After a three month break it’s a welcome return to action for top level golf this week as the PGA Tour resumes at the Charles Schwab Challenge.
As is the case for all of us it will be a very different world that greets the players as they ‘return to work’, as they will be subject to strict protocols around Covid testing, travel and accommodation. Also, for the first five weeks events will be without fans.
The tournament that welcomes them back is one of the oldest on tour, held at Colonial CC in Fort Worth, Texas. A par 72 playing to 7209 yards, Colonial is not a course which can be overpowered off the tee, with finding fairways and a hot putter often the key to success.
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The signature section of the course, holes 3, 4 and 5, which are collectively known as The Horrible Horseshoe, is made up of two par three’s and a par four. This is the toughest stretch the players face.
Looking at this week’s field and with all of the top players having been starved of action of late, the line-up is stacked with big names.
Topping this list is world number one Rory McIlroy, who prior to lockdown was in scintillating form having not finished outside of the top five all season. Also on display will be the remaining members of the world’s top five, Jon Rahm, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson.
While any of this quintet could of course make their class tell, with so many unknowns and McIlroy and Thomas making their course debuts, I am reluctant to side with anyone at particularly short odds. I will instead take a strategy of focusing on local Texas based players, who I suspect will benefit more than usual from being able to stay in their own homes, and who will have had the opportunity to warm up on the course over the past week or two.
The first of these to get the nod is former Colonial champion Jordan Spieth. Winless since his Open Championship triumph in 2017, there is no doubt that the three-time Major champion has been in something of a malaise for the past 18 months-plus.
If Spieth could hand-pick an event though to reboot his career after the break this would quite possibly be it. Based locally in the area, alongside his victory here he has notched two second place finishes and two further top eight results in only seven career starts.
Prior to lockdown while not up to his historical high standards, the 26-year-old had missed only one cut this season and was ninth three starts ago. He certainly looks great each-way value to me.
Best of the rest
Next on the list is one of the young guns on tour Scottie Scheffler at 35/1.
While most players will have been sat at home during lockdown Scheffler had the opportunity to keep his game sharp in the two Maridoe Invitational events, held locally in the Dallas area, and he put this to good use finishing first and second.
A two-time winner on the Korn Ferry Tour last season Scheffler looks sure to break through soon and I am keen to have him on side on a course he must know well.
Another player at slightly bigger odds who makes plenty of each-way appeal in an event that Paddy is paying to a market leading ten places in is Ryan Palmer.
Palmer is a member at Colonial CC and has posted four top six finishes in his last eight visits. That’s some great course form.
He looks certain to me to be a factor and is a must inclusion.
Big odds each-way plays
Finally, I shall complete my team with two big priced each-way plays in the shape of Harry Higgs at 150/1 and Beau Hossler. Both, like our other three selections, are based locally in the area.
Higgs who is in his debut season on the Tour has been hugely impressive to date, posting a second place finish already and his accurate driver should stand him in good stead here.
Hossler, meanwhile, has been ticking along steadily this season after a disappointing 18/19 campaign, and with his putter performing really well prior to lockdown. This hugely talented player could also just spring a big surprise at huge odds.
* Prices correct at publishing but are subject to change except on our snazzy new bet widget which is bang up to date.
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