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Charles Schwab Challenge Preview

Jordan Spieth

Jordan Spieth

David Yeazell-USA TODAY Sports

The fifth and final Texas event of the season will take place this week at Colonial Country Club.

It’s the week after a major championship but a strong field is still headed to the Lone Star State this week. The event is headlined by World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler and Jordan Spieth but there are at least a dozen other notable names making the trip this week.

As an invitational, the field is limited to just 120 golfers to start the week. The low 65 and ties will still advance through the 36-hole cutline.

Michael Block wouldn’t normally fall in the “notable names” bucket but he became a fan favorite at Oak Hill last week and his story is getting shared across the country, not being limited to just golf fans. Block received a sponsor’s invite to play in this week’s event so we’ll see if he can build on that momentum from last week.

The Course

Colonial Country Club returns to host another edition of the Charles Schwab Challenge.

This classical course needs no introduction as it’s been hosting the event since 1946 when Ben Hogan won the inaugural edition.

A Perry Maxwell design, this venue was built in the 1930s and has held up to the test of time relatively well. It’s managed that despite added fewer than 200 yards to the layout since that inaugural edition.

Looking at the scorecard this week we see a par 70 that plays to 7,209 yards from the tips. Diving into the par 4s, we see five of them play under 410 yards and three stretch out past 460 yards. Overall, the course is on the shorter end of the spectrum of tour courses, especially when you look at the proximity buckets of typical approach shots at this event. We see far fewer shots from outside of 200 yards at Colonial CC, compared to the average tour stop.

Off the tee, golfers see narrow corridors and plenty of doglegs to limit the big-hitter advantage. There aren’t going to be any courses where driving distance is a bad thing but this is certainly a course that rewards accuracy more than usual and limits power. It’s a plodder’s paradise where pulling the big stick is not always the answer.

You can take driver and take some more aggressive lines but it all comes down to course management. The greens are small targets and bogeys can pile up fast if you are trying to bomb-and-gouge but don’t bring your A-game with the driver that day. The result is usually a fair amount of less-than-driver decisions.

For turf, they’ll see bermuda from tee-to-green and bentgrass putting surfaces.

Seeing that we’re in Texas, wind can be one of the key defenses of the course. The overall scoring environment often yields a field average close to par with the weather dictating how much the scoring average varies from the norm. One thing to note on that scoring environment is that eagles are very tough to find here, with the field averaging just 0.14 eagles per 72 holes which puts it right alongside Memorial Park as the lowest eagle rates among regular tour stops.

Course Quotes

Sifting through some past quotes, let’s try to break down the course to see how it will play.

Jordan Spieth in 2021: “Play it kind of the smart way. There’s always a place you can get into big trouble around the greens here, and there’s a place where you can kind of end up being able to make an easy par.

Harold Varner III in 2020: “Last time I was here, I hit a lot of drivers, and that obviously is not the key to this place.”

Justin Thomas in 2022: “This course is right in front of you, you know what you’re getting and you can play it hitting a lot of different clubs off tees. You can play it very conservatively and put the ball in the fairway, kind of play to the doglegs or you can take a lot of drivers and kind of send it over some bunkers or over some doglegs and potentially make it a lot shorter.”

Spieth’s quote sums up the course pretty well. It’s not an overly difficult course as long as you play it the smart way. Otherwise, bogeys can pile up quickly.

Correlated Courses

Using historical data we can look at overperformance and underperformance at this week’s host course and compare that to all of the courses played out on tour. Here are the ones that shared a lot of overlap:

Harbour Town GL
Memorial Park
TPC Deere Run
Pebble Beach Pro-Am Rota
PGA National

As I mentioned above, Memorial Park shares the low eagle rate connection with Colonial and they are both in Texas. The others are courses that require some patience or smart strategy with more of a reward for strong short game more than the average tour stop.

The Weather

Thursday: Partly sunny with a high of 86 degrees. Winds at 6 to 10 MPH.

Friday: Sunny with a high of 85 degrees. Winds at 6 to 9 MPH.

Mother Nature will flip the script this week for anyone that played last week in Rochester where they dealt with cold temps and sloppy weekend weather. There are some periods of possible precipitation this week but nothing that leaps off the page as alarming.