Michael Block crashing back to Earth, Harry Hall’s birdiefest lead our 5 things to know from first round at 2023 Charles Schwab Challenge
FORT WORTH, Texas — As is often the case, many of the storylines that seemed pertinent leading up to the opening round of the 2023 Charles Schwab Challenge were kindly tossed out the window through the first 18 holes of action at Colonial Country Club.
Teaching pro and PGA Championship darling Michael Block brought plenty of buzz to the event but he fizzled while part of a featured group on ESPN.
Jordan Spieth, who said his wrist was ready for a run at one of his favorite tournaments, managed just a pedestrian 2-over 72.
And Collin Morikawa, who was one of the betting favorites, finished with a 73, his worst round in 13 at the storied club.
While those storylines didn’t hold up through the first day, that leads us to five things you should know after the first round of the Charles Schwab Challenge.
Block returns to Earth
It’s been a dream run for the teaching pro, who cashed in at the PGA Championship, but all good things must come to an end. Or at least return to some sense of normalcy.
Block, who had struggled in previous PGA Tour starts before his miraculous showing at Oak Hill, posted bogeys on each of the first three holes and spiraled downward on the back with a pair of doubles to drop to the very bottom of the leaderboard. He finished with an 81 – dead last in the field – a score much more in line with a teaching pro.
“It’s one of those days of golf. If you play golf, you know exactly what just happened. So I don’t really need to explain it too much because, if you are a golfer, you’ve had the day I’ve had,” Block said. “You understand the facts of where the lies aren’t good and the trees are in your way every time. Even your good shots are bad, your bad shots are worse, et cetera, et cetera.
“It is what it is. I’m going to live with it. I thought it was going to happen that third or fourth round last week at Oak Hill, and it never happened. It happened now, and I wasn’t surprised by it, to tell you the truth.”
Don’t feel sorry for the 46-year-old, however, he’s soaked up plenty of air time in the past few days, made a healthy chunk of change for himself and his caddie in Rochester and was spotted with a few sponsors on his clothing at Colonial.
Smotherman had a moment
By day’s end, Austin Smotherman was just another name in the thick of a well-packed leaderboard, but for a stretch Thursday morning, he was leaps and bounds ahead of the field.
The 29-year-old who played collegiately up the road at Southern Methodist was on fire to start the day, posting birdies on his first four holes en route to a 29 at the turn. He cooled considerably over his second nine, carding a 38, but still finished in good position at 3 under.
Scheffler, Burns are at it again
A year ago, best pals Scottie Scheffler and Sam Burns finished tied through 72 holes, forcing a playoff to decide the title.
On Thursday, the two were deadlocked at the end of the day in a featured pairing, with each finishing at 3 under, well within striking distance of the top of the leaderboard.
“It felt like back in junior golf days,” Burns said of the group, which also included Davis Riley. “Us three played a lot of golf together back then, and we’ve played a lot together out here. It didn’t really feel like a round on the PGA Tour, kind of more so a round at home, so that’s always fun.”
For those who have followed Burns, his rise in the game isn’t the least bit surprising. Perhaps the one person who didn’t recognize his raw promise was his dear, old dad, Todd, who had to be convinced by the father of a fellow local golfer that his son was good enough to compete on a larger stage outside of their hometown’s city limits.
Here’s more on his story from our Adam Schupak.
Colonial is playing ... differently
With a renovation coming as soon as this week’s tournament is over, the setup at Colonial Country Club is a little different than normal and ryegrass is filling in a few areas that will be tweaked during the upcoming construction.
The result? Those who have used their memory bank have occasionally looked foolish, watching shots that would typically nestle in bounce off the back of greens.
“Conditions are a little bit different than they usually are. The greens seemed to be a touch firmer than they normally are,” Scheffler said. “Like that pin on 9 is usually one where it’s almost hard to keep it back there just because they’re so soft just with the spin. I landed a ball pretty close to the pin, and it ended up going over the green.”
Hall is leading, and it's his time to shine
While Block and a number of big names dominated the talk at the course, it was Harry Hall — a native of Cornwall, England, who played collegiately at UNLV — who sprinted to the top of the board with an impressive 62 that saw few mistakes in optimum conditions.
Hall has had a solid rookie campaign, posting a pair of top-10 finishes in 20 starts, although both came at events (Puerto Rico and Mexico) that didn’t have fields as strong as the one this week.
Using a hot putter, Hall finished a full three strokes ahead of Harris English and four ahead of a quarter that included local favorite Tom Hoge and Adam Schenk.
“My putting was great,” Hall said on Thursday. “Been waiting for a round like that with the putter because I know I can get hot, and consistently I’m really good. Yeah, that was nice to hole some putts out there today.”
Hall knows when to expect big things. Earlier this year, after a few solid starts, he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he typically gets hottest near Memorial Day.
“I’ve played some great golf to start the year,” he told the paper. “Traditionally I’ve played my best golf in May and June.”