Hi! It's been a minute since we've connected like this. Of course, we've never had a problem physically distancing ourselves, but no one signed up for a three-month hiatus. It is with that in mind that the comfy climes of the Charles Schwab Challenge reinforce the welcome in the welcome back.
There's a surreal element to the restart of the 2019-20 season in that it seems silly to bother analyzing anything right away. It's like a honeymoon. Let's just let them play. Yet, while every moment of the annual stop at Colonial Country Club will be cherished, there still will be a 36-hole cut and a champion crowned – albeit with no fans on site to witness it – so there's no time like the present to dive in.
Although it was rescheduled to be held just three weeks later than its customary slot in late May, this is the first edition in tournament history contested in June. It's still an invitational, but the field was expanded to 144 to address the absence of playing time.
For the fourth consecutive year, ages and career appearances lead off all comments for the projected contenders below. An explanation as to why follows, along with details on the field, the historic track in Fort Worth, Texas, and more.
POWER RANKINGS: CHARLES SCHWAB CHALLENGE
Tuesday's Fantasy Insider will not be short on depth. It'll include past champions Justin Rose (2018), Phil Mickelson (2000, 2008) and Sergio Garcia (2001), as well as Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day, Xander Schauffele and Patrick Reed among other notables.
It was only three weeks ago that we plugged the gap with the all-time Power Rankings for the Charles Schwab Challenge. While it's a reflection of the impressive history of the tournament, even that grouping would acknowledge the depth of this week's field at Colonial with similar approval.
Twenty-one of the top 25 in the FedExCup standings are committed as of midday Monday. It includes defending champion Kevin Na at 11th. Like Justin Rose in 2018, Kevin Kisner in 2017 and several prior to that, Na fulfilled criteria that explain why Colonial Country Club is the perfect reentry for competition.
Colonial has been as predictable as it gets on the PGA TOUR, and at 7,209 yards with no changes, the stock par 70 is familiar to every returnee. Dating back to its debut in 1946, it's not just the longest-running host of a non-major, but it's gone the longest of every tournament with a cut without a first-time winner. Sergio Garcia is the most recent in 2001 and he was in his first appearance. Since, every champion also has appeared at least once before and a man of a certain age usually projects to prevail.
Na was 35 years old when he emerged with victory in what was his 14th appearance last year. The average age of the winners since Nick Price in 2002 is 36.59. While Na's track record at Colonial already was impressive what with four top 10s, the outlier was the he was the first since Steve Stricker in 2009 to have made more than five trips.
Of course, Na did more than just follow the leaders, he took what Colonial gives. With premiums on hitting greens and sinking putts, his experience was akin to muscle memory. He led the field by averaging 14 GIR per round and he paced it in proximity to the hole on approach to the 5,000-square foot targets. A vintage stroke on the bentgrass surfaces landed him at second in Strokes Gained: Putting.
The rest of the property is bermudagrass. With primary rough at two-and-a-half inches and greens running as fast as 12-and-a-half feet, which is just a hair longer than usual for its May date, finding the shortest grass off the tee is a secondary objective. Last year, Colonial was the third-stingiest in fairways hit (53.53 percent) – Na ranked T17 at 60.71 percent – en route to the eighth-lowest GIR split (10.83 per golfer per round) and third-lowest percentage of par-breaker conversions among GIR (2.74 per round).
Daytime highs in the 90s and nothing but sunshine are guaranteed. Winds will be light and variable into the weekend, and they might kick up a hair for the finale. All in all, scoring should better last year's clip of 70.860.
Incidentally, like other invites, the Charles Schwab Challenge reserves space for legacy exemptions without taking spots from the rank and file. As a result, the opening field stands at 148. However, should any of the winners prior to 2000 who have committed decide to withdraw before his opening-round tee time, he won't be replaced. This year's grouping consists of Keith Clearwater (1987), Tom Lehman (1995), David Frost (1997) and Olin Browne (1999).
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM’s Fantasy Insider Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous angles. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
TUESDAY*: Sleepers, Fantasy Insider
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesday.