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World’s top 5 set to play Charles Schwab Challenge

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World’s top 5 set to play Charles Schwab Challenge

17 of top 20 in FedExCup standings will be in Colonial field

    Rory McIlroy's best shots from 2019-20 season through March

    The Charles Schwab Challenge, the first event in the restart of the 2019-20 PGA TOUR season, will welcome a stellar field. The tournament has announced that the top five players in the Official World Golf Ranking are scheduled to appear at Colonial – the first time that’s happened at the Fort Worth, Texas, event since 1986.

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    No. 1 Rory McIlroy, the reigning FedExCup champ, and No. 4 Justin Thomas are playing at Colonial for the first time in their TOUR careers. No. 2 Jon Rahm is making his fourth start and No. 3 Brooks Koepka is making his second. No. 5 Dustin Johnson is making his third Colonial start, but his first since 2014.

    Thomas and McIlroy are among the top nine players in the FedExCup standings -- led by Sungjae Im -- who have committed to play. Of the top 20 in the standings, 17 will be at Colonial, including defending champ Kevin Na, who is 11th.

    “Our field is deep,” Charles Schwab Challenge tournament director Michael Tothe told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “It’s really come together nicely.”

    The tournament was originally slated for May 21-24 but was moved to June 11-14 after the COVID-19 pandemic forced a raft of schedule changes for the PGA TOUR.

    The Charles Schwab Challenge will be the first full TOUR event to be staged since the season went on hiatus after the pandemic took hold during THE PLAYERS Championship in March, forcing its cancellation after the first round. It will be played without onsite access for fans and under strict health and safety protocols.

    “Golf fans are hungry to watch some golf,” tournament chairman Rob Hood told the local media. “I think the whole world will be watching Fort Worth, Texas.”

    Of the world’s top 20 ranked players, 15 are scheduled to play at Colonial, including reigning Open Championship winner Shane Lowry, making just his second start on American soil this season. The Irishman has been in Florida during the pandemic and will play mostly in the U.S. for the next few months.

    “I think this is a good opportunity for golf to be one of the first sports to get back on TV and maybe people are so starved and deprived of live sport that it might get a few more people into the game," Lowry told Irish reporters.

    Na, who shot a 62 in the second round last year, looks forward to defending his title. Justin Rose, the 2018 winner, also is scheduled, as are local draws Jordan Spieth (the 2016 winner) and Colonial member Ryan Palmer.

    “It’s basically going back to work for me and what I love to do,” Na told CBS. “I miss it. I miss the competition.”

    Players who are returning to Colonial after lengthy absences include Bubba Watson (making his first start since 2008) and Jason Day (making his first start since 2011). Big-hitting Matthew Wolff is making his Charles Schwab Challenge debut on a tight course that generally favors shot-making.

    Also in the field is two-time champion Phil Mickelson, who will be making his 16th start in the event but just his second since 2010. Mickelson played in last week’s The Match: Champions for Charity, where he and partner Tom Brady lost to Tiger Woods-Peyton Manning.

    “This is the best shape that I've been in," Mickelson said recently on The Dan Patrick Show. “I feel like I've had a really good last few months to get my game back and be sharp. I'm excited to go play."

    Mickelson won Colonial’s plaid jacket in 2000 and 2008. His 2008 victory famously included a clutch approach to the green from the left trees on the 72nd hole before he buried a birdie putt for the title while a fan cannonballed into the lake behind him in celebration.

    Speaking on his Callaway Golf Podcast, the now soon-to-be 50-year-old had obvious enthusiasm for golf’s return and hoped the sport would get further prominence in the wider community that continues to navigate its way through unchartered waters due to the pandemic.

    “The thing that I’m excited about seeing the PGA TOUR return is what this could do for the game of golf,” Mickelson said. “Because right now the courses where I’m playing in San Diego and Arizona, they’re packed because people are wanting to get outside, they want to do sports, (and) they want to hang with their friends. And the only place to do it safely is on the golf course.

    “I have a feeling that the summer rounds are going to skyrocket, hopefully we’ll get a lot of new golfers or people who only play once or twice a year playing a few times a week maybe, or a month.

    “We are going to see a lot more people walking. I’ve noticed that our clubs, without carts, everybody is walking, enjoying the time … this could be a thing that helps the game of golf because it offers something during this pandemic that other sports don’t which is a safe environment to be with your friends, and be interactive and have some competition and some comradery.”

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