CHARLES SCHWAB CHALLENGE: Despite the new name, the Charles Schwab Challenge is one of the oldest events on the PGA Tour, dating back to 1946. First won by Ben Hogan back when it was known as the Colonial National Invitational, this tournament has seen no fewer than ten different name changes over the years, with six coming since 2002– if you’re keeping track, that’s Master Card Colonial > Bank of America Colonial > Crowne Plaza Invitational > Dean & DeLuca Invitational > Ft. Worth Invitational > and now, the Charles Schwab Challenge.
But one thing never changes: the venue. Colonial Country Club has played host to this event since its inception over 70 years ago, and the course forever known as “Hogan’s Alley” still has enough character to give the best players in the world fits despite its relatively modest length. A par 70 that measures 7,200 yards, Colonial is an old-style layout full of doglegs, narrow tree-lined fairways, and smallish, tricky green complexes. Many of the holes essentially force the players to put the ball in the same spot off the tee, negating some of the advantage that the longer guys normally have, and staying out of the sticky Bermuda rough is critical, so we’ll see lots of long irons/hybrids/fairway woods off the tee.
Justin Rose took home the trophy and the accompanying “Royal Tartan” plaid jacket last year, finishing just one shot shy of Zach Johnson’s tournament record of 259 (21-under). Rose is back to defend and should give it a good run, as he’s only two starts removed from a 3rd-place showing at the Wells Fargo Championship. He currently heads BETDAQ’s Win Market at 13.0, with Jon Rahm (13.5) and Rickie Fowler (15.0) right behind him, and Jordan Spieth (16.5) lurking as well after a nice week at Bethpage.
I think the post-major hangover will be relatively minor this week, as we’ve got a fairly strong field and a good, classic golf course. We’ll try to bounce back from the disappointment of Dustin Johnson’s failed Sunday charge with these three selections:
Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)
Rickie Fowler (15.0)- Fowler is quietly putting together a nice season, and he was having a really nice week at Bethpage before an unfortunate Sunday 77 dropped him into a tie for 36th. Still, he’s currently inside the top-10 in both the FedExCup standings and the official money list, and his victory in Phoenix earlier this year temporarily quieted the critics who say he doesn’t win enough. Prior to Bethpage, he finished 4th in the Wells Fargo and 9th in the Masters, so there shouldn’t be any concern about his form, and he’s had lots of success at Colonial over the years, including a 5th-place showing in 2012 and a T14 last year. He’ll be in the mix on Sunday and is worth a bet at a price like 15.0.
Emiliano Grillo (64.0)- Always a threat at classic, tree-lined, bermuda-heavy courses, Grillo has taken a particular liking to Colonial, saying after his 3rd-place finish last year, “I love this course. My past result doesn’t show that (he had previously recorded a T55 and a T24), but I was expecting a week like this, to be honest.” The young Argentine played well last week at Bethpage, riding a second-round 67 to a top-25 finish, and really, he’s been playing good golf ever since his final-round 66 at the Players Championship back in March. So here we have a guy whose game is moving in the right direction, playing a course that he loves and that fits him perfectly, and who has won before on the PGA Tour. Did I mention you can get him at better than 60/1? There’s just a lot to like about Grillo this week, and I’m happy to hop aboard at the current price.
Abraham Ancer (82.0)- Ancer has had some excellent results this year, finding the top-5 a couple of times and contending at the Players Championship before finishing T11, and he was back at it again last week, bouncing back from an opening-round 73 to finish 16th at the PGA Championship, his first career top-25 in a major. There’s reason to think that this could be a breakthrough week for him: a native of Mexico who now resides in Texas, Ancer has played courses like Colonial his entire life, and his short-and-straight nature should make him a perfect fit at Hogan’s Alley. He made the cut on debut last year despite general poor form (he was coming off two MCs and a T42), so now, in the midst of a career-best stretch and with a year’s experience under his belt, he should be a genuine threat. I think he’s a nice value at better than 80/1.