing second in the Zurich among six top-10s. Tied for 31st in the Charles Schwab Challenge in 2019 after missing the cut the year before.

OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH: Jason Kokrak, United States; Max Homa, United States; Mito Pereira, Chile; Daniel Berger, United States; Justin Rose, England; Tony Finau, United States; Bubba Watson, United States; Talor Gooch, United States; Billy Horschel, United States; Gary Woodland, United States.

SLEEPERS

1. Davis Riley, United States – Won twice on Korn Ferry Tour last year, was solo second in Valspar, T-4 in Zurich, fifth in Mexico Open, T-7 in Bermuda, T-9 in Byron Nelson this year.

2. Aaron Rai, England – A winner six times around the globe, Rai was T-4 in the Zurich Classic and T-6 in the Farmers Insurance Open among six top-25 finishes on the PGA Tour this season.

3. Lucas Herbert, Australia – After claiming two international victories, Herbert won in Bermuda, T-7 in Arnold Palmer Invitational T-13 in the PGA Championship this season.

4. Kurt Kitayama, United States – A three-time winner around the world, Kitayama has posted a T-2 in the Mexico Open and a solo third in the Honda Classic on the PGA Tour this season.

5. Stephen Jaeger, Germany – Six-time winner on the Korn Ferry Tour, including three last season, was T-3 in the Wells Fargo Championship and T-15 in Mexico Championship recently.

For first-round tee times, visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html

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