5 Storylines: Charles Schwab Challenge

Jordan Spieth Rickie Fowler
Jordan Spieth talks with Rickie Fowler on the first tee during day three of The Northern Trust on Aug 26, 2017 at Glen Oaks Club in Old Westbury, NY. Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sports via Getty Images

The second Major of the 2019 PGA Tour season is now in the books, with big-stage prodigy Brooks Koepka again having his name engraved in the trophy of a major championship, the second consecutive year that he has won the PGA Championship and the third consecutive year that he’s won the second-held major of the season.

As riveting as majors are, they are also emotional and exhausting, and it is not uncommon for the event that follows to be something of a letdown. Fortunately for fans of the PGA Tour, though, schedule changes brought an event that is nearly letdown proof into the post-PGA Championship fray: the Charles Schwab Challenge, an event that holds the distinction of being the longest-running non-major on Tour held continuously at one course, with famed Colonial Country Club hosting the event since 1946.

Here are five storylines to follow this week in Texas:

1. Rose Defends

Justin Rose
Justin Rose plays a tee shot on the 18th hole during the third round of the Fort Worth Invitational at Colonial Country Club on May 26, 2018 in Fort Worth, Texas. Photo by Stan Badz/PGA TOUR via Getty Images

The current World No. 3, Justin Rose, the highest ranking of anyone in this week’s field, has posted an absolutely ridiculous amount of high finishes over the past two-and-a-half years, so it was thoroughly unsurprising that he was able to triumph in this event last year, even though he had not been showing his A game in the month coming in.

Rose’s week at Colonial was near impeccable: with two rounds of 64 and two of 66, he reached 20-under for the week, a total which has only been eclipsed once in the 71-year history of the event.

His Sunday was especially stellar, as he birdied six front-nine holes, allowing him to cruise home to the finish and win by three over Brooks Koepka.

What should we expect this year? His performance in the two majors so far has been disappointing (CUT, T29), but this is not a major and in five non-major starts since the calendar flipped to 2019, he has a win and a solo-third among four top-10s. There are some questions about his game, but those should not be a concern this week.

2. Spieth Surging?

Jordan Spieth
Jordan Spieth reacts to his putt on the 11th green during the final round of the PGA Championship at the Bethpage Black course on May 19, 2019 in Farmingdale, New York. Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

He did not leave Bethpage Black as the sixth player in PGA Tour history to complete the career grand slam, but the recently-slumping Jordan Spieth was extremely encouraged by his T3 finish at the PGA Championship, his first top-20 finish on the season.

Now, the Dallas native arrives in nearby Fort Worth to play an event he won just three years ago. Can he finally put four rounds together? That would be the next step for the man who was in contention two weeks ago at the Byron Nelson Classic until a mediocre final round.

It should be noted that Spieth’s putter, which was a big problem for him a year ago is very, very hot. He gained nearly 11 strokes to the field on the greens at Bethpage, the best in the field, one week after finishing 7th in the same stat in Dallas. It seems unlikely that he would not contend at Colonial if that trend continues this week.

3. The Bethpage Black Effect

Jordan Spieth and Jon Rahm
Jordan Spieth and Jon Rahm walk onto the 16th green during the second round of the PGA Championship at the Bethpage Black course on May 17, 2019 in Farmingdale, NY. Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Prognosticating the week after majors is often difficult because they are so physically and mentally draining, and given that the Charles Schwab Challenge typically does not occur one week post-major, course history and recent form might not be quite the factor it usually is.

While only two players were really in Sunday contention at the PGA Championship last week (Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson) and neither are in the field, every big-name player in this week’s field was on Long Island.

Some of them had encouraging performances to build off of, most notably the aforementioned Spieth. Those at Colonial who played exceptionally in the tough Bethpage conditions include Chez Reavie, Brandt Snedeker, Abraham Ancer, Paul Casey, Graeme McDowell, and Beau Hossler, the latter of whom shot the field’s lowest score on Sunday.

Among those who made the cut, but struggled badly down the stretch include Xander Schauffele, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose, Francesco Molinari, Zach Johnson, and Louis Oosthuizen.

Then there are big names who missed the cut entirely like Bryson DeChambeau and Jon Rahm. How will they respond in the lower pressure of this week’s event?

4. Fowler in the Field

Rickie Fowler
Rickie Fowler takes a shot during a practice round ahead of the 101st PGA Championship at Bethpage Black Course in Farmingdale, NY. Credit: Screengrab

The most popular man in this week’s field will undoubtedly be world No. 10 Rickie Fowler, who finished T14 at Colonial a week ago after posting four rounds in the 60s.

The 30-year-old has been in excellent form in the current season, ranking 7th in the FedExCup Standings. Fowler had made the cut in all 11 of his starts this season, with his best outings including a victory at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and a runner-up at the Honda Classic.

Coming into last week’s PGA Championship, he had finished T17, T9, T4 in his prior three starts respectively. With his talent and his 7th ranked PGA Tour scoring average, he is one of the favorites at Colonial for far more than his personal popularity, but it is fair to wonder what kind of mental state he will be in after a final-round collapse at Bethpage Black (a 7-over 77 that dropped him 22 spots down the final leaderboard) gave a bitter ending to yet another major championship that he did not win.

5. Champions Choice

Dru Love Davis Love III
Dru Love with father Davis Love III working as caddie during the first round of the U.S. Open at Erin Hills on June 15, 2017 in Hartford, Wisconsin. Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images

The Charles Schwab Challenge has an annual tradition called “champions choice,” where past event winners offer exemptions to two two players who would not qualify otherwise. While one of last year’s picks, Joaquin Niemann, finished T8, they have mostly not played well in recent years, with five of the six players chosen over the past three editions missing the cut entirely.

Still, they tend to be intriguing stories worthy of the extra attention. Nepotism was the theme of this year’s picks, which went to Dru Love and Tucker Wadkins, both sons of PGA Tour legends.

Love, the son of two-time Colonial runner-up Davis Love III is currently No. 1288 in the world rankings. He has missed the cut in 16 of 21 career professional events, and has played the weekend in just one PGA Tour event over the past two seasons. However, he did finish T12 in a recent Asian Tour event that included some big names such as Jazz Janewattananond (who won the event), Paul Casey, Matthew Fitzpatrick, and Sergio Garcia.

Wadkins is the son of 21-time PGA Tour winner Lanny Wadkins. He currently sits 2063rd in the world rankings, and this will be his first official professional event of the year. He missed the cut in all seven starts he made in Canada last year.

This content originally appeared in the Charles Schwab Challenge Starter.

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