Charles Schwab Challenge
Same host, new sponsor. Colonial CC is the longest running host venue of any non-major on the PGA schedule. This will be Colonial’s 72nd consecutive year, the 2nd longest streak behind Augusta National. Ben Hogan won the inaugural event in 1946 when it was called the Colonial National Invitational. Hogan, a Fort Worth local, won the event 4 more times and Colonial was dubbed “Hogan’s Alley”. A statue of the man takes pride of place beside the clubhouse.
Marvin Leonard founded Colonial in 1936 after taking up the game just 9 years prior in 1927. He quickly became obsessed and studied all things golf. Texas greens were traditionally Bermudagrass and Leonard was convinced Bentgrass greens were superior. Unable to convince nearby club River Crest to convert, Leonard was told to build his own course – and Colonial CC was borne.
Colonial CC is a shot makers course. Narrow fairways and cleaver doglegs make players shape balls both ways off the tee. And again into smallish greens that will run at no more than 12. Colonial plays to 7,209 yards, has always been a par-70 and has a slope of 138. History suggests experience at Colonial counts. The last player to win in their debut here was Sergio Garcia in 2001. The Charles Schwab Challenge is an invitational event with a limited field of 122.
Just like last week; hit fairways off the tee, hit greens in regulation and stick it close. Defending champion Justin Rose did just that last year at the then Fort Worth Invitational. Rose ranked T6 in fairways hit and hit 57 of 72 greens in regulation. He also ranked 2nd in proximity – the perfect recipe for victory. Jon Rahm had a rare MC last week at the PGA, his 1st for the season. The 24-year-old Spaniard is making his 3rd appearance here having T2 (2017) and T5 last year. Rahm will start warm favourite with a Colonial scoring average of 67.63.
Jordan Spieth finished T3 last week suggesting he might be emerging from a significant form slump. He won here in 2016 and has a pair of T2s in 6 starts and appears to be friends with his putter again. It's hard to believe Spieth's only 25, he seems to have been around for longer! Colonial demands expert ball striking and there’s few if any, better than Francesco Molinari. He’s making his 1st appearance though and has cooled since the Masters. Other notables include; Xander Schauffele, Ian Poulter, Rickie Fowler, Bryson DeChambeau, Danny Lee and veteran Jim Furyk – he’s not without a chance either.
Australia’s guns are having the week off; Rod Pampling, Matt Jones and Aaron Baddeley are the only Aussies teeing it up. Pampling has missed his last 12 straight cuts and ranks a disappointing 223 in the FedEx Cup. Jones had his best result this season last start, a T5 at the Byron Nelson. Sitting 90th in the FedEx Cup, he needs to continue making cuts to ensure full playing rights next season. Baddeley missed the cut last start at the RBC but looks set to make the FedEx Cup play offs and secure his full card for next season. Currently sitting 75th, Badds.com has had 3 top-10’s and has threatened.
Weather dictates conditions and this year the rough won’t be as penal. The Bermuda grass that lines the fairways hasn’t grown and is not as thick. It always blows in Texas though making club selection difficult. Length is not as important this week, he who controls his ball best around Colonial CC should salute.
Made In Denmark
The Made In Denamrk is one of the newest events on the European Tour rotation and this year is only its 6th running. Marc Warren won the first back in 2014, David Horsey in '15, then Thomas Pieters, Julian Suri and last year it was Matt Wallace. Unluckily for Wallace it did not convince Ryder Cup Captain Thomas Bjorn to include him in the team that beat the USA some months later, but with the way he has been playing lately, Wallace won't be overlooked for the next team, or for the favourite tag this week.
Wallace will not need to use his power game this week as Himmerland Golf & Spa Resort is not the longest out there, but it can be tricky. Take the most famous hole on the course, the Himmerland Hill for example. At times, this hole has measured as little as 72 meters, but 3 is not a guarantee. The amphitheatre style tiny 16th hole has an extremely dangerous 2 tiered green that has no safe putts just about anywhere on it and flag position will drive some in the field a bit crazy when it is pushed back. It has also been the hole where the locals do crazy things like hold up signs for particular players, or even propose marriage after making birdies. This tournament is very unique and mostly because of the "goings on" on this hole.
Designed by Jan Cederholm and then re-designed by Philip Spogaard in 2012, Himmerland is a par 71 with only 3 par 5's, the shortest is only 432 meters. The course is rye and festuca grass so if players wander off the fairways, they will be punished. The fairways themselves are very generous though and scoring here is usually pretty low. Look for a final score near the -20 mark because the greens will not be super quick either.
Although Thomas Bjorn is not here this week, there are still plenty of home town heroes, including ThunderBear Thorbjorn Oleson, Lucas Bjerregaard, Soren Kjeldsen and Joachim B Hansen. But the locals will have some stiff competition in the form of Lee Westwood, Marcus Kinhult, Jorge Campillo, Kurt Kitayama, Alex Levy, Paul Dunne, Ryan Fox, Thomas Pieters, Andy Sullivan, Thomas Detry, "Beef" Johnston and Victor Dubuisson, as well as the Aussie invasion of Scott Hend, Lucas Herbert, Wade Ormsby, Dimi Papadatos, Adam Bland, Deyen Lawson, Nick Cullen, Jake McLeod, Jason Scrivener and Daniel Gaunt who once beat Tommy Fleetwood by a shot in the English Challenge on the Challenge Tour. Good luck to all those Aussies.
This event has been backed by the European Tour until the end of 2023, so expect to see some more from this amazing little golf course and hopefully more laughs from the 16th green. It's hard to look past Wallace to win this after his high placing last week, his win here last year and his recent form, but you never know.
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