Power Rankings: Charles Schwab Challenge
May 24, 2021
By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM
- Collin Morikawa is one to watch at the Charles Schwab Challenge. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
The Charles Schwab Challenge is where it all restarted.
Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, possesses one of the richest histories of all golf courses, but it’s most valuable moment in time may have been as the backdrop for the Return to Golf following a three-month shutdown due to the pandemic last year. To steal the line from “Field of Dreams,” Colonial reminded us all that once was good could be again.
The experience has come full circle, and in more ways than one. As Daniel Berger is poised to defend his title on the 75th anniversary of the tournament – all staged at Colonial – we are further reminded that he prevailed in a playoff over Collin Morikawa sans fans in attendance. How far have we come since? Well, you know you won’t forget where you were and how you felt as 50-year-young Phil Mickelson was striding toward victory among the throng of spectators at Kiawah Island on Sunday. That was good, indeed.
As unpredictable as it was for Mickelson to capture a sixth victory in a major and his second at the PGA Championship, we shift to one of the most consistent profiles for success anywhere on the PGA TOUR. For more on that, how Colonial sets up and other intel, scroll past the ranking of projected contenders. Capsules open with ages and total appearances for the fifth consecutive edition of the Power Rankings dedicated to this tournament.
POWER RANKINGS: CHARLES SCHWAB CHALLENGE
Tony Finau, Gary Woodland, Charley Hoffman and former champions Kevin Na, Kevin Kisner and Sergio Garcia will be among the notables reviewed in Tuesday’s Fantasy Insider.
Although there’s no such thing as normal, only average, etched onto the Wall of Champions at Colonial Country Club is a smattering of profiles that are, let’s say, customary of most winners of the Charles Schwab Challenge.
For starters, there hasn’t been a breakthrough champion in 20 years. If you’re a regular reader of this space, you may have quizzed others on this fact because it’s populated every Power Rankings in recent memory. Sergio Garcia not only is the most recent first-time winner (in 2001), he also prevailed in his first appearance, something no other winner since can claim.
Meanwhile, Garcia’s makeup as a consistently strong ball-striker very much is woven into the DNA of the winners crowned at Colonial, except most have been of a certain age – 36. That’s exactly the average age of the 19 champions since 2002. The outliers are Jordan Spieth, who was 22 in 2016, and three guys who were at least 44 years old at the time of victory. Fifteen have been at least 33.
The construct of the field at Colonial all but rigs the competition for a talent in his prime to be added to the Wall of Champions at Ben Hogan’s Alley. The Charles Schwab Challenge is an invitational reserved for only 120 golfers, many of whom have experienced victory on the PGA TOUR (thus reducing the possibility of a coronation). The top 80 in the previous season’s FedExCup standings and a smattering off the current season’s ranking fill the field, so golfers who recently have been in form at this level essentially define the field.
This year’s field is at 121 as of Monday. Keith Clearwater is an add-on as a winner (1987) prior to 2000. It’s a legacy exemption, so he is not in place of an automatic qualifier among more active members. It also means that if he withdraws prior to his opening round, he will not be replaced and the field will drop to its floor of 120.
Comparing the 2020 Schwab in detail to what we should expect this week would be irresponsible. Last year’s contest was different. It got golf around the world going again. The field was expanded to 144 (plus four legacy exemptions) and the strength-of-field rating as determined by the Official World Golf Ranking was 651, seventh-highest of all tournaments on the planet in 2020. This week’s value should fall somewhere nearer that of the 2019 edition, which was 347. Until now, it was the only staging that immediately followed the PGA Championship since it shifted to May that season.
Also as of Monday, 64 in this week’s field competed in the PGA Championship last week, including Mickelson. Of them, only Sebastián Muñoz (MC), Lee Westwood (T71) and Will Zalatoris (T8) are debutants at Colonial this week. Other than the fact that a first-time participant hasn’t won in 20 years, the average number of starts for each of the last 19 winners prior to the first win at Colonial is six. Experience matters.
Colonial Country Club itself is as transparent as its litany of conquerors. It’s a stock par 70 stretching 7,209 yards for the sixth consecutive year. Small bentgrass greens are prepped to touch 12-and-a-half feet on the Stimpmeter, while bermudagrass rough is clipped to two-and-a-half inches. The historic freeze that blanketed Texas in February negatively affected turf around the greens, but fairways and greens were all but unscathed.
It wouldn’t be a golf tournament in Texas without wind and the threat of inclement weather. Wind forecasts should be checked daily but gusts north of 20 mph already are expected for Thursday’s opening round. The chance for rain and boomers enters that night and lingers into Friday, and again into Saturday. Sunday’s finale should go off without a hitch. Daytime temperatures will climb easily into the 80s.
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.
MONDAY: Power Rankings
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.