PGA Tour: Charles Schwab Challenge preview/picks

PGA Tour: Charles Schwab Challenge preview/picks

CHARLES SCHWAB CHALLENGE: There’s a 280-mile stretch of highway that separates Tulsa from Ft. Worth, and though there won’t be a major championship on the line this week, the players get another classic Perry Maxwell course to dissect after an intense four days at Southern Hills.

This time it’s Colonial Country Club, which Maxwell and John Bredemus originally designed in 1936 after Texas businessman Marvin Leonard embarked on a project to build a course with bentgrass greens in his hometown of Ft. Worth. Leonard spent extravagantly and continued to throw money around after the course was built, agreeing to pay the USGA $25,000 for the rights to hold the 1941 U.S. Open at Colonial. The PGA Tour made the course a regular stop in 1946 and it has remained that way with the exception of a rainout in 1949, meaning this tournament, though it has had many different names over the years, is actually the longest-running non-major Tour event to be held at the same venue.

The course itself is a straightforward test that prioritizes accuracy over distance, with tight dog-legs, problematic Bermuda rough, and water that comes into play on several holes. A par-70 that measures 7,240 yards, it usually ends up being a mid-iron fest due to the many par-4s that force the players to hit their tee shots in the same area. That means there are very few gimme birdies at Colonial, which is why the scoring is always kept in check here and you very rarely see anyone challenge the 20-under mark, with the winning number usually in the 10-15 under range.

The top of BETDAQ’s Win Market this week features plenty of players who have had success at Colonial, including last week’s winner Justin Thomas (14.0), Collin Morikawa (19.0), and of course Jordan Spieth (14.5), who has a victory and three top-10 finishes here. It’s worth mentioning, however, that we haven’t had a short-odds type win this tournament since Justin Rose in 2018, with last year’s champion Jason Kokrak going off at around 72.0 and the ’19 and ’20 champs longer than that. With that in mind, here’s what I’m thinking this week:

WIN MARKET

Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)

Webb Simpson (37.0)- This is the time of year when Simpson usually gets things cranked up, and a T20 last week that included a lovely 3rd-round 65 is proof that his game is rounding into form nicely. As someone who averages less than 300 yards off the tee but is 38th in driving accuracy and 2nd in the advanced “Total Driving Efficiency” stat, Simpson feasts on shorter positional courses like Colonial, where his stellar iron play (12th on Tour in proximity to hole) can really shine. He’s sniffed victory here a couple of times before, finding the top-5 twice in his last four appearances at this event, so he certainly knows the best way around Colonial. With an elite pedigree and a price that’s a bit more palatable than those at the top of the market, Simpson might be my favorite bet on the board this week.

Sebastian Munoz (60.0)- This is as close to a “home game” as it gets for Munoz this side of Bogota, as the 29-year old played his collegiate golf at nearby North Texas and had gone around Colonial dozens of times before ever playing a tournament there. His comfort with the course was evident last year, when he contended all week before eventually finishing 3rd, his best result of the ’20-’21 season. He’s been playing much better this year and has registered three top-5s already, with the most recent coming just two weeks ago at the AT&T Byron Nelson, the Tour’s other event in the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex. Though a final round 75 left him with a disappointing T55 finish at last week’s PGA, Munoz has now made 9 consecutive cuts and has registered six top-30 finishes in that span, demonstrating a week-to-week consistency that he hadn’t previously shown. He’s all set up for a big week, perhaps a life-changing one.

Kevin Kisner (112.0)- Kisner hasn’t done much since his runner-up finish at the WGC-Match Play, but his four top-5s this season show that he’s still plenty capable of contending any given week. And if you’re going to draw up a “Kevin Kisner course”, it would surely look a lot like Colonial, with its emphasis on accuracy, quality iron play, and handiness around the greens. It should come as no surprise, then, that Kisner has a terrific record at this event that includes three top-10s, a pair of top-5s, and a victory in 2017. The only surprise to me is his triple-digit price– yes, I know he’s missed a couple of cuts lately, but they’ve been close, and he’s made the cut 6 times in his last 9 starts overall, with two top-5s in that span. Bottom line: if you’re giving me a healthy Kevin Kisner at Colonial at better than 100/1, I’m taking it every single time.

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