As it concerns versions of the Power Rankings, most follow a tried-and-true template with the only obvious variation applied to how many golfers are included. A portion of this Power Rankings for the Charles Schwab Challenge is unique; well, unless you read it loyally over the last five years.
Ages and number of appearances for each of the 15 projected contenders ranked open the capsules. (You’ll see the same leadoffs in Sleepers and Draws and Fades.) It’s definitely different, but if it seems silly, what transpired last year proved the point of the exercise. Detail on that, how Colonial Country Club tests and more below.
POWER RANKINGS: CHARLES SCHWAB CHALLENGE
Bryson DeChambeau, Viktor Hovland, Webb Simpson, Colonial CC member Ryan Palmer, defending champion Jason Kokrak and other previous winners of the Charles Schwab Challenge will be among the notables reviewed in Draws and Fades.
When considering which tournaments are the easiest to predict, the Charles Schwab Challenge is at the top beside the Masters. (However, given how the first major of the year has evolved in three spins since its November edition of 2020, it may no longer require the apprenticeship that generates expectations. More on that another time.) The construct of an invitational limited to 120 golfers helps, but next week’s Memorial Tournament presented by Workday, also host to 120 on the only course that’s ever hosted it (Muirfield Village), doesn’t follow a familiar script.
Get a load of this… The last 19 winners in advance of the 2021 Charles Schwab Challenge had an average age of 36 and had logged an average of six starts at Colonial prior to their first victory on the course. Last year, in what was his seventh appearance and within one week after his 36th birthday, Jason Kokrak prevailed. Remember, this Power Rankings already was citing both ages and total appearances. All Kokrak did was follow the instruction. (The specific time frame of the last 19 winners before Kokrak dates back to the year after Sergio Garcia broke through in 2001. He’s both the most recent first-time PGA TOUR winner at Colonial and the most recent to win his first appearance.)
Settling for finding the dartboard with a winner often defines the acceptable, but Kokrak split the arrow. Although there is a spectrum with two endpoints for just about everything, and despite how it shook out last year, no process of prognostication can rely solely on such basic variables, but the historic track in Fort Worth, Texas, caters to all skill sets, so attributes that underscore experience, like age and total appearances, are elevated.
Colonial is a stock par 70 that tips at 7,209 yards as it has since 2016. The 2021 scoring average of 70.208 landed within the cone of expectations, while it also reflected stronger winds in the first and final rounds.
Bentgrass greens average just 5,000 square feet, and they could reach 13 feet on the Stimpmeter, so approaches from bermuda rough, which could be as high as three inches, need to be precise. Last year’s field averaged 7.90 (of 14) fairways hit, about 11 greens in regulation per round and three par breakers after hitting GIR. That slotted Colonial within the third-hardest in all three of those measurements among all courses during the super season of 2020-21.
It’s never easy but Kokrak made it seem that way. He ranked eighth in distance of all drives, fourth in accuracy off the tee, first in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee, second in GIR, 10th in proximity to the hole and second in SG: Tee-to-Green. He also checked up seventh in SG: Putting and fifth in putting: birdies-or-better.
Kokrak also finished T12 in par-5 scoring. The pair of par 5s – Nos. 1 and 11 – annually ranks among the toughest sets of all courses, but that’s primarily due to the 635-yard 11th hole. Just two years ago, it was the eighth-hardest in relation to par on the course. Last year, it was fourth-easiest and Kokrak played it in bogey-free 2-under. He won by two strokes.
Overall scoring this week also should align with history, at least until the weekend. Wet weather will give way to a dry opening round on what could be receptive turf for low scores. Winds also will be light until the machine starts cranking on Friday afternoon. Come Saturday and Sunday, daytime highs likely will eclipse 90 degrees and gusts could exceed 30 mph. It has the makings of how the 36-hole leader’s score in relation to par could stand up for victory. So, once again, wisdom and experience in the conditions should factor.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.com’s Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous perspectives. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
MONDAY: Power Rankings
TUESDAY*: Sleepers, Draws and Fades
WEDNESDAY: Pick ’Em Preview
SUNDAY: Medical Extensions, Qualifiers, Reshuffle, Rookie Ranking
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesday.