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Charles Schwab Challenge Tips: Five selections for Colonial

Charles Schwab Challenge Tips: Billy Horschel features.
Charles Schwab Challenge Tips: Billy Horschel features.

Charles Schwab Challenge Tips

History was made on Sunday evening, as the enigmatic Phil Mickelson became the oldest major champion in history at the age of 50. Picking up his 6th major title and 2nd PGA Championship with a two shot victory of Louis Oosthuizen. 

Phil now moves on, as do we, to this week, for the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas. An event that has been a fixture on the PGA Tour for over 70 years.

Colonial Country Club is a classic tree-lined par 70, measuring 7209 yards, with bermuda grass fairways and bentgrass greens. Due to the numerous doglegs throughout and the tightness of the course in general, it cannot be overpowered and is one where accurately placing your ball in the right position off the tee is important.

This is shown by a list of winners which includes the likes of Kevin Na, Kevin Kisner and last year’s winner, Daniel Berger. All players that are more accurate than they are powerful. That isn’t to say big hitters can’t go well here, Tony Finau and Brooks Koepka have finished runner-up in recent years. But one of their biggest assets, the driver, is negated by the course, with the doglegs in particular causing the players to club down for position, instead of the risk of trouble that driver brings into the equation.

As mentioned above, Daniel Berger was the winner in a rather different event last year. As the Charles Schwab Challenge was the first event hosted by the PGA Tour after they suspended play due to Covid-19. Also the first to be staged without spectators, which was unfortunate, as Berger prevailed with a thrilling playoff win over Collin Morikawa. One thing which stood out here, as it does when you look back at most of the recent renewals of the event is that quality approach play is the standout statistic.

The current weather forecast for the week of the tournament isn’t great, rain predicted before and during the event. There is a little wind about on Thursday but this is not expected to be too much trouble and will lessen over the rest of the week. 

The field is more like what you would expect for the event and isn’t littered with the star studded names that were desperate for action last year. World #2 Justin Thomas is the highest ranked player in the field but is only joined by Collin Morikawa and Patrick Reed out of the top 10. Whilst another 3 from the rest of the top 20 will play, including last year’s winner, Berger. They are joined by Jordan Spieth, who has an excellent record around here, having won in 2016, as well as 2 time winner of the event, last week’s PGA Champion, Phil Mickelson.

Golf betting tips
Joaquin Niemann each-way (8 places)
Odds correct as of 2021-05-24 21:10 Odds subject to change.

Typically, I’d be a little put off by a player who had a week up and about the top of the leaderboard the previous week at a major but I just couldn’t ignore the young Chilean’s credentials and Joaquin Niemann goes in as the headline selection.

Firstly, he’ll have to shake off a disappointing final round 76 on Sunday, which saw him drop out of contention into a 30th place finish. Having said that I chose to look at the positive instead, of him going into the final round of a major, in conditions which many of the top players in the world found too brutal, with a chance of winning.

This former #1 amateur has been in excellent form for around 9 months now and hasn’t missed a cut since August 2020. Only twice this year he’s finished outside the top 30 in 11 events and has current form figures of 40-8-18-30. 

His success is built, predominantly on being an excellent ball-striker, where he ranks 10th on tour this year, as well as being a quality putter, ranking 21st.

He’s played in this event 3 times, making the cut every time, including finishing 8th on debut in 2018 and it’s easy to see why he feels so at home here when we look at his solo tour win, when he won the Greenbrier Classic in 2019. Similar to Colonial, The Greenbrier is a tree-lined par 70 measuring 7200 yards with bentgrass putting surfaces. Away from that he has an abundance of form at other course which are easily correlated here, including top 5s at both the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town and the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands. Again, both tree-lined courses which you can’t overpower and which require quality shot making.

He’s been threatening his second win for some time now, including consecutive 2nd place finishes earlier this year and I expect him to win before the year is out. Colonial Country Club offers as good a chance as any for him to get win #2.

Golf betting odds
Matt Kuchar each-way (8 places)
Odds correct as of 2021-05-24 21:15 Odds subject to change.

Matt Kuchar was a little slow to get going this year but a 3rd place finish at the WGC-Matchplay seems to have sparked him into life and he has started to put together some good performances since (three top 20s in his last five events). 

I think he looks a big price this week to win at a course in which he has finished 2nd, 6th, 12th and 32nd in his last 5 visits, before missing the cut at the restart event last year, which I wouldn’t look too much into to due to the circumstances. 

He also has form at correlating courses, including victories at the aforementioned RBC Heritage and Mayakoba Classic. He’s another who just feels at home on these tighter, tree-lined tracks. Very straight off the tee, ranking 19th in driving accuracy this year and though only 97th in approach, he’s shown an upturn in that respect of his game, gaining strokes in approach in his last 3 events.

An unusually poor putting week last week meant an early exit from the PGA Championship for Kuchar but there’s little concern there as he’s been putting well recently and has a good record on bentgrass.

He’s one of the winning most players in this field and I feel the price doesn’t reflect this, especially when you look at the other positives in his game recently and the fact this type of course so clearly suits his game. 

Matthew NeSmith each-way (8 places)
Odds correct as of 2021-05-24 21:20 Odds subject to change.

NeSmith has been rock solid since stepping up to the PGA Tour at the end of 2019. He makes a lot of cuts and has notched up his fair share of top 25s, including another 4 this year. One thing that he’d undoubtedly like to improve on, would be giving himself genuine chances to win events. I feel when he does next contend, it’ll likely be at a course like Colonial.

A fantastic iron player, ranking an incredibly impressive 8th in approach play amongst the world’s best and he’s straight off the tee. He’s an excellent ball-striker but it’s the short game which has held him back so far. Currently ranking outside the top 140 for both putting and around the greens. Having said that he putted well here last year and bentgrass would typically be the easiest surface to putt on.

He finished a decent 49th on debut last year, shooting no worse than 70 in any round and if he can have even an average week with the putter, I’d expect him to improve on that this time around.

Billy Horschel each-way (8 places)
Odds correct as of 2021-05-24 21:25 Odds subject to change.

Of the others, Charley Hoffman continues to play well and has gone well here before. The same can be said about C.T Pan, who was 3rd last year and has form at similar courses but there’s a couple I like more, starting with recent WGC-Matchplay winner, Billy Horschel.

Despite not winning since 2017, Horschel has been a model of consistency over the last few years and finally got his rewards when netting the biggest win of his career at the Matchplay back in March. The signs were there when he finished 2nd in the WGC at The Concession a few starts earlier. Since the victory he’s continued to play well, with a couple of top 25s in his last two starts, including a 23rd place finish at Kiawah Island last week.

He’s striking the ball well (top 30 in ball-striking) and as you would expect, continues to putt well. His iron play is a little up and down but he has put up enough good numbers recently, particularly when 25th at the RBC Heritage.

Another, like Kuchar, that looks overpriced this week when you consider recent results. Every part of his game looks in decent condition and he has solid form figures here of 34-19-38 in his last 3 starts. I expect him to continue his solid run of form in the event this week. 

Emiliano Grillo each-way (8 places)
Odds correct as of 2021-05-24 21:30 Odds subject to change.

The final selection is Emiliano Grillo. A player who’s playing some nice golf currently, including, shock horror, putting up some positive numbers with the putter! This has helped him put together a good run of form, with finishes of 6-2-MC-14-38 in his last five starts.

He has a great record at Colonial, where he’s missed just one cut in five and managed three top 25s, the best being a 3rd place finish in 2018. He’s got form at plenty of correlating courses. Just four starts ago he finished 2nd at the RBC Heritage and his only win on tour came on a tree-lined course, putting on bentgrass greens in the Safeway Open.

Regularly one of the best ball-strikers on tour, he’s an excellent iron player, ranking 12th this year and is both straight off the tee, as well as being plenty long enough. If he can continue to putt well, he could be a real danger this week on a course he clearly enjoys playing.

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