Charles Schwab: Round 1 Three-Balls to Target

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Let’s turn the page to this week’s Charles Schwab Challenge. Taking place at the historic Colonial Country Club, there are a number of ways to attack this old-school golf course. Featuring tree-lined fairways, doglegs, smaller than usual greens, it may be a fruitful strategy to simply back quality ball-strikers at this short par-70.

Violent thunderstorms have rolled through the Dallas-Fort Worth area over the past week. Similar to the final round of the AT&T Byron Nelson, based off some player’s social media accounts, Colonial CC appears to be under water. I am sure the grounds crew and the PGA Tour will have the course ready for Thursday, but it’ll surely play softer than usual and may yield better scores than years past.

When looking at previous champions, you can see the variety of angles through which a player can be successful at Hogan’s Alley. Kevin Na, Phil Mickelson, and Jordan Spieth have all been successful in Fort Worth. They aren’t necessarily the players you turn to when thinking of pure ball-strikers. But in both Mickelson’s prime and during Spieth’s run, they were. Na appears to be the only outlier of the bunch, so we won’t put too much stock into his statistical profile.

Then you also have Daniel Berger, Collin Morikawa, and Tony Finau who have all had good outings at Colonial CC. Berger takes a more balanced approach to the game, but Morikawa and Finau can be bucketed into the ball-striking pool. So that will be the avenue that we take for the Charles Schwab Challenge. We will target those players who are strong ball-strikers, and hope that we can get back on track after the PGA Championship.

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Round 1 Three-Balls (Odds via PointsBet Sportsbook):

Collin Morikawa (+150) over Justin Thomas and Billy Horschel:

Well, we mentioned him at the top of the article and there is a real chance that Morikawa could don the plaid jacket come Sunday evening. Everything at Colonial CC sets up perfectly for the 2020 PGA champion. Playing a tight fade from the tee-box, Morikawa should be able to utilize his precise iron play to give himself plenty of birdie opportunities.

In the first-round, this three-ball will come down to who putts the best. At first glance, you would put Morikawa at the bottom of that list, but he hasn’t been all that bad on Thursdays recently. He clocked 2.4 Strokes Gained: Putting in Round 1 at the RBC Heritage and another 1.3 strokes gained last Thursday at the Ocean Course.

As for Thomas and Horschel, they both have had their struggles on the greens, albeit for different reasons. Thomas has been struggling ever since the Valspar Championship with his putting stroke. While we have seen some improvement over the past couple of weeks, the flat stick is still troublesome at times. As the slight favorite over Morikawa, I’ll pass because of that.

Horschel on the other hand has never gained strokes on these greens in three trips. His ball-striking isn’t as reliable as the other twos, so if the putter doesn’t cooperate, he may be in trouble when matched up against the iron play of Morikawa and Thomas.

Joaquin Niemann (+174) over Patrick Reed and Justin Rose:

Like most weeks, I like Niemann a lot and that won’t be changing at the Charles Schwab Challenge. In his young career, he already has already carved out a nice history at Colonial CC. In three appearances, he has a top-10 as well as two top-40 finishes. He’s a much different player this time around compared to his previous starts in Fort Worth. The reason being that Niemann is a much-improved putter and a very strong Round 1 player.

Riding the longest consecutive made cut streak on the PGA Tour, it’s no surprise that Niemann plays well on Thursdays. As of late, he’s been getting the job done despite his short game as he has struggled in that department.

I’m hoping that with soft conditions, Niemann won’t be scrambling all too often. His ball-striking and putting have been terrific and if he is able to avoid trouble then I like him as one of the underdogs in this three-ball.

You can’t really go wrong with Reed or Rose. Both have great history at Colonial CC and both are in great form. For me, it’s just the ball-striking that is a bit concerning. Rose gained nearly 12-strokes on the greens at the Ocean Course en route to a top-10 finish. That is simply unsustainable.

For Reed, he grinded over his last 36 holes and was able to post the low weekend total at the PGA Championship. It may take Reed a bit longer to get into the flow of this tournament as there is a potential fatigue factor being carried over from Kiawah.

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