On Thursday we will finally have golf back with the start of the Charles Schwab Challenge, one day shy of three-months since The Players Championship was cancelled due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Even without Tiger Woods, you have nearly every other big name in the sport right now. That’s 16 of the top 20 in the world, including all of the top five of; Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson.
Not surprisingly it will be a slightly different product that will have its first showcase in Texas this week as there will be no fans, strict social distancing procedures, and, of course, no grandstands.
How this will look and feel for both the players and the TV audience is anyone’s guess, but from a betting perspective, I would give a slight edge to the more accurate guys especially on approach since there won’t be any generous drops because of the lack of manmade facilities around the greens.
Course: Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas
Length: 7,204 yards (Par 70)
Architect: John Bredemus and Perry Maxwell
Finally, the PGA Tour heads back to Colonial Country Club for the Charles Schwab Challenge this weekend.
The Texas course is a classical treelined Par-70, which requires accuracy both off the tee and approaching some of the smallest greens on tour.
I wrote the following before last year’s tournament:
“When we look at some of the former winners a pattern of what type of golfers does well here begin to emerge; Zach Johnson (2010 & 2012), David Toms (2011), Jordan Spieth (2016) and Kevin Kisner (2017). All of these are shorter hitters known for their ball striking”.
And sure, enough Kevin Na, who ranked 188th in driving distance last year gained 8,3 shots on approach and won by four.
The big difference compared to then and the years prior is that a tournament that usually has a bottom tier field now looks like a major with all of the top 5 in the world teeing it up in Texas this week.
Colonial has bentgrass greens and the rough is usually not very deep, but players note that it’s still quite tricky to judge distances when you miss the fairway with the winning score is usually in the low teens.
Here are some of the things I will be looking at/for:
- Strokes gained approach
- Driving accuracy
- Par 3 scoring on 175-200 yards
- Bentgrass putting
- Par 4 scoring
- Proximity 100-125 and 150-175 yards
- Strokes gained around the green
2019/20 Season overview:
Wagered: 106,6 units
Won: 149.66 units
Result: + 43.06 units
Outright winners: Hero World Challenge: Henrik Stensson 25-1, Farmers Insurance Open: Marc Leishman 50-1
The world number three was searching for his best before the break, with certain parts of his game coming together each week but unfortunately, he couldn’t put it all together and that led to a bunch of middling finishes.
Three more months removed from the knee injury that ended his season last year should have done him good though and he has positive memories from Colonial after finishing runner up in his only former start here in 2018.
When in form, his long game is one of the best, while he also ranks in the top 20 in bentgrass putting and winning against top fields is what Koepka has built his career on, so even with the shaky form pre-Covid we get 10 points more than we should on the four-time major winner.
You could make an argument that Homa was one of the five hottest golfers in the world before the break, having five straight top 25 finishes including three top 10s.
What the suspension has done to his form will just be speculation, but all you need to succeed here he did great or good at the start of the year.
He made his tournament debut here last year with a respectable T-27 and his sole PGA Tour win came against a good field around this time last year at the Wells Fargo.
This might be the best value play on the board right now with the 42nd ranked player in the world posting some pretty impressive figures before the enforced break being priced at triple digits.
Just a couple of weeks before the shutdown Van Rooyen finished 3rd in a WGC event and in his last seven tracked tournaments (mostly majors and WGCs) he has gained strokes in six of those, both off the tee and on approach.
He has not played here before, but that was also the case at WGC Mexico and at his best major performance, a tie for 8th at the PGA last May. He also ranks in the top-15 over the last 24 rounds both in approach and par-4 scoring.
How to watch
Sky Sports are showing live Featured Group coverage from 12:45 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 18:00 on Saturday and Sunday.
*Odds subject to change
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