The second major of the season is in the books but the PGA Tour doesn’t stand still for long as the golfers head off to Texas to the Colonial for the Charles Schwab Challenge. As always here at Betfred, our golf tipster Jamie Worsley is in situ and has his thoughts ahead of the tournament…

Charles Schwab Challenge 2023 Tips:

  • Collin Morikawa  – 1/5 8 places –  3 pts ew14/1
  • Taylor Moore – 1/5 6 places – 1 pt ew – 55/1
  • Harris English – 1/5 8 places – 1 pt ew – 70/1
  • Hayden Buckley – 1/5 7 places – 1 pt ew – 80/1
  • Austin Eckroat – 1/5 7 places – 1 pt ew – 125/1

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Brooks Koepka returned to the big time last week at Oak Hill, gaining a PGA Championship victory – his 3rd in the event and 5th major win overall – that firmly established him as the best major performer of his generation. Also moving him inside the top 20 for all-time wins alongside players such as Seve Ballesteros and Byron Nelson. 

Brooks actually opened the event with a 2-over 72, though responded brilliantly with 4-under 66s in rounds two and three – the best scores on each of those days – to take a one-shot lead into Sunday’s final round. 

There he was paired with Norway’s Viktor Hovland, who continues to knock on the door in these biggest of events. He was holding his own against Koepka for most of the day, keeping up with the now five-time major winner despite his blistering start to the final round, as he birdied three of his first four holes to sprint 3-shots clear. 

Indeed, Hovland was within 1 of Koepka as they stood on the 16th tee, though after an untimely double for him there – as his ball embedded in the fairway bunker face – coupled with birdie for Koepka, it meant his race was run and enabled his playing partner to cruise to victory; redeeming himself after his final-round disappointments at Augusta six weeks earlier and completing an impressive comeback after the struggles of the last couple of years. 

However, despite his success, Koepka was left sharing the limelight with the most unlikely of fellow competitors at the finish of play, PGA Professional Michael Block. 

The California golf coach had been igniting crowds all week, producing an unfathomably superb performance that saw him sit inside the top 10 entering the final round, earning himself a tee-time alongside Rory McIlroy in the process. 

The atmosphere was positive in the group, though Rory was still struggling for consistency as he had done all week and Block was just about hanging on around the periphery of a top 15 finish that would see him earn automatic entry into next year’s PGA Championship. However, that atmosphere was dialed up substantially on the par 3 15th hole, as we saw not just the moment of the week but undoubtedly the moment of the year so far. 

As Rory’s approach trickled down the right-hand side of the green, up stepped Block to hit his approach. As he hit it, the shot tracer had the ball pretty much on-line with the flag, though as they panned to the green I didn’t see it land initially, but with the crowd making plenty of noise I knew he must’ve hit it close. 

That would be a bit of an understatement. Block didn’t just hit it close but had slam-dunked it right in the hole for a 1. He himself looked completely baffled at first, as you would be, asking McIlroy what happened and needing the Northern Irishman to confirm that he’d made the hole-in-one. Utterly astonishing and a moment that will no doubt be remembered by Block and fans alike for years to come. His final-round story didn’t end there though. 

Block was still chasing that top 15 place, a position that the hole-in-one took him back inside. Worryingly, he bogeyed the following hole to drop to 15th exactly and would need to play the two monstrous closing holes in level par to achieve his goal. 

This looked very much in doubt on the 17th, as Block found the rough off the tee and was forced to lay up, needing to get up-and-down from around 100 yards for a par. He duly delivered, hitting a magnificent wedge to 6ft and making the putt to stay in position.  

He once again found the rough off the tee on 18 and knowing he needed to make par, went for the green, only to hit it around 30 yards left of the putting surface into some thick rough and seemingly making it very difficult to pitch it close. Again he delivered, pitching up to 7 1/2ft, again he made the putt and again he drew the crowd into rapturous celebration. 

It was a remarkable end to a remarkable week and I’m sure everyone will look forward to seeing him compete at next year’s PGA Championship at Valhalla. 

With that being said, we don’t have to wait quite so long to see him in action again, as his heroics at Oak Hill have earned him a sponsor’s exemption into this week’s field for the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas; alongside Scottie Scheffler, whose final-round flyer and 2nd place finish last week saw him return to the #1 spot in world golf. 

Tournament History 

First staged in 1946, the Charles Schwab Challenge is not only one of the oldest events on tour but its co-existence with host course Colonial Country Club is the longest-running event/course relationship on the PGA Tour; with every renewal taking place here. 

