Power Ranking: Charles Schwab Challenge
Bryson DeChambeau, Viktor Hovland, Webb Simpson, Colonial CC member Ryan Palmer, defending champion Jason Kokrak and other former Charles Schwab Challenge winners will be among the notables reviewed in Draws and Fades.
When considering which tournaments are the easiest to predict, the Charles Schwab Challenge comes out on top next to the Masters. (However, given how the first major of the year has evolved in three rounds since its November 2020 edition, it may no longer require the learning that generates expectations. More on that in another times.) Building a limited invitational of 120 golfers helps, but next week’s Memorial Tournament presented by Workday, which also hosts 120 at the only course that has ever hosted it (Muirfield Village), is not following a familiar scenario.
Get a load of that… The last 19 winners heading into the 2021 Charles Schwab Challenge had an average age of 36 and had averaged six starts at Colonial before their first victory on the course. Last year, in his seventh appearance and less than a week after his 36th birthday, Jason Kokrak prevailed. Remember that this power ranking already quoted both ages and total appearances. Kokrak only followed instructions. (The precise period of the last 19 winners before Kokrak goes back to the year after Sergio Garcia’s breakthrough in 2001. He is both the most recent first PGA TOUR winner at Colonial and the most recent to win his first appearance .)
Simply finding the dartboard with a winner often defines acceptable, but Kokrak split the arrow. Although there is a spectrum with two parameters for just about everything, and despite how it rocked last year, no prognostic process can rely on such basic variables alone, but the historical trail from Fort Worth, TX caters to all skill sets, so attributes that stress experience, like age and total looks, are high.
Colonial is a stock par 70 that clocks in at 7,209 yards as it has since 2016. The 2021 scoring average of 70.208 landed in the expectation cone, while also reflecting stronger winds in the first and last rounds.
Bentgrass greens average only 5,000 square feet and can reach 13 feet on the Stimpmeter. Last year’s field averaged 7.90 (out of 14) fairways hit, about 11 greens in regulation per round and three through breakers after hitting GIR. This placed Colonial in the third toughest of those three metrics among any course in the 2020-21 super season.
It’s never easy, but Kokrak made him believe it was. He ranked eighth in distance from all drives, fourth in accuracy off the tee, first in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee, second in GIR, 10th in closeness to the hole and second in SG: Tee-to-Green . He also finished seventh in SG: Putting and fifth in putting: birdies-or-better.
Kokrak also finished T12 with a par-5. The pair of par 5s – Nos. 1 and 11 – rank among the toughest sets on any course every year, but that’s mostly down to the 635-yard 11th hole. Just two years ago, it was the eighth most difficult from par on the course. Last year it was fourth easiest and Kokrak played it 2-under with no bogey. He won by two strokes.
This week’s overall score should also line up with history, at least through the weekend. Wet weather will give way to a dry first lap on what could be receptive turf for low scores. Winds will also be light until the machine starts Friday afternoon. Come Saturday and Sunday, daytime highs will likely eclipse 90 degrees and gusts could exceed 30 mph. He has the makings of how the leader’s 36-hole score over par could defend for victory. So again, wisdom and experience in the conditions should be taken into account.
ROB BOLTON’S CALENDAR
PGATOUR.com’s Rob Bolton recaps and previews each tournament from many angles. Look for his following contributions as expected.
MONDAY: Power ratings
TUESDAY*: Sleepers, draws and fades
WEDNESDAY: Preview of Pick ‘Em
SUNDAY: Medical extensions, Qualifications, Reorganization, Ranking of recruits
* – Rob is a member of PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks panel for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesday.
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