The dust has barely settled following Brooks Koepka’s PGA Championship romp as a strong field makes its way from Oak Hill in New York down South to the Colonial Country Club for the 2023 Charles Schwab Challenge. Damien Kayat previews.
2022/2023 US PGA Tour
Charles Schwab Challenge
Colonial Country Club, Fort Worth, Texas
Brooks Koepka romped home to victory at Oak Hill with the same sociopathic focus that we have come to expect from him in Major Championships. You have to admire the way he bounces back from adversity and reserves his best golf for key moments.
That fifth Major takes him to third in the list of active players with Major Championships (obviously trailing Tiger and Mickelson). But what does his victory mean in the broader scheme of things? Could it finally entice wary PGA Tour members into LIV defection? It just feels like Koepka’s victory could represent a seismic shift in the way LIV Golf is perceived.
But there’s little time to dwell on such matters, with the tour moving down to Texas for this year’s edition of the Charles Schwab Challenge. This week features another jam-packed field looking for some post-Oak Hill redemption.
Charles Schwab Challenge
This event has been formally known as the Fort Worth Invitational, the Dean & Deluca and the Crowne Plaza (amongst other monikers). The Colonial National Invitation- titled for sponsorship reasons as the Charles Schwab Challenge- was first staged back in 1946.
This event is a living testimonial to Fort Worth legend Ben Hogan. He won the first two editions of this event and would go on to win a further three renewals. The tournament borrows from the Augusta playbook, bestowing the winner with a pretty stylish tartan winner’s jacket.
One thing has never changed in this event’s history: the host course. Colonial Country Club has hosted every edition of this famous event. In fact, this is the longest-running non-Major event to be held at the same venue.
Colonial Country Club
Known colloquially as Hogan’s Alley, Colonial Country Club is a classical test of golf. It was designed by John Bredemus and opened in 1936 (though Perry Maxwell did some touch-ups prior to the 1941 US Open).
This is a classical test that doesn’t open itself up for the bigger hitters. Measuring just a smidge over 7,200 yards, Colonial is a tight, tree-lined course that will reward more precision-based golf.
But I think the most crucial indexes will be GIR and putting. These smaller-than-average Bentgrass greens require accurate approach play (12 of the last 15 winners have ranked inside the top ten for GIR).
Putting has also proven to be pivotal over the years. This is a pretty idiosyncratic course where prior form seems to count more than usual.
Newly minted World No.1 Scottie Scheffler will be looking for a little solace this week after a frustrating near-miss at Oak Hill. He returns to his home state in a quest to go one better than his runner-up finish last year.
Jordan Spieth looked better as the US PGA Championship progressed, seemingly shaking the injury that had called his participation into jeopardy. He is a true course specialist, winning this event in 2016 and finishing runner-up on three occasions.
Viktor Hovland will have gained some supporters following his valiant attempt to stop the Koepka juggernaut. The likes of Finau, Morikawa and Homa will also add some razzmatazz to an exciting post-Major line-up.
2022: Sam Burns (-9) *playoff
2021: Jason Kokrak (-14)
2020: Daniel Berger (-15) *playoff
2019: Kevin Na (-13)
2018: Justin Rose (-20)
2017: Kevin Kisner (-10)
To Win Outright:
Scottie Scheffler 9/2 | Jordan Spieth 12/1 | Viktor Hovland 14/1 | Tony Finau 14/1 | Collin Morikawa 18/1
Cameron Davis- To Win 40/1 | To Place 17/2
This is probably going to be a very popular opinion in the aftermath of his brilliant final round at Oak Hill. The Aussie’s form has slowly been turning the corner (he finished T6 at the Plyers before a T7 at the RBC Heritage). But he really showcased his class with an exceptional T4 at last week’s US PGA Championship. He ranked 10th in the field for SG: Approach (which will clearly be a huge stat to follow this week). He carries that excellent momentum into a tournament in which he finished T7 last season. I really like him at 40/1 this week.
Christiaan Bezuidenhout- To Win 80/1 | To Place 17/1
Three-time DP World Tour champion Christiaan Bezuidenhout should suit this test perfectly. His strengths are rooted in accuracy and a solid short game (which is pretty much the template for success at Colonial). He finished 15th last year and could use that as a basis for further success here. He finished 2nd at the John Deere and the signs are looking good for an eventual PGA breakthrough. He finished 13th at the Players, 19th at the elevated RBC Heritage and 23rd at the AT&T Byron Nelson Classic. He narrowly missed the cut last week and comes in at an extremely juicy price (especially in the place markets).
The Man to Beat- Viktor Hovland- To Win 14/1 | To Place 3/1
This will be a slightly controversial selection considering his final round debacle on the 16th last week. I just think that Hovland has the type of disposition that will see him take the positives out of his performance at Oak Hill. He contended in his 3rd straight Major Championship and he is 2nd to Scheffler in total strokes gained over the last six months. He also ranks in the top five in the field in both Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee and Strokes Gained: Approach. He will be desperate to pick up his first PGA Tour victory on American soil (two of his US PGA victories have come in Mexico while his other came at the Puerto Rico Open).