It is an event synonymous with nine-time major winner and Fort Worth resident – until his death in 1997 – Ben Hogan, who holds the tournament record of five wins at Colonial Country Club; including the first two renewals of the event in 1946 and 1947. 

This is a record he holds comfortably by three wins, with a whole host of players having tasted victory here twice, including Phil Mickelson, Corey Pavin and Lee Trevino; whilst two of the game’s most revered stars, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, have also won this historied title. 

Another of those two-time winners, Zach Johnson, holds the tournament record winning score, shooting 21-under-par on his way to a comfortable three-stroke success in 2010. Though nowhere near as comfortable as Chandler Harper’s eight-shot demolition of the field in his 1955 victory; a record in the event. 

Home players typically dominate the tournament, with each of the last four – and 17 out of the previous 20 – renewals going the way of player’s from the U.S. 

Most recent of these was Sam Burns, who saw off Scottie Scheffler in a playoff for the fourth of his five PGA Tour titles last year. He returns this year, looking to become the first player to successfully defend at Colonial since Ben Hogan in 1953. 

The Course 

Designed by the duo of John Bredemus and Perry Maxwell in 1936, Colonial Country Club – host of the 1941 US Open – is a difficult 7209-yard par 70, possessing an average winning score of -13.3 over the last ten renewals. Most aspects of playing around this traditional, tight and heavily tree-lined old course present challenges. 

It is a course which requires strategy and rarely have players been able to simply overpower it. There are some tight driving lines into the predominantly doglegged, narrow fairways, which rank as the 10th most difficult to find on the PGA Tour. Players will not only need to be finding fairways but the right sections of them, to create an unobstructed passage into the greens. 

They’re not just difficult to find but also rank inside the top 10 most penal should you miss, protected by thick rough and strategically placed fairway bunkers, as well as the most wayward finding their potential approaches blocked out by the trees. 

The small, speedy bentgrass greens then pose further questions, ranking amongst the top 10 toughest to find, with run off areas and bunkering for protection. Though the course is a tougher ball-striking test than it is a short-game one, scrambling around said greens is by no means easy and if able to get them up to their most slippery, they’ll cause more than a few headaches. 

As we are in Texas, wind often adds another dimension of danger here, whilst there is water in-play on six holes.  

Two of those water holes come on a tricky set of par 3s – the 13th and 16th holes – though the most nerve-inducing of the courses shorter holes is the beastly 247-yard 4th 

Whilst the course opens with a pretty gettable 565-yard par 5, the other par 5 on the course is no such gimme; another monster of a hole at 635 yards.  

If in control of your ball off the tee, there are opportunities to be had on the par 4s. Just three of them come at over 460 yards, with five below 410 and with some quality precision iron play, you can give yourself some decent looks. 

Though Colonial CC is difficult, it’s fair. Get your ball well placed off the tee and you can make a score, however if you start getting loose with the ball-striking you’ll soon find yourself racking up some big scores. 

The Stats 

Key Stats: 

  • SG: Approach 
  • Greens-in-Regulation 
  • Proximity from 150-175 yards 
  • SG: Putting (Bentgrass) 

Secondary Stats: 

  • SG: Off-the-Tee 
  • Scrambling 
  • Par 4 Scoring 

Colonial is a course that gives everybody a chance. We’ve had the straight and steady Kevin Kisner and Kevin Na take the title, with the longer hitting Sam Burns and Jason Kokrak in the last two years. For accurate drivers it levels the playing field a little, whilst the longer hitters can club down on many of the shorter par 4s for position. 

Though we’ve seen strong driving performances engineer victories and contending performances in the last two years, with Kokrak ranking 1st OTT when winning in 2021 and Burns 6th last year, what you do into and/or on the greens has historically proven to be the most decisive factors.  

Of the last five players to win here, each have ranked 12th or better in approach, with Justin Rose in 2018 and Kevin Na in 2019 both ranking 1st. Daniel Berger was 5th in approach when winning in 2020, Kokrak ranked 8th in 2021 and Burns was 12th in approach last year. Additionally, we have to go back to 2015 and Chris Kirk to find the last time a winner didn’t rank inside the top 10 for GIR. 

Other contenders to show strength in approach include Scottie Scheffler, who ranked 1st in GIR and 8th in approach when 2nd last year; Patton Kizzire and Charley Hoffman were top 5 in approach when 3rd in 2021, whilst in 2020 Collin Morikawa was 3rd in approach when finishing 2nd to Berger and five of the top 6 ranked 8th or higher in GIR. 

