Justin Rose returns to Colonial as champion
You can write Jon Rahm down for a spot in the Colonial field every year.
“I hear a lot of people say, ‘This is one of the best tournaments all year, one of the best golf courses,’” Rahm said. “The organization is unbelievable. It makes it for people like me and all the other great players in the world to want to come and play.
“It’s definitely a stop that’s worth it to come and one that I always look forward to. It’s one of those weeks I’ll never change in my calendar.”
Fellow top players echoed Rahm’s assessment of the tournament, and this year’s field shows how respected the Charles Schwab Challenge is. Five of the Top 10 players in the world are competing here, headlined by No. 3-ranked and defending champion Justin Rose.
Rose won the tournament last year in his first appearance since 2010. He had skipped the event for several years because the old Colonial date coincided with the European Tour’s BMW PGA Championship.
Because of the PGA Tour’s schedule change, it made it easier for Rose to defend his title and hopefully play in more Colonials in years to come. He usually doesn’t play the week following a major -- the PGA Championship was played last week at New York’s Bethpage Black -- but Colonial justifies a spot on his schedule.
“Always good to be back at a classic, brilliant venue,” Rose said. “I haven’t played this event since it always clashed with the BMW PGA Championship, so the fact that they’re not near each other gives me an opportunity to really enjoy the Colonial.”
Rose isn’t alone among top players wanting to fit Colonial in their schedules.
Rickie Fowler, the No. 10-ranked player in the world, returned last year after a three-year hiatus.
“I’ve always loved playing here,” Fowler said. “I’m glad that it’s been able to fit back into the schedule. Great town. Typically have a lot of support from the locals as well as there are some Oklahoma State alums and fans that make their way around.”
Players also seem to like the course because it doesn’t “beat them up” like a major tournament such as Bethpage Black. Yes, the fairways are tight and it’s a quintessential shot-maker’s course, but it’s a relatively short course where several pros don’t have to use driver all the time.
“It’s a fun golf course,” Fowler said. “If you’re driving it well, you can push it and play aggressively. I love the small targets, small greens and pins kind of in some corners.”
For Dallas native Jordan Spieth, Colonial is essentially a home course. He won the tournament in 2016, and is looking to get back in the winner’s circle for the first time in almost two years on the PGA Tour.
Spieth is feeling good about his game coming off a T3rd in the PGA Championship, his best finish in more than a year.
“I’m certainly glad to be here,” Spieth said. “I’m glad with how last week went for sure.”
Fowler and Rahm are proud recipients of the Ben Hogan Award, and each talked about the legendary Fort Worth golfer’s influence on the game.
Fowler recalled his first golf coach, Barry McDonnell, being an old-school coach.
“He was a Ben Hogan guy,” Fowler said. “I’m very much kind of an old-school golfer, not very mechanical. I didn’t grow up learning how to swing a club through mechanics or anything like that.
“I don’t think Hogan really had video cameras a whole lot to look at what his swing was doing. He kind of went out and figured out how to play, what he wanted to do, he kind of took the left side out of the golf course and the way he set up his clubs. Not that I do anything similar, but very much more just feel oriented.”
Rahm, meanwhile, hit a few of Hogan’s clubs on the Colonial range earlier this week and came away with a new appreciation for the man known for his signature “Hogan Fade.”
“It’s impressive to see how he developed the golf clubs to play golf the way he wanted,” Rahm said. “Everyone says Ben Hogan was a fader; he was a fader because those clubs were made to hit fades. You cannot hook those golf clubs.
“Based on his swing, he would be a hooker. Nice big draws. He was a fader of the ball. It’s crazy to see how somebody just said, ‘OK, I’m going to change my golf clubs instead of my swing to be able to hit the way I wanted.’
“It was a very fun experience.”
NOTABLE TEE TIMES
8:06 a.m. (No. 10): Jordan Spieth, Kevin Kisner, Ryan Palmer.
8:06 a.m. (No. 1): Zach Johnson, Louis Oosthuizen, Ryan Armour.
12:55 p.m. (No. 1): Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele, C.T. Pan.
1:06 p.m. (No. 1): Justin Rose, Francesco Molinari, Brandt Snedeker.