Out of the Rough: Charles Schwab Challenge (2023)
On the back of an existing week in Upstate New York for the PGA Championship, the Tour heads back to Texas for the 2023 Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club.
A rather impressive field will compete for the coveted plaid tartan jacket and for the chance of their name being etched on the Wall of Championships that is adjacent to the first tee.
Colonial Country Club is the longest-running host course on the PGA TOUR schedule with The Masters at Augusta National being the only course that has been on the Tour’s schedule longer.
From the Fort Worth Invitational, to the Deal & Deluca, the Crowne Plaza, the Bank of America, the MasterCard, the Southwestern Bell and now the Charles Schwab, we’ve seen Colonial Country Club in each of the last 77 years, dating back to 1946.
This event was what welcomed the World’s best golfers back to the PGA Tour from the COVID hiatus in June of 2020.
Then, it attracted a very strong field due to the time off. This year’s field is not that of 2020, but even following a Major in the PGA Championship, some of the game’s best are teeing it up in Fort Worth.
This event was won by Sam Burns a year ago who overcame a seven-shot deficit of the final day to ultimately catch then leader Scottie Scheffler who was looking to become the first golfer since Tom Watson in 1980 to win five tournaments on a season before the start of June. The duo would then enter a playoff that was won by Burns.
Burns is back this year in an attempt to go back-to-back.
Colonial Country Club is also often referred to as ‘Hogan’s Alley’ as Ben Hogan won this event five-times.
Colonial Country Club is best described as a quintessential tree-lined positional course that does not require distance off the tee to be competitive.
It plays as a par 70 at just over 7,200 yards and offers some of the deepest history of any PGA Tour track.
Colonial Country Club was designed by Perry Maxwell and John Bredemus. It borders the nearby Trinity River and features 12 doglegs and smaller Bentgrass greens.
In years past, the event has offered a diverse cast of winners due to its design but historically speaking, those with strong iron play and a hot putter will be competitive.
We’ve seen the likes of Sam Burns and Jason Kokrak use an aggressive, driver-heavy approach in route to a victory, which is far from the normal here.
There of course will be an added premium on mid-iron play and accuracy off the tee. Being a designed positional course, ball placement off the tee will be key in an effort to work around the course and create the best angles to generate scoring opportunities.
Scoring is often held in check here at Colonial Country Club. The winning score has pushed beyond -15 only twice since 2011.
As previously mentioned, hitting the fairways and setting up a good approach shot is the preferred way to attack this course.
Driving accuracy is lower than the Tour average at just 57-percent of hit fairways. Along with the difficulty of hitting a fairway, average distance off the tee is below the Tour average at just 277 yards.
The lack of distance can be attributed to oftentimes players taking irons off the tees to mitigate any potential miss shots.
Strong approach play too is key this week, specifically from distances of 125-200 and mainly 150-175 yards, which makes up 25-percent of all approach shots.
In a continued line of defenses this course has to offer, Colonial also offers smaller greens on Tour which in turn, offers a below average greens-in-regulation-percentage of 65-percent. Golfers will have to rely heavily on around-the-green work and scrambling to often get up-and-down for par due to this.
These greens too run at around a 12 on the Stimpmeter.
Water is in play on six of the holes and the course is littered with strategically placed fairway bunkers
Of course the infamous Texas winds will also be in play this week, adding another line of defense to an already challenging track.
Most of this track’s yardage is made up from the 635 yard par-five 11th hole and a 247 yard par-three fourth.
Golfers will begin their rounds on the par-five first which annually plays as the easiest hole on the entire course. From there, the second hole, 390 yard par-four, plays as the second easiest hole on the course. That, however, is where the ease ends.
If we’re looking for a trend of holes to focus on this week, it is par-fours measuring 400-450 yards which makes up 40-percent of all of the holes played this week.
Colonial’s ‘Horrible Horseshoe’ features holes three, four and five that played at half-a-stroke over par a year ago.
In all, this is a rather challenging course that favors those who can hit clean and accurate shots off the tee and with their irons.
As an invitational, there will be 120 players in this week’s field as the top-65 plus ties will make the cut.
Although positioned directly after the PGA Championship and prior to next week’s Memorial Tournament, we’re seeing a stronger field than one would expect.
Texas native Scheffler headlines this week’s field and will look to forget last year’s final round of 72 that allowed Burns to catch him and defeat him in a playoff.
Joining Scheffler this week are seven others ranked in the top-20 of the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR.) That list includes Max Homa, Jordan Spieth, Viktor Hovland, Tony Finau, Burns, Collin Morikawa and Sungjae Im.
Of course, Burns is back as the defending champion as he looks to defend his title. Other past winners of this event include Justin Rose, Kevin Kisner, Spieth, Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson and Rory Saabbatini.
Michael Block, the California based PGA club pro, who stole the show at the PGA Championship with a T15, including an ace on 15 at Oak Hill, received a special sponsor invitation to compete this week.
Another feel good story coming from this week’s field comes with 43-year-old Erik Compton, who at the age of nine was diagnosed with viral cardiomyopathy, a condition where the heart muscle is inflamed and unable to pump as hard as it should. Since, he’s undergone two heart transplants.
As of the timing of writing this, things are shaping up for a great week of golf. Highs are set to range from the mid-to-high 80’s across all four days. The only real chance for precipitation is Saturday and that is only set at 30-percent. Beyond that, chances of precipitation peak at 20-percent and winds will range from nine-to-12 miles-per-hour. In all, we could see a clear four days of golf this week.
Strokes Gained: Putting on Bentgrass (SG: PUTT Bentgrass)
Strokes Gained: Approach (SG: APP)
Strokes Gained: Tee to Green (SG: TTG)
Driving Accuracy Percentage
Approach Shots from 125-200 Yards / Emphasis on 150-175 Yards
Greens in Regulation Percentage (GIR%)
Par 4 Performance
Strokes Gained: Around the Green
It shouldn’t come to anyone’s surprise that the favorite per my model this week and leading off this article is none other than Scottie Scheffler ($11,500.) After finishing T5th in his last home outing at the AT&T Byron Nelson, Scheffler is going to be on a mission in his return to his home state. He placed second a year ago after losing to Burns in a playoff. He also put together a fantastic final round last week at the PGA Championship to finish T2nd at Oak Hill. This week, he comes in first in all three of SG: TTG, GIR% and par four performance on the Tour. Additionally, he is second in SG: APP, eighth in scrambling, 14th in SG: ATG, 18th in approach shots from 125-200 yards, 20th in approach shots from 150-175 yards and 21st in driving accuracy. The knock to Scheffler’s game comes on the greens. However, he is one of those rare guys that may be better on Bentgrass than he is on other grasses. As this week’s greens feature Bentgrass, Scheffler ranks 100th on Tour in SG: PUTT on Bermuda. Not too bad for someone who historically struggles with the flat stick. Dating back to The American Express in January, Scheffler’s worst finish has been a T12th at the Genesis Invitational. In those nine tournaments he has six top tens, five top fives and two wins. You’re spending up on Scheffler here but with the way the rest of my suggestions fall this week, you can very easily put together a fantastic lineup that includes him. Don’t be afraid to include Scheffler this week because this is his week to win. Also consider Viktor Hovalnd ($10,600.) He comes in with the third highest price tag this week and that’s for good reason. He’s fresh off a T2nd at the PGA Championship and if it wasn’t for a miss-played bunker shot on 16, he could have pressed Brooks Koepka and potentially won the event. Besides his second place finish a week ago, Hovland has been playing some great golf on the calendar year. He has played in nine tournaments and hasn’t missed a cut. His season has been highlighted by a T3rd at THE PLAYERS, T7th at The Masters and a T10th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational to go along with last week’s performance. Hovland is seventh on Tour in SG: APP, 11th in SG: TTG, 13th in par four performance, 16th in approach shots from 150-175 yards, 25th in approach shots from 125-200 yards, 32nd in scrambling, 33rd in driving accuracy percentage, 45th in GIR%, 56th in SG: PUTT on Bermuda and 145th in SG: ATG. With Scheffler’s odds being so short, Hovland slides into my favorite at the top of my betting card this week at +1400.
I’m a big fan of this price range this week as well as my two selections that come with it. First off we have Justin Rose ($9,300.) In my lineup, having Rose at the bottom of this price range allowed me to pair him successfully with Scheffler in what I believe to be a strong lineup. Rose placed T9th at Oak Hill a week ago and has made his way inside the OWGR top 30 with that performance. He’s playing some fantastic golf to boot heading into this week. Dating back to THE PLAYERS, Rose has not missed the cut in five tournaments. He placed T6th at THE PLAYERS, T9th at the PGA Championship, T16th at The Masters, T25th at the RBC Heritage and T36th at the Valspar Championship in that time span. Rose also has a win on the season, winning the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am earlier this year. He also won this event back in 2018. Rose is currently 20th in approach shots from 150-175 yards, 29th in SG: PUTT on Bermuda, 33rd in both SG: APP and SG: TTG, 36th in scrambling, 37th in approach shots from 125-200 yards, 38th in driving accuracy, 44th in par four performance, 47th in SG: ATG and 86th in GIR%. In other words, he’s above average in each of the statistical categories we’re taking into consideration this week. He was the first name I put on my card this week at +3300. Also consider Si Woo Kim ($9,000.) If we’re going to talk about value and lineup flexibility, we have to include Kim. Kim missed the cut a week ago at Oak Hill but did go T2nd the week prior at the AT&T Byron Nelson. This is the type of course that fits Kim’s game to a tee. He is currently seventh in approach shots from 150-175 yards, 14th in driving accuracy percentage, 21st in SG: TTG, 27th in approach shots from 125-200 yards, 28th in scrambling, 35th in par four performance, 57th in GIR% and 62nd in SG: ATG. If there’s a knock to his game, it of course is putting. He is 114th on Tour on the year in SG: PUTT on Bentgrass. The AT&T Byron Nelson featured Bentgrass greens and Kim placed 24th in that field in that statistical category gaining 0.872 strokes-per-round on the greens. If he can replicate that type of flat stick work this week, he’ll surely be in contention come Sunday.
This seems to be the year where top golfers of the past decade get back into the win column. That may be the case for Rickie Fowler ($8,900) this week. Fowler is currently tenth on Tour in SG: APP and more impressively, is currently 14th when it comes to SG: PUTT on Bentgrass. Additionally, he is 17th on Tour in SG: TTG, 26th in both GIR% and par four performance, 48th in approach shots from 125-200 yards, 50th in scrambling, 56th in approach shots from 150-175 yards, 83rd in SG: ATG and 112th in driving accuracy percentage. He’s playing this season with great irons and a hot putter. If he can find the fairway a bit more often this week than he has, he too can be in contention come Sunday. Prior to last week’s missed cut, Fowler went on a run of posting four straight top 15 finishes between THE PLAYERS and the Wells Fargo Championship. Looking a little further back than that, to the Farmers Insurance Open in February, Fowler made eight consecutive cuts with his worst finish being T31st at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He also had seven top 25s, six top 15s and two top tens. Fowler has been knocking at the door and it feels like a matter of time before he’s in contention on a Sunday afternoon. Also consider Tom Hoge ($8,500.) If we’re going to highlight a positional course that favors strong iron players, we have to include Hoge. Hoge has made the cut in three consecutive events coming into this week, including last week at Oak Hill. His season as a whole has been highlighted by a T3rd at THE PLAYERS. Hoge is currently third on Tour in SG: APP, a statistic that he held the top spot at for most of the season up until this point. He is also ninth in par four performance, 11th in approach shots from 150-175 yards, 17th in GIR%, 37th in SG: TTG, 43rd in both driving accuracy percentage and approach shots from 125-200 yards, 111th in SG: PUTT on Bentgrass and 118th in scrambling. His downfall is his work around the green as he currently ranks 171st on Tour in SG: ATG. If his elite approach play can keep him away from around-the-green chances, Hoge can have himself a week at Colonial.
Both options this week in this penultimate price range are priced the same and are at the bottom of this price range. First off we have Andrew Putnam ($7,100.) Putnam is an elite scrambler who doesn’t come into the week on what we could call great form. He missed the cut last week and withdrew a week prior at the AT&T Byron Nelson. Prior to that however, he did make three consecutive cuts, highlighted by a T24th at the Mexico Open. Putnam is currently 13th on Tour in scrambling, 16th in SG: PUTT on Bentgrass, 25th in GIR%, 32nd in driving accuracy percentage, 41st in both SG: APP and par four performance, 77th in SG: ATG, 95th in SG: TTG, 99th in approach shots from 150-175 yards and 116th in approach shots from 125-200 yards. The only statistical category we’re taking into consideration this week that he is below average in is the approach shots from 125-200 yards. I think Putnam makes the cut this week and sneaks his way into the top 25, which would go a long way in DFS scoring. Also consider Joseph Bramlett ($7,100.) Bramlett has very quietly been playing some great golf as of late. He has made the cut in three consecutive events. In that same time span, he placed T10th at the Mexico Open, T19th at the AT&T Byron Nelson and T40th at the Wells Fargo Championship. Like Putnam, Bramlett is in a good position to make the cut this week and flirt with a top 25. When it comes to this price range and the price tag Bramlett carries, that would be huge for any DFS lineup. Bramlett is currently 15th in GIR%, 17th in SG: PUTT on Bentgrass, 30th in SG: TTG, 37th in approach shots from 150-175 yards, 38th in SG: APP, 44th in par four performance, 51st in SG: ATG, 88th in approach shots from 125-200 yards, 113th in scrambling and 183rd in driving accuracy percentage. He’ll have his work cut out for him in finding the fairway off the tee this week but if he can manage a better number there, as I stated previously, he’ll be in good shape this week.
My model this week really likes Robby Shelton ($6,400.) He comes with great value in DFS and if he is to go on to make the cut, would set up any DFS lineup perfectly this week. His value allows for lineup flexibility and his ownership figure is going to be so low. Shelton made the cut in his last tournament, two weeks back at the AT&T Byron Nelson. He has some decent finishes on the season as well, placing T6th at The American Express, T15th at the Valero Texas Open and T20th at the AT&T Pebble Beach. He is currently 15th on Tour in SG: ATG, 30th in SG: PUTT on Bentgrass, 33rd in approach shots from 150-175 yards, 44th in scrambling, 48th in par four performance, 50th in both SG: TTG and approach shots from 125-200 yards, 52nd in SG: APP, 111th in driving accuracy percentage and 127th in GIR%. Those numbers aren’t too bad for someone this low priced in DFS. I might as well throw a few dollars at his +22000 to win while I’m at it. Also consider Ben Martin ($6,800.) Martin had a stretch not too long ago where he made the cut in seven consecutive tournaments. That stretch was highlighted by a T5th at the Honda Classic, T8th at the Corales Puntacana and a T10th at the Valero Texas Open. Not too bad for someone priced at $6,800 this week. Martin is currently 17th on Tour in SG: APP, 19th in par four performance, 32nd in GIR%, 36th in approach shots from 150-175 yards, 40th in driving accuracy percentage, 69th in SG: PUTT on Bermuda, 71st in approach shots from 125-200 yards, 76th in SG: TTG, 95th in scrambling and 178 in SG: ATG. We’ll hope the well above average approach play eliminates his around-the-green chances this week.
Viktor Hovland (+1400) - 3u
Rickie Howler (+3000) - 2u
Justin Rose (+3300) - 2u
Si Woo Kim (+5500) - 1u
Tom Hoge (+7000) - 1u
Robby Shelton (+22000) - 1u