Further to this, a strong mid-iron game looks important, with those who excel in proximity between 150-175 yards looking to have the advantage. 

An ability to putt these bentgrass surfaces has been of equal significance. Of the last eight winners of the Charles Schwab Challenge, seven have ranked 7th or better on the greens for the week; with just one player in each of the last three years to hit the top 4 finishing outside the top 25 in putting. 

Although not as important overall, there’s no denying how helpful strong driving performances have been in the last couple of years as detailed above. Therefore I’ll factor in OTT ability, though to a smaller level; along with a decent scrambling ability – due to the likely breezy conditions and small, firm greens – and finally, strong par 4 scorers are favoured on a course where such holes are abundant.  

Correlating Events (Courses) 

St Jude Championship (TPC Southwind) 

TPC Southwind is a comparably challenging par 70 of a similar length to Colonial Country Club. Though it’s tree-lined, doglegged fairways aren’t quite as tight, the thick rough that protects them, as well as the small greens sees it rank closely to this week’s venue from a ball-striking point of view. 

Daniel Berger has won at both courses, whilst Harris English and Ben Crane are both former Southwind winners with good records at Colonial; English a runner-up and Crane possessing multiple top 5s. 

Sam Burns has finished runner-up at Southwind, as has Scott Stallings, who has twice finished 4th here. Ryan Palmer and Andrew Putnam have top 5s across both; Brian Harman has several top 10s at each course. 

Valspar Championship (Innisbrook Resort – Copperhead Course) 

Innisbrook’s Copperhead Course is another tree-lined course with doglegging fairways protected by thick rough and possesses firm, small(ish) greens. With this it provides a similar ball-striking test, whilst is equally penal should you miss the short grass. 

Last year’s Charles Schwab winner, Sam Burns, won back-to-back titles in the Valspar in 2021 and 2022; Jordan Spieth is also a winner of both events. 

Kevin Na and Jason Kokrak have both finished 2nd there to compliment their wins here; Adam Hadwin won the Valspar in 2017 and has finishes of 5th and 8th at Colonial; Brian Harman and Scott Stallings frank the form again with top 5s at the Valspar. 

RBC Heritage (Harbour Town Golf Links) 

Harbour Town is a course all about strategy, with the narrow, tree-lined fairways requiring a similar level of accuracy off the tee as here, prompting the biggest hitters to club down and levelling the playing field for the short hitters. Further to this, it’s greens are some of the smallest (and most difficult) to hit on tour, much like Colonial. 

There were more form-ties here than any other course I looked at. The most significant include Jordan Spieth, who has won both events, whilst each of the last four winners in Fort Worth have a top 10 there.  

Other past Colonial winners, Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner have each finished 2nd there; as have Russell Knox and Emiliano Grillo, who have several top 10s here in Texas. 

World Wide Technology Championship/Mayakoba Classic (El Camaleon) 

El Camaleon’s densely tree-lined fairways have proven difficult to find and penal should you miss, the same dangerous combination as here at Colonial. A likeness that has seen the two events develop strong links. 

Matt Kuchar – who was 2nd at Colonial in 2013 – is one of many past winners in Mexico with good records in the Charles Schwab. Others include Harris English, who as mentioned has finished runner-up here and Brendon Todd, with multiple top 5s in Texas. 

Pat Perez won the Mayakoba in 2016 and has countless top 10s in Texas, whilst Charley Hoffman and Patton Kizzire both finished 3rd in the 2021 Charles Schwab; Brian Harman and Russell Knox tie the form together again, both having finished 2nd at El Camaleon.  

Canadian Open (St George’s G & CC) 

Finally I’m going to throw in last year’s Canadian Open host, St George’s Golf and Country Club. Though the tree-lined fairways are generous, they’re even more penal when missing than Colonial, whilst the small bentgrass greens ranked of similar difficulty to hit and putt on as here last year. 

Additionally, it was rather eye-catching how many strong Charles Schwab performers featured on the leaderboard last year. 

Former winners: Sam Burns, Justin Rose and Chris Kirk, all hit the top 10 there, whilst Tony Finau finished runner-up – a position he finished here at Colonial last year. Danny Lee in 10th and Brendon Todd in 13th both backing up their good records here with a fine performance in Canada. 

The Weather 

It’s set to be a warm, humid week in Texas, which could bring about thunderstorms (hopefully not) over the weekend. Gusty winds throughout the week should make things tricky enough and as always in Texas, there’s the possibility for that to turn into something a little stronger. 

The Field 

The Charles Schwab Challenge is a 120-man invitational event and no doubt the story of the week – much as it was last week – will be PGA Professional Michael Block teeing it up after his performance at Oak Hill on a sponsor’s exemption. 

After regaining the world #1 spot, Scottie Scheffler will tee it up at home in Texas. He is joined by fellow runner-up last week and next high-ranked player in the field at #6, Viktor Hovland. 

Sam Burns returns to defend after a disappointing missed cut last week. He’s one of a further seven from inside the top 20 in the world, including past Colonial winner Jordan Spieth. 

Meanwhile, Ryan Fox and Min Woo Lee both stay on in the states after earning Special Temporary Membership on the PGA Tour following last week’s PGA Championship. 


Scottie Scheffler heads the betting at 9/2, with perennial Colonial contender Jordan Spieth second in the betting at 12/1; Tony Finau and Viktor Hovland next at 14/1.  

The world #1 obviously has every chance here, though I’m happy to leave him alone at 9/2, the same story for Jordan Spieth at 12s, who I just find hard to trust at the moment with the reoccurring issues with the putter. 

Of these leading contenders, Viktor Hovland would’ve made plenty of appeal had he not been coming into this week after a surely draining effort at Oak Hill.  

However I’m not going to stray too far from the front of the market for my first selection this week, as I’m taking Collin Morikawa to take advantage of his lowkey but encouraging performance at Oak Hill. 

Collin Morikawa  

As he showed on debut here in 2020 when finishing 2nd and then 14th the following year, Colonial Country Club is a great fit for Morikawa. Though coming into this week with his overall form a little underwhelming, his approach play remains strong and with a solid short-game display at Oak Hill, he looks close to a big performance. 

Morikawa started the season strongly, finishing 2nd in the Tournament of Champions. He backed that up with a 3rd at the Farmers Insurance Open on his next start, then a 6th in the Genesis Invitational two starts later. While results may have plateaued somewhat – despite a 10th place finish at Augusta – there are no serious warning signs with his game. 

As we’ve become accustomed to, Morikawa ranks as the best iron player on tour this season; also sitting 7th in GIR and 35th in proximity from 150-175 yards. The driver is firing too, ranking 22nd and though the putter is always unpredictable for the Californian, I am buoyed by the fact amongst a collection of negative stroke-gained numbers on the greens, his two recent positive putting performances have come on bentgrass; last week and at Augusta. 

We know he likes the course with his record here and Morikawa shows further his suitability to the test with a 5th at TPC Southwind and 7th in the RBC Heritage.  

He was doing all of his best work late on in his 26th place finish in the PGA Championship and flying in here a little under the radar compared to some at the top, I fancy him to pick up his first victory since 2021 this week. 

Taylor Moore 

We were on Taylor Moore when he claimed his first PGA Tour title at the Valspar Championship in impressively calm fashion earlier in the year. Form has been solid since his win at that correlating event, where he hasn’t missed a cut in his following five starts, including in his first two major appearances – finishing 39th in The Masters and 72nd in last week’s PGA Championship – and can contend for title number-two of the year this week, in his home state of Texas. 

That win didn’t come out of the blue for Moore, as he’d started the year strongly by producing three top 15 finishes in his first four starts of the year. What was a little surprising is how he did it, firing a second-best of the round 4-under in round four, producing a supreme, nerveless ball-striking performance and holing out like an already multi-time PGA Tour winner, to eventually come out on top by one stroke. 

Moore is showing quality across the board of late, ranking 11th in strokes-gained total in this field over his last fifty rounds, particularly excelling with the driver, ranking 9th and on the greens, ranking 13th, where he’s also a top 50 bentgrass putter. 

His irons were a little hit-and-miss earlier in the year but he has found form there too, ranking top 50 over those most recent starts and has gained strokes in eight of his last twelve starts in approach. Add all of this to a ranking of 25th in scrambling and 27th in par 4 scoring, and Moore starts to make a lot of sense this week. 

Though he missed the cut here last year, he was hitting the ball nowhere near as well as he is right now and he’s shown further ability on similar courses aside from his win at the Valspar, when 11th two starts later in the RBC Heritage. Indeed a 5th place finish in last year’s Wyndham Championship provides us with another example of what he could do on this traditional setup and I’m taking him to show us that again this week. 

Harris English 

Harris English didn’t manage to deliver for us last week as he missed the cut at the PGA Championship. However, I was pleased to see him maintain form in approach and back at a course at which he finished 2nd in 2016, I’m expecting him to bounce back in Texas. 

Two weeks prior to last week, English finished 3rd in the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow, producing the best approach performance of his career. Though not quite up to that level, he gained strokes in both of his pre-cut rounds last week, looking particularly good when ranking 27th in round one. 

This had been the last piece of the jigsaw as English seeks a return to form this year following an injury-plagued 2022. We saw improvements when 12th in the Genesis Invitational, then an excellent 2nd at the Arnold Palmer Invitational; both efforts largely engineered by the putter. Whilst he’s been typically accurate off the tee and as a top 30 scrambler, everything is starting to fall into place. 

Wins at TPC Southwind and El Camaleon, along with top 10s at the Valspar and RBC Heritage, give me added confidence in his ability to go close here and if everything clicks again this week, much like it did three weeks ago in the Wells Fargo, English can go one-step further than that 2nd in 2016.  

Hayden Buckley 

Hayden Buckley put up a good effort when he was 10th in the FRL market last week in the PGA Championship. He eventually fell to a highly respectable 26th place finish and with the quality he continues to show with his ball-striking, combined with some solid recent putting performances, he can make that PGA Tour breakthrough this week. 

Buckley opened up his year with a 2nd place finish in the Sony Open and over recent weeks has bounced back from the poor performances he showed in the California and Florida swings. 

His return to form came five starts ago when he finished 10th in the Texas Open, following that with an excellent 5th place finish in the RBC Heritage two weeks later. He has continued to look good in his two most recent starts, finishing a solid 43rd at Quail Hollow; before that 26th at Oak Hill last week. 

Buckley has been one of the best drivers on the PGA Tour since he made the step up and ranks 4th on tour this season, where he’s rediscovered some length.  

He backs that up with a strong all-round ball-striking profile, represented by him being 11th in GIR this season, something which has been particularly evident over recent weeks, as he ranks 3rd in this field in SG: ball-striking over the last 20 rounds – 8th OTT and 6th in approach –  only trailing Scheffler and Hovland. 

The putter has been firing too, coming into this week off the back of four positive strokes-gained rounds in his last five, including a top 25 performance on bentgrass last week and when we add in his ranking of 16th in par 4 scoring, we can make a strong case for Buckley on stats alone. 

He missed the cut on his first spin around Colonial last year, though he is excused as he was in no kind of form. His 5th at Harbour Town a few weeks ago should serve him well – a liking for these tighter tree-lined courses also on show from that 2nd in the Sony Open, as well as a 5th at the ZOZO Championship in Japan at the end of last year – and I’m expecting him to go much better here this time around. 

Austin Eckroat 

I finish this week’s selections with the talented Austin Eckroat. He produced his best PGA Tour performance to date when 2nd in the AT&T Byron Nelson two weeks ago and can go well again in Texas this week. 

There was a lot to like about Eckroat’s performance at TPC Craig Ranch and he did no wrong in defeat. The former #11 amateur entered the final round there tied for the lead and rather than caving to the pressure of being in this position for the first time in his professional career, he shot a superb 65 in the final round, only to be pipped by an inspired Jason Day by a stroke, who closed with a 9-under 62. 

That was Eckroat’s second top 5 in six starts after finishing 5th at the Corales Puntacana in March as he has started to get more comfortable with his place on the big tour. 

He’s a player who appears to do everything well for the most part, though excels with the driver, ranking 25th OTT this season.  

Capable of lights out putting performance, as we saw when he ranked 1st on the greens at the Byron Nelson. That is not the first time he’s putted bentgrass well, as he ranked 13th on them at the 3M Open in a 16th place finish in 2021; putting him amongst the top 40 bentgrass putters in this field. 

Eckroat is a good scrambler too, ranking 34th and has found something with his irons over recent starts, gaining strokes in 3/4 of them. Additionally, he ranks inside the top 50 in proximity from 150-175 and top 30 in par 4 scoring, completing a compelling statistical case for the youngster. 

He’ll be making his debut here this week, though I am confident he can perform because of his strong record at Mayakoba, where he’s finished 12th and 38th on two visits, whilst a 12th in the Sony Open this year increases my belief he can go well here. 